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Johannes Hofinger

By Mark Markuly


JOHANNES HOFINGER, S.J. (1905-1984): A Roman Catholic religious educator, was born in Tyrol, Austria on March 21, 1905. He began at the seminary in Salzburg at the age of 11, later studied philosophy at the Gregorian University in Rome, and entered the Society of Jesus on Sept. 7, 1925. Hofinger studied theology in Innsbruck, Austria, under the tutelage of the famous historian, liturgist and catechetical scholar, Josef Jungmann, S.J. Between 1953 and 1970, Hofinger impacted greatly Catholic liturgy, religious education and missiology in Asia, the Pacific Islands, Europe, the United States, Australia and South America. He also helped to develop the concept of "liturgical inculturation" both theoretically and practically (Clark, 1984, p. 103). After a distinguished career as a seminary professor, international conference organizer, international lecturer, workshop leader, popular writer and diocesan religious education leader, Hofinger died in New Orleans, LA, on February 14, 1984.


Johannes Hofinger, S.J., was a prolific writer known for his "boundless energy and enthusiasm" (Hofinger, 1977, Preface). He was widely published in Latin, German, Chinese, French, Spanish, and English, penning books, articles and even pamphlets. Although he moved comfortably in the circle of scholars, most of his writing and lecturing was directed at religious education practitioners in parishes, dioceses and Catholic schools - pastors, religious women and laity. He was one of the more influential forces in Catholic religious education or catechesis from the late 1950s until his death, although his name is not as well known as other religious education leaders in the Catholic tradition, such as Thomas Groome. Part of this oversight is because Hofinger devoted most of his creative energy to organizing the theologians and bishops calling for a major Catholic renewal in the 1950s and 1960s, then disseminating the ideas of these scholars and leaders, as well as the vision of the international council of renewal of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).

Born in 1905 in the Tyrolian area of Austria, Hofinger grew up in a family and community with a strong religiosity. His early years laid the foundation for his enthusiastic approach to religious education, as well as his championing of a more effective way to pass on a faith tradition. Hofinger came from a family with many vocations to religious life. He had three uncles who were priests and religious educators, although Hofinger considered only one of them effective in the catechetical task - the less gifted one intellectually. In addition to the influence of family members, Hofinger credited his first religious educators as serving as some of his strongest mentors for living a passionate life of faith. At the same time, the near crusader zeal he had to reform religious education, also had its roots in his childhood. One of his earliest religious educators was Dr. Augustin Reiter, the head of the deanery and the person in charge of evaluating the Catholic educators living in the Tyrolian area in which Hofinger was raised. In Hofinger's estimation, Reiter's "primitive" and "poor" religious education methodology, which included demanding the memorization of catechism questions and answers, represented the lifeless approach to religious education that was common and in desperate need of renewal at the beginning of 20th century Austria (Mayr, 1983, p. 349).

Hofinger began his seminary education in Salzburg at the age of 11. He later studied philosophy at the Gregorian University in Rome, entering formation for the Society of Jesus on Sept. 7, 1925. As a Jesuit scholastic, Hofinger returned to Austria and studied theology at the University of Innsbruck. In his theological studies he encountered and worked with the professor providing his greatest intellectual influence, the historian, liturgist and catechetical scholar Josef Jungmann, S.J.

Hofinger's educational ministry began formally as a seminary professor in Kinghsien, China. When he had to leave China during the communist revolution, the seminary re-located to Manila, Philippines, where he served as the organizer of the East Asian Pastoral Institute. The Institute became a powerful force and center for exploring the issues of inculturating the Christian gospel in the east. While still at the Institute, Hofinger began a nearly 20-year period of international lecturing and teaching to religious educators. His educational ministry concluded with a position as an associate director for religious education in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Circling the globe 16 times between 1953 and 1970 as an itinerant speaker, and earning the name of the "Catechetical Sputnik," the small and thin Hofinger communicated to the Catholic community a dynamic presence. He often spoke of trying to re-claim the dynamism of the apostolic presentation of the faith, and this motivation animated his teaching and writing for more than four decades. An example of this inner energy for evangelization is found in his decision, in his mid 60s and despite poor eyesight, to learn Spanish. For the last 15 years of his life he lectured and taught throughout Latin America, and authored two books and numerous articles in Spanish. Through the 1970s and 1980s he was also active in the charismatic renewal movement in the Catholic church, recognizing the movement's potential for offering a life-altering "pentecostal" experience to Catholics (Hofinger, Summer, 1976c, pp. 668-669), especially those involved in religious education. In his last years he served as an associate director of adult education for the New Orleans Archdiocesan Office of Religious Education. The archdiocese continues to honor his contribution to the New Orleans area with the Johannes Hofinger Religious Education Conference, an annual religious education gathering that draws religious educators and pastoral leaders from the Gulf Coast dioceses.

