Catechisms are systematic lessons for the recognition of the Christian faith and the formation of new life in Christ.
Through catechism, the Church strives to nurture and make its members aware of the saving work of Christ, and the Good News.
Since the early years of ecclesiastical reorganization, in 1991 and on, under the leadership of Archbishop Anastasios, hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Christians around the country began to take catechism lessons, because of the absence of faith for many years. The catechisms began with regular and spontaneous meetings in nature, in the ruins of old churches, and also in the churches that had escaped destruction; in the homes of the believers or outside in their yards, and through conversations, and in the first television shows about faith.
The catechism action began in an organized way exactly in the same place where the destruction of the churches during the atheism of the communist period had begun, in the ruins of the Monastery of St. Vlash, near the city of Durrës. In the beginning the main contribution was offered by missionaries (clergy and laity), initially in the Diocese of Tirana, around whom gathered many believers of all ages. Later was created a special program of catechism and started the training of the first groups. This training had as a goal to engage them in some towns and villages of the country, initially in the Diocese of Tirana, Berati, following with Korça and Gjirokastra. Collaborators and protagonists in this catechism work were also the young clerics and students who were studying at the Theological Seminary in Durrës. Also many faithful volunteers, from different professions, contributed to this effort.
It is understood that the catechism lessons were simple, explanatory, and evangelistic teaching about the Orthodox Christian faith, while the people taking the catechism lessons had an opportunity to share their faith experiences and prepare for baptism. After 25 years of darkness, the baptisms were being public and in many people. It looked like the prophesy of the Prophet Isaiah: "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined" (Is. 9:2). This work continued without interruption and with a missionary spirit, moving from site to site, giving catechism lessons and baptizing by the grace of God, children, teenagers, adults and the elderly.
It is understood that this great work was supported by people with theological formation and apostolic zeal. Archbishop Anastasios since 1992 opened the theological Hieratic-Theological Seminary in Durrës (later the Theological Academy "Resurrection of Christ" at St. Vlash Durrës). The Academy constituted the only institution for the theological formation and education of the people, adding in numbers more students each year, and sending them out to the entire country, establishing, strengthening and expanding the catechism work. Up until 2010, 240 students, 160 of whom became clergymen, have studied in this school. From 1997, young women began to study there; they would serve also in the catechism work of the Church. In this way, all the students and the graduates of this school, clergy and laity (men and women), were involved in the catechism work, assisted also by faithful volunteers (children, youth, adults, and women and men of others professions).
In addition, the development of the human resources improved the conditions for organization and further development of the catechism work; expanding and training the personnel that would be involved in coordinating different offices such as the Children’s Office, the Catechism Office, the Youth Office, the Orthodox Students’ Center and the Women’s Office, but also the students of the Theological Academy “Resurrection of Christ”, in Saint Vlash of Durrës.
The Catechism Office
The Central Catechism Office was established in 2001. Its work is quite extensive and important, which in addition to working with many groups of children, youth and adults, has also a clear missionary vision around the needs that brings the catechism work in various areas of the country, not only by providing help, but also establishing and coordinating the new groups.
The Catechism Office works closely with the clergy, with the Office of Youth, Office of Children, with the Orthodox Student’s Center, with the Office of Women and with the Theological Academy, helping and supporting each department in the respective work of catechism and creating joint programs.
With further development and stabilization of the catechism work locally, adding catechists and organizing the catechism work in the dioceses, were created local departments in each metropolis. Each diocese has already its catechism office, the youth office, the children’s office, and they have their catechists, clergy and laity who are organizing the catechism work in their dioceses.
The catechism work in Albania is presented also in pan orthodox meetings and conferences, among representatives of other countries, creating also fraternal relations with their homologous, as well as taking advantage and exchanging experiences and testimony of faith.
The purpose of the catechism. Catechism is addressed to everyone, but it is organized and implemented based on the respective ages. Catechism is classified into two forms: a) catechism before the baptism, for the membership of people within the Church; b) catechism for knowing and deepening in the Christian faith, and in the spirituality of the Orthodox Church.
Catechism creates friendship among participants and aims: the recognition of Christian faith and life of the Orthodox Church, the membership in the Church, in the community of Christian believers, the relationship with God, the spiritual food, the meaning of life, the explanation of issues of faith, of the theories and social problems, the awareness of the spirit of apostolate, the recognition of life of the orthodox parish and their active participation in them. The teaching program of the catechism runs from September to May.
The content of the catechism. The catechism lessons fits with the needs and the spiritual formation of the participants, ranging from the simplest lessons to those theological and scientific. It includes basic truths derived from the discovery of the Trinitarian God, the Holy Tradition including the Holy Scriptures (Bible), and the spiritual life and experience of the Church, the Creed, the saving work of Christ, dogmas, the Christian ethics, the worship life of the church, the life and the value of man etc.. ..
Since the beginning and until now are created different catechism programs with content and age defined, based on the Holy Scripture (Bible), in the live of the saints, in the literature prepared by clerics of different hierarchy, (also by the Archbishop Anastasios), theologians and collaborators of all the respective departments mentioned above, that are dealing with the catechism work. A contribution to the catechism work has also offered the magazines of children, "Rejoice-Gëzohu", the new magazine "Këmbanat-Bells", the newspaper "Resurrection-Ngjallja", the Church website on the Internet www.orthodoxalbania.org.
Place of catechism. The Catechism classes mainly take place inside orthodox churches, or in the orthodox youth centers and also in the houses of the believers. The regular weekly meetings of catechism classes usually are performed after the Divine Liturgy on Sunday or Saturday, or even on other days of the week.
Besides the oral teaching and the written literature on paper, is also made a great effort that catechism to be transmitted through modern media and technology. Media is now seen as a good contemporary opportunity of communicating and broadcasting of the Word of God. In various programs in national and local media have been invited clergy and catechists who have spoken for the Orthodox faith. Are realized series of special programs in collaboration with specific local television such as in Tirana, Durrës, Lezha, Laç, Elbasan, Peqin, Gramsh etc. Also are realized radio transmissions, every Monday, in the Radio "Resurrection-Ngjallja", FM 88.5 Mhz, in the cycle "The Orthodox Catechism." With interest is also seen the duplication of films of the church documentaries in Albanian, some of which are transmitted in the media mentioned above. The Orthodox Catechism using the Internet, this global window, goes beyond the borders and is given to anyone via the official website of the Church www.orthodoxalbania.org, Facebook, You Tube etc..
Various activities. The catechism program includes also prayers, devotional services, and services during the worship, cultural activities, entertainment activities, pilgrimages, excursions etc. These might be programs of the catechism office or programs and joint activities with other offices of the church (see their activities in their section), such as during Christmas period, Theophany, Easter, summer, at the beginning of the school year, etc.
In cooperation with the clergy in their areas when they offer their service, on Sunday during the Divine Liturgy, or during major feasts, the catechists and participants not only participate in worship services, but also provide assistance as much as they can in these services. At the same time they serve as chanters, help in other needs in the church and sometimes serve as preacher.
In collaboration with other youth activists in their orthodox catechism youth groups, catechists lead the camps, which are held during the summer time in the Holy Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos, in Zvërnec of Vlora, in the Holy Monastery of Saint John Vladimir in Elbasan, in the Holy Monastery of Saint George in Çukë of Saranda, in Glikomil of Gjirokastra, in the Holy Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Voskopoja of Korça, as well as other multi-day camps in different areas of Albania.