The third-century theologian Tertullian wrote, “Christians are made, not born” (Apol. xviii). Christian initiation is a process through which one goes while being transformed into a new creation and fashioned into the likeness of Christ. Christian initiation is only the beginning; it launches one on a lifelong journey of becoming the being one is made by baptism.

This process of fashioning was originally called catechesis, which means literally “to echo.” When used by the early church, it implied echoing the Word, and the Word was a person, Jesus. Catechesis was the process directed at the formation of Christlike people: In English, it was called christening. Regretfully, over time, christening became associated solely with the ritual of baptism and catechesis with the memorization and repetition of words.

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It has become clear in our day, however, that the making of Christlike persons is a lifelong process. In the case of adult converts, an intense process is also needed to prepare them for Christian initiation. I have called this process evangelization. As a process, it is similar to catechesis.

Catechesis comprises three deliberate (intentional), systemic (interrelated), and sustained (lifelong) processes, which I have named formation, education, and instruction. Formation is participation in and the practice of the Christian life of faith. It is both a transforming, or converting, and a conforming, or nurturing, process aimed at fashioning the faith, character, and consciousness of persons and communities.

Education is critical reflection on our lives of faith in the light of the gospel. It is a reforming process that aims at producing ever more faithful lives and communities. It implies growth and change.

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