Contributions to Christian Education

Hofinger was part of a group of European theologians who established the intellectual foundation for the Second Vatican Council. The names of Karl Rahner, Hans Kung, Henri de Lubac or Yves Congar are more known in theological circles, but Johannes Hofinger was also a powerful force in the ecclesial renewal. He was noted for stressing a religious education philosophy that sought to re-claim the root or core message of Christianity, distilling the Catholic tradition down to the existential dimensions of greatest significance for living the faith. Following and developing the thought of his mentor Josef Jungmann, S.J., Hofinger referred to this approach as a re-claiming of the "kerygma" of the early church, the elemental message of God's love and gift of salvation provided in the life and death of Jesus Christ. Hofinger believed this approach provided a foundation for an effective religious education, as well as an organizing and unifying principle for presenting the church's rich liturgical, biblical and doctrinal tradition to students of all ages.

He considered the need to re-surface and re-emphasize the core Christian message as critical because he believed that mid-century Christian religious education was in crisis. Religious education failed to impart to students "a coherent outlook on life" he said, and failed to help them "effectively form and unify their living." Perhaps more troubling to him, however, was the inability of most religious education to "truly make (students) happy." He believed the good news should do this by its very nature (Hofinger, 1957, p. 55).

Hofinger saw his work as part of Pope Pius X's pastoral-liturgical renewal, which sought "to renew all things in Christ" and "to return to the mind and spirit of Christ." Pius made daily communion accessible to laity for the first time in 1,500 years. Hofinger believed the signs of the times, especially the diminishing interest in religion in Western cultures, called for a return to the early Christian message that attracted so many in the ancient world - that Christianity was a system of "values." These values created excitement about the present and the future, and due to their attractiveness offered a strong motivation to respond to the message with the modification of one's behavior (Hofinger, 1957, p. 78). Hofinger saw a need for a new pentecost, which he saw in its incipient forms in the mid-1970s in the charismatic renewal effort, which offered a "pentecostal experience" for the catechist (Hofinger, 1976b, p. 147).

Hofinger's approach to religious education was Bible centered and Christ centered, and called on religious educators to stir "up the gift of faith" (Hofinger, 1964a, p. 9). He advocated teaching doctrine as a "life to be lived" (p. 9), a "God life" (p. 14), a thought and feeling system for viewing, experiencing and changing the world. "Our objective is not to make theologians of children, but to make them loving children of God who know what God has done for them and what they are expected to do in return" (p. 10).

Although Christianity was a complex worldview, Hofinger believed it had a simple message at its core and many of his texts reflect this tension. For instance, in one of his more popular texts, The ABCs of Modern Catechetics (1964a) Hofinger distills the tradition down to two dimensions - God's gift of love and the human response to that love (p. 23). The entire Catholic tradition is organized and unified under those two categories. Some considered this approach as simplistic, and his kerygmatic approach was occasionally lampooned as "the enigmatic" approach (Clark, 1984, p. 107).

A friend and co-author, F. J. Buckley said in the preface to one of Hofinger's works that many of Hofinger's texts were designed to show "how doctrines nourish faith and why they are good news to Christians." (Hofinger, 1974, p. v). He sought a middle ground between "correct doctrine" and an "unhealthy catechetical scholasticism" (Hofinger, 1977, p. 23). But, he also knew the importance of methodology. Hofinger knew that the 3 R's (reading, 'riting and 'rithmatic) had benefited greatly from educational psychology. He wanted the 4th R (religion) to do likewise. He encouraged catechists to make use of the best educational psychology and learning insights, as long as methods remained the "servant of the message" (Hofinger, 1964a, p. 7).

Examples of his theories on methodology are peppered through many of his works, but particularly in the 1960s. For instance, borrowing from educational psychology literature and his own pedagogical experience, Hofinger believed there were three stages in the science of teaching that were necessary in the process of learning. In "perception-presentation" the teacher presented new input, psychologically appropriate and in sufficient "quantity," and well prepared to maximize the student's likelihood of finding it interesting and worthy of engagement. A second stage in learning consisted of "assimilation-explanation." This movement concerned the integration of the pre-existing "intellectual and moral capital" acquired by the student. Explanation is the teacher's contribution to the assimilation process (Hofinger, 1968, p. 89). Lastly, in "response-application" the student made the new learning a lesson for life, an avenue for drawing closer to God. The teacher helps with this through application (p. 90; see also Hofinger, 1961, p. 308).

But the importance of methodology notwithstanding, Hofinger himself believed his primary contribution to the field was in pushing religious education leaders to devote energy to catechetical content and the doctrinal and spiritual formation of catechists (Hofinger 1983b, pp. 27-28). He sought a middle ground between "correct doctrine" and the "unhealthy catechetical scholasticism" that served as the normative way of thinking about the tradition since the Middle Ages (Hofinger, 1977, p. 23). According to Marlene Mayr, Hofinger served as "a major force in bringing about a change from the former Baltimore Catechism mentality in catechetics to a mentality imbued with (the) spirit of kerygmatic theology" (Mayr, 1983, pp. 3-4). He was a curious mixture of scholar and practitioner, and was driven by a desire to compensate for the tendency in Catholic religious education to over emphasize either religious education methods or content. Hofinger observed that religion teachers often became consumed with the "how to's" of catechesis. But, he also noticed that they often misunderstood the most essential doctrines of the Christian gospel or the order and interrelationship of those doctrines.

Hofinger imagined his mission as one of energizing religious education by motivating catechists to develop a passion for their faith tradition and helping them learn how to engage others with its riches. Faith for him was "thoroughly personal and existential" (1977, p. vii). His goal was nothing less than helping people to commit themselves to the call to gradually convert their lives "into another Christ" in the world (p. 27). Hofinger believed the conversion process by nature resulted in a change in attitudes, which ultimately impregnated acts with value. Proper Christian attitudes on the complex issues materializing in the 20th century required a constant deepening of both faith and knowledge of the tradition throughout life. For Hofinger this deepening process was done by engaging the doctrines or principles of the tradition, fleshing out their relevance for living, and wrapping the entire process of learning and acting in prayer. The goal of such catechesis, in his mind, was helping the person fall in love with God, as opposed to falling in love with saints or rituals, which he believed often happened in pre-Vatican II religious education.

While living in Manila in the Philippines, and working at the East Asian Pastoral Institute, which he founded in 1953, Hofinger coordinated seven international "study weeks" on missionary liturgical and catechetical renewal. Many influential bishops and the leading experts in Catholic catechetics and liturgy attended. Hofinger served as secretary general for all of the weeks, and edited book length collections of papers afterwards. The study weeks occurred in: Assisi (1956), Nijmegen (1959), Eichstätt (1960), Bangkok (1962), Katigondo, Uganda (1964), Manila (1967), and Medellin (1968). The meeting in Assisi awakened the attendees to the challenges facing Catholic liturgical theory and practice at mid-century. These challenges were worldwide, but were perhaps mostly easy to see and address in mission lands (Hofinger, 1960, p. 1). The meetings in Nijmegen and Eichstätt played a role in setting the agenda for the Second Vatican Council, an international Catholic episcopal gathering that transformed the church throughout the world. Hofinger considered the Eichstätt conference as the most important, especially a paper entitled "Program of the Catechetical Apostolate" and after the gathering he began to focus his writings more strongly on catechesis (See Hofinger, 1963).

F.J. Buckley (2003) maintains Hofinger directly influenced three key Vatican II documents - the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the Decree on Missionary Activity of the Church, and the Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions. Hofinger served on the committee meeting in Rome in 1961 to prepare for the Council document on Sacred Liturgy, and considered his participation "one of the most memorable events of his life." (Clark, p. 105). These documents have a common thread that also ran through Hofinger's life and work. In many ways he looked at religious education through the prism of a missionary, and saw liturgy as a key component of the educational process of becoming a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.

After the Council adjourned, Hofinger continued to influence important Catholic gatherings and documents on evangelization and catechesis. Buckley credits him with impacting the development and agendas of the International Catechetical Congress, which was held in Rome in 1971, the Synods of Bishops on Evangelization (1974) and Catechesis (1977), and the papal apostolic exhortations that were written as follow ups to these gatherings: Paul VI's Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975) and John Paul II's, Catechesi Tradendae (1979).

Hofinger's Assessment of the Catechetical Challenge

In 20th century Christian religious education, Hofinger feared catechesis had lost a "Godcenteredness." He saw this reflected in many pious practices, such as devotions to the Virgin Mary, many of which lost their focus on Christ and degenerated "into wrong sentimentality," and an improper distinction between the "fatherhood of God and the motherhood of the servant of God (1974, p. 46). As Hofinger traveled the world and assessed the catechetical situation in the pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II church, he also noticed a troubling trend, a "catechetical activism" that constituted a non-reflective approach to religious education. The noise and chaos of a technologically-saturated world posed daunting challenges for religious educators as their over stimulated students became increasingly disinterested in religion. Hofinger was concerned that many religious educators fell into the trap of reacting to these dynamics, rather than challenging them, by responding to religious disinterest among students with an over reliance on "entertainment" activities. (Hofinger and Stone, 1964b, p. 152). The catechist needed to be savvy about the influence the media - from newspapers and television and cinema to comic books - has on "disposing" or "indisposing" the student to engage the "message" of a particular religious lesson (155). But, while many educators became addicted to new methods in order to keep students interested, Hofinger cautioned that the main failures in Christian education did not have to do with deficiencies in education method but "from gross errors with regard to the aim, the content, and the basic process of religious education" (Hofinger, 1983, p. 30).

Of particular concern for Hofinger was the inability of many influential catechetical authors to appreciate the truly unique nature of religious education as distinct from all other forms of education - that its goal was a "personal encounter with God in prayer and life" (p. 31).

Students know enough about their religion to pass the tests, but a more thorough analysis of their religious knowledge will show that they do not know God. They have never been initiated into the mystery. In the long years of their religious instruction catechesis has not achieved its primary aim, that of fostering personal faith. (Hofinger & Stone, 1964b, p. 157)

The solution, in Hofinger's mind, required a reconnection with the basic elements of religious education, and a proper ordering of the contents of the faith tradition, while also using sound methodologies. This would require a radical reorientation in the way the tradition was presented: a break with the Catholic tradition's centuries old use of the apologetics of the Protestant Reformation as the organizing principle for the faith tradition's teachings. In addition, the church of Europe and the U.S. had to realize the desperate need for skilled and properly formed religious educators, as well as a process and infrastructure at the parish, school and diocesan level for effective supervision (Hofinger, 1983, p. 23).

Although he considered the General Catechetical Directory (1971) and the National Catechetical Directory for the Catholics in the United States (1979), two key religious education documents that explained catechesis in the context of the modern world, as important works for shifting catechesis away from an overly intellectualist emphasis, he also lamented the tardiness of these documents. By the time they were issued, he felt "religious education had been unfavorably influenced by a formidable wave of secularism and an unreadiness to accept normative directions of the church" (Hofinger, 1983, p. 32). Hofinger committed his efforts in the 1980s and 1990s to the "spiritual deepening" he saw as absent from the religious education of this time period. This is the focus of several of his books: Our Message is Christ (1974), Evangelization and Catechesis - Are We Really Proclaiming the Gospel? (1976), Living the Spirit of Christ (1977), You Are My Witnesses - Spirituality of Religion Teachers (1977), and Pastoral Renewal in the Power of the Spirit (1981). (See Buckley, 2003).

Hofinger was a student of history, and saw his own work as situated in the historical developments of the 20th century, which witnessed two waves of renewal. The first wave occurred in the late 19th and early 20 century with an emphasis on religious education method. Learning from the educational advancements made in various disciplines in the early part of the 20th century through the application of psychological insights to catechesis, this first phase emphasized the need to understand child psychology and adapt catechetical work to these dynamics and themes. The movement happened, in part, Hofinger believed, due to the over "intellectualism" of doctrinal content in the later 19th century, which had emphasized religious knowledge at the expense of Christian living and formation. (Hofinger, 1968, p. 23). By the second or third decade of the 20th century, he believed this first wave of renewal began to lose touch with the purpose of catechesis. This created a second wave of renewal, one reassessing the goal of religious education, which was ultimately not to impart knowledge so much as to establish religious convictions and dispositions.

