On May 10, 2021, Pope Francis formally instituted the ministry of catechist with the apostolic letter Antiquum Ministerium, which he issued motu proprio, or on his own initiative and under his personal signature. An initial reaction to the formal institution of the role of catechist might be to wonder, “So what’s new?” The role of catechist has been understood as a ministry of the Church since the first century.
In the first sentence of this apostolic letter, Pope Francis refers to catechesis as an ancient ministry. Indeed, twice in the Gospel of Luke, twice in his Acts of the Apostles, and twice in Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians the precise use of different forms of the Greek verb katécheó, meaning to teach by word of mouth and from which the term “catechesis” is derived, clearly identifies the roots of this ancient ministry and describes its parameters. The ministry of catechesis, then, from the earliest days of the Church seems specifically included among the ways the disciples of Christ could be faithful to his imperative to “go . . . and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19; emphasis added).