|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
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
|Cardinal Schönborn was a sponsor of the project. |
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
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,
|Mrs. Michaela Heereman, a mother and a theologian, helped write the YouCat.|
along with a priest from Frankfurt, Fr Johannes Eltz.
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
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
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.”
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.
conducted in French by Fr Thomas Brenti, LC, and Br Vincenz