Religious education ... should ... as a matter of principle, address itself to the whole human being: it is his heart and will, above all, that must be formed to the image of Christ., The question, then, is not only of clear, intelligible instruction, but primarily of effective education that forms the young person and equips him for Christian living. (Hofinger, 1957, p. 3)

The goal was Christian living, not Christian knowing. Yet, in his era Hofinger saw Catholic religious education as often defaulting to the latter. Even in missionary countries he noticed a tendency for religious educators to take "an undue character of rationality" (Hofinger, 1958, p. 35).

Hofinger attempted to integrate the insights of both waves of catechetical renewal that had swept through western and central Europe in the 20th century. He saw himself as a herald of the fundamental task of catechesis: "to awaken, deepen, and gradually to perfect a willing faith" - to move beyond a narrow understanding of instruction as teaching facts to providing "practical guidance" in the Christian life. The goal was to help students to see that the Christian life was "a wonderful and enviable life, the only life truly worth living" (Hofinger, 1957, p. 20).

Hofinger marked his educational ministry with a passion for re-formulating the Christian tradition for modern ears. This provided a two-fold challenge. He aimed the first challenge at believers in the turbulent 1950s-1980s, calling them to take seriously their duty to follow Christ in the modern world. He focused the second challenge at staid formulations of church doctrine, especially those that seemed to use fear as a motivation for orthodox belief and action. It is in these areas that Hofinger's pastoral heart is seen most clearly.

For instance, he considered the frequently used pre-conciliar Catholic articulation on the immorality of sex outside of marriage as both morally and catechetically defective. This formulation was usually presented in this way: "any deliberate sexual pleasure outside of matrimony is a mortal sin." Rather, the church's position should be articulated, he said, in something like the following form: "any selfish use of sexual powers which is not in the true service of the stable union of love in marriage is bad," with the degree of sinfulness predicated on the deliberateness of the selfishness" (Hofinger, 1977, p. 118). Hofinger believed this careful wording was necessary because of the "vehement and sudden emotions" involved in the sexual experience, which makes humans too vulnerable to charges of committing mortal sins. As in his position on other controversial and complex issues, Hofinger maintained that the key to responsible Christian articulation of the tradition consisted in holding to the principles of the tradition, while also "understanding human weakness" (p. 119).

The Central Role of Religious Experience

Admittedly influenced by his father's common sense approach to life, Hofinger traced much of his religious education orientation and theorizing to his reflection on the religion teachers who impacted him the most. His well-educated pastor, though a faithful and learned man, had little influence, while a religious woman and lay woman affected him in profound ways. These women "formed ... hearts," Hofinger said, they did not just transmit doctrine (Hofinger, 1983, p. 12). He also had two intellectually gifted uncles, both priests, who were not effective religious educators, while a less gifted uncle, who was also a cleric, became an inspiring religious educator at the elementary and high school levels. Hofinger saw this as an indication of a fundamental problem in the process of religious education. He felt all religious education, from kindergarten to seminary, had to inspire and motivate students to fall in love with God. The best catechists, he observed, kept religious experience central to their educational efforts and seemed to have a burning desire to share their experience of God with others.

What he learned in these years about religious education methodology was the central place of religious experience. Based on the lessons he learned from his own life, Hofinger encouraged his students to reflect on the effect their early maturation had on their life of faith. While he maintained a desire to keep standards high in religious education, his sensitivities led him not to place too much emphasis on the role of formal education on faith development. It also convinced him before many of his peers that religious education with children was over emphasized, and that the Catholic church needed to develop more creative ways to do family education.

The Influence of Josef Jungmann, S.J.

When Hofinger entered theological studies at the University of Innsbruck in 1932, he was assigned to assist Josef Jungmann in his duties as editor of the prestigious German theological journal, Zeitschrift für Katholische Theologie. Jungmann, a liturgical and catechetical scholar, became Hofinger's most significant influence theologically and pedagogically. In many ways Hofinger was a popularizer and developer of Jungmann's thought.

