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Turn to Jesus (Article)

The YOUCAT, a New Catechism for the Youth
An interview with one of the authors, Mrs. Michaela Heereman.

The YouCat, a version of the catechism specifically for the youth.

August 4, 2011. The YOUCAT (the “Youth Catechism”) is the first catechism created by youth for youth. When the Catechism of the Catholic Church came out in 1992, Pope John Paul II had expressed his wish for the new text to be adapted into the language of different groups of people: intellectuals, workers, theologians, the youth… It was the youth who were the first to respond.

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna and a sponsor of the project, rejoiced when the initiative of working on a catechism for the youth came from the laity. Specifically, it came from an editor, a mother, and two priests who gathered fifty young men and women aged 15 to 25 for two successive summers in Germany to work on the draft, which they then presented to the archbishop. After many months of work, corrections and rewriting, all of the permissions were granted and Pope Benedict XVI even wrote the preface. All of the WYD participants in Madrid will receive a copy in their backpacks.

Without repeating the entire Catechism, the YOUCAT covers all of the topics, following the same structure. It is presented in a question-and-answer format with an explanatory commentary to help the youth better understand the
christoph schonborn
Cardinal Schönborn was a sponsor of the project.
subjects covered and the concrete implications for their lives. In the margins, quotes from Scripture, spiritual authors, saints, and theologians shed light on the topic at hand. Each topic is also illustrated with a large picture chosen by youth from different countries.

The YOUCAT is an international publishing event. Under the universal title, design, and front cover, the same for every country, each language has its own translation of the original German document, adapted and revised by a local bishop proposed by the Vatican.

The YOUCAT is published in 22 languages, including German, English, French, Indonesian, Italian, Croatian, Lithuanian, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Czech, and Ukrainian, and is sold in 50 countries.

The English version is available for purchase on


Christophoros Magazine, a Legionary publication in France, had the privilege of interviewing one of the authors of the YOUCAT, Mrs. Michaela Heereman, a mother and a theologian. Along with her husband, she is part of the spiritual family of the Order of Malta. Three of her six children have followed the path of consecrated life: two are Legionaries (a priest and a religious in formation), and one is a consecrated laywoman in a German diocese.

Christophoros: Mrs. Heereman, thank you very much for agreeing to meet with us. Could you briefly tell us how you got involved in writing the YOUCAT?

Mrs. Michaela Heereman: The German editor, who was planning on writing a catechism for the youth, told me about his difficulty finding youth interested in and able to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, capable of saying what they did not understand and of expressing their existential questions, I told him that I knew about fifty young people who could help out with that. This was in 2005, and I was going with a group to the World Youth Day,
Michaela Heereman
Mrs. Michaela Heereman, a mother and a theologian, helped write the YouCat.
along with a priest from Frankfurt, Fr Johannes Eltz.

During the next two summers, we gathered our 52 youth aged 15 to 25 for six to eight hours of work every day for a week. There was also a priest from the Emmanuel community, Fr Christian Schmitt, and especially Bernhard Meuser, the editor, who is also a well-known spiritual writer in Germany. We read them a text, and they asked their questions and made sure the language of our answers was accessible to the youth. In the end, they were exhausted and so were we!

CHR: So it was all done in the summer of 2007?

MH: Unfortunately, no. We went to Rome to present our work to a theologian who responded, “Forget it. Either you do something for young people or you write a true catechism, but the two are incompatible. Better to just go eat an ice cream on Piazza Navona!”

We were discouraged. But after the ice cream on Piazza Navona, we stayed to pray for an hour before the Blessed Sacrament at Santa Maria dell’Anima Church (Editor’s note: a small Roman church situated behind Piazza Navona). When we came out, we had the solution: for every question, there would be two answers. One, in bold font, would summarize the content of the Catechism; the other, in normal font, would comment on the first answer with examples and metaphors drawn from the life of the youth.

In the end, Professor Mandred Lütz, who came across the text at the publishing house, went and presented it to two or three cardinals. One thing led to another, and the draft came to the Pope in the summer of 2009, and he promised to write the preface!

CHR: Who is the official author of the YOUCAT?  Has one of the Roman dicasteries taken responsibility for the publication?

MH: The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent us a 64-page expert appraisal. We took it into account and the Conference of Austrian bishops took responsibility for the publication under the sponsorship of Cardinal Schönborn. For us, it was unimaginable to be so well received by the ecclesiastical authorities. The Church, who is mater et magistra, gave us the green light! One always hears of the Church´s slowness, but there, I can tell you that we were blown away by its speed. We are also in touch with the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the new Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. For each country, a bishop takes responsibility for the corresponding translation.

CHR: What is the strong point of the YOUCAT?

MH: For the youth, it is a revelation to see that the faith of the Church is reasonable. They are fascinated to see that believing and being intelligent are not opposed! 

CHR: Could the YOUCAT make a very nice gift for children and small children?

MH: Yes, but if you offer the YOUCAT to your children or small children, you are also committing to giving your time. Tell the young person to whom you are giving the YOUCAT, “Here, read the index, either alone or with some friends, pick four or five important questions, and then we can get together to talk about it.”

CHR: How did you face the financial question? 

MH: Today we have contracts with 22 countries, and there should be at least ten others soon. For the 700,000 copies given to the youth who registered for the WYD, Aid to the Church in Need helped us considerably, along with other private donors. The four authors have decided not to receive their royalties so as to finance a foundation for the new evangelization that they are running with Cardinal Schönborn.

CHR: What is the future of the YOUCAT ?

MH: The future reprints of the YOUCAT will take into account the issues that come up most often today to continue speaking to the youth about what is happening now. Also, the technicians are working on an iPad version that will automatically send users quotes from the Catechism, the Bible, the saints, etc.

Interview conducted in French by Fr Thomas Brenti, LC, and Br Vincenz Heereman, LC



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