Grace Dorr D.C.


Vatican II divided Catholics over whether to use its catechism and approach or whether to use the Council of Trent’s. People wondered about how to translate the faith into today’s language. Vincent de Paul faced a similar problem during the Counter-Reformation as he instructed the clergy and the poor, both of whom were often woefully undereducated about the faith. Millions of copies of his two catechisms were distributed, and he worked as a catechist himself. He also instructed his priests, the Daughters of Charity, and members of the Confraternities of Charity as catechists. He emphasized using language that was easy to understand and adapting instruction to listeners’ circumstances. Catechesis was a cornerstone of the Congregation’s missions. It was also integral to the free schools that the Daughters established. Besides being part of evangelization, catechesis formed “a community base for Christian life” in the parishes. For Vincent, evangelization, catechesis, and service were interdependent. His efforts impart useful lessons to us, which are described in detail in this article.