Jungmann was interested in history and pastoral renewal. In the 1930s Jungmann was part of a number of European theologians who saw serious problems with the Catholicism of their day. Due to a non-reflective assimilation of Catholic teaching, in Jungmann's opinion, many Catholic believers had no sense of the priority of teachings, with some equating the corporate practice of fasting, such as not eating meat on Fridays, with weighty Christian requirements like caring for the poor. For many theologians, much of the confusion as to what constituted the real meaning of Christianity was attributed to the state of theology at the time. A "scholastic or neo-scholastic straightjacket" prohibited theological inquiry from addressing the difference between the issues of the theological manuals and the issues of living the Christian faith. (Warren, 1983, p. 193). This neo-scholastic system offered a secure package with all the answers, but increasingly theologians and pastoral ministers were realizing that the answers in this Christian meaning system no longer seemed to fit the existential questions of the day.

Jungmann devoted much of his work to surfacing the core or essential elements of the Christian message from the "accretions of the centuries" (Jungmann, 1959, p. 397). Doctrinal developments, often evolving in answer to specific heresies, although important, tended to mute the centrality of the life and person of Christ in salvation history (pp. 402-405).

When Jungmann died in 1975, Hofinger memorialized him for the journal Living Light. Hofinger credits Jungmann with shifting the focus of the catechetical renewal from an emphasis on methodology to one of content. Because the catechist is first and foremost a "herald" of God, Hofinger credits Jungmann with determining the five principles of a kerygmatic renewal:

a deep religious understanding of the Christian message is even more important than training in teaching and educational methods;

this deep religious understanding requires "much more than an orthodox interpretation of the particular doctrines;

the Good News has Jesus Christ as its center, and all religion teachers need "a clear insight into (this) central Christian message" so all other elements of the Catholic tradition can be organized accordingly;

perhaps contrary to intuition, the principles are "even more important" in catechesis with adolescents and adults than children;

the Bible and the liturgy are the "authentic expression of the Christian kerygma" and the church's failure to remember this fact has been a big reason for the decline of preaching in Christian history. (Hofinger, 1976a, pp. 357-358).

The catechist needed what Hofinger referred to as the "diligent cultivation" of the "kerygmatic virtues." This was necessary because all catechists are heralds not for Christ, but in and with Christ. These virtues included "fidelity to the fullness of the divine message," which requires a devotion to study; "unselfishness," which constitutes a diminishing of the ego and a limiting of the possibility that personal issues and the desire for adulation is minimized; and "winningness," which he defined as the allowing of the "goodness and kindness" of God to shine out in all activities" (Hofinger, 1957, pp. 187-192).

Convinced as he was in the essential need to re-claim a new perspective on teaching the good news, Hofinger felt free to criticize those religion textbooks developed with old religious education principles and praise those that seemed to adopt a kerygmatic perspective in the curricular design. (See his article on Emmett Carter's "The Modern Challenge to Religious Education," a manual for the kerygmatic approach; Hofinger, Summer, 1961b, p. 536). Perhaps one of the reasons Hofinger eventually moved to the U.S. and filed for citizenship was that he believed the kerygmatic approach emphasized by Jungmann was progressing the most rapidly and thoroughly in North America.

The Pastoral "Marks" Left by His Missionary Experience

In one of his major early works, The Art of Teaching Christian Doctrine (1957), Hofinger was clear in his position that an overly intellectualist approach offered no "nourishment" for the spiritual or religious life (p. 2), and represented an "old-fashioned lifeless" approach to teaching (p. 3). His confidence in this assertion came from his own grounding in the pastoral needs of mission territories.

In 1937, Hofinger had volunteered to serve as a missionary in China. After two years of studying Chinese he became a systematic theology and catechetics professor at the regional seminary in Kinghsien. While teaching systematics, Hofinger focused his energies on the deficiencies of traditional Catholic theological education - an overly strong emphasis on the intellectual or rational explanation of the word of God, coupled with a deficient preparation of seminarians for an actual presentation of that gospel to others. He advocated having seminarians practice catechetical lessons in the seminary, but also to go out into the community and teach in parish programs (Hofinger, 1961a, p. 312). This latter practice became very popular in the post-conciliar church in most American seminaries. He also began calling for a "kerygmatic orientation" in the seminary theology curriculum. Such an orientation would have as its goal "to form true priests and heralds of Christ" (p. 316). While in China, he published Our Good News, or Principle Themes of Christian Preaching (1946). The book responded to the pastoral need of many small Chinese villages that only received a visit from a priest several times a year.

In January of 1949 Hofinger took the last civil airplane out of Peking before the Communist Army of Mao overtook the city. The seminary moved to Manila, where he lived from 1949-1958, and became involved in the Institute of Mission Apologetics, which in 1960 became the East Asian Pastoral Institute. During this period, Hofinger began to share his perspectives on liturgy, religious education and mission. His message received an enthusiastic reception in both Asia and western nation (Clark, p. 104).

Hofinger began a more international orientation to this work in 1953 by giving a paper at the International Liturgical Study Week in Lugano. In his paper he called for the missionary need of "a thorough liturgical renewal" (Hofinger, 1983, p. 28). A year later he launched an international speaking career, beginning with a class at the University of Notre Dame in 1954. Between 1953 and 1970, Hofinger traveled the world speaking at catechetical conferences, ultimately circling the globe 16 times (p. 29). This is the period in which he picked up the nickname of "Father Sputnik" in reference to the Russian satellite that was launched in 1957.


During the Second Vatican Council the Catholic bishops of the world debated whether or not to create a catechism that would up-date the major and minor catechisms produced after the Council of Trent (1545-1563). The bishops decided by majority to create a new religious education genre, the General Directory for Catechesis (GDC), which was released in 1971. Among many other things, this document resurfaced from ancient catechesis the critical connection between evangelization and catechesis. Hofinger saw this connection as a fruit of the biblical studies of the 20th century that had plumbed new understandings of divine revelation and faith. He embraced the evangelization dimension in religious education with gusto.

In evangelization, the main goal is conversion: "the decisive change of mind by which man (sic) admits the basic insufficiency and error of his accustomed view of the world and of life, and willingly accepts God's message as the basis for the new life he (sic) is determined to start." (Hofinger, 1976b, p. 150). This conversion required a balance between the intellect and emotion:

In religious education overemphasis on the intellectual element of faith does little to foster true conversion; in fact, it can render conversion more difficult. Yet as the same time we must insist that neglecting the intellectual aspect of faith can also have harmful consequences, since it can lead to an emotional faith lacking in depth. Such faith relies more on vague and transitory feelings than on the solid motives demanded in a mature commitment (p. 32).

According to GDC and the growing body of Catholic thought, evangelization was seen as occurring in three stages: pre-evangelization, evangelization and catechesis proper. Hofinger saw pre-evangelization as the psychological preparation for growth in faith - it should "arouse interest" and "dispose" the student to hear and appreciate the message of God (Hofinger & Stone, 1964b, p. 148). This required the catechist to assume an "anthropological approach" to teaching, to understand the "thought patterns, opinion and the influences" of environment and culture and to help the student see a new possibility for life (p. 149).

Hofinger spoke passionately about the need of conversion for the institutional church as well as individuals, and lamented the institution's failure often to identify itself with a pilgrim church, one in constant need for conversion and "profound reform" as summarized in the ancient Latin term: ecclesia semper reformanda (Hofinger, 1976, p. 38).

An optimist by nature, Hofinger saw virtually unlimited opportunities for evangelization of Catholics in the modern world. But, he also saw obstacles. Chief among these were "improper attitudes" that prevented a complete embrace of the dynamic message of the Christian faith. He included among them: traditionalism, a blind acceptance of certain forms of Christian belief and practice, intellectualism, pessimism, ritualism, a tendency to substitute interior commitment with exterior action, legalism, and an over dependence on devotionalism (Hofinger, 1976, pp. 134-138). But, certain unfavorable "situations" were equally detrimental to the power of the message of Christ: misery, injustice and oppression, affluence and bad examples in the church (pp. 138-143).

The Role of Worship in Religious Education

In the mid-1950s, as he was thrust onto the world stage, Hofinger was aggressively pushing an agenda: the existence of a liturgical adaptability in the early centuries of Christianity and the need to return to such flexibility in worship in the missions. This flexibility was needed for several reasons, he believed, but the one he noted most was the formative and catechetical dimension of liturgical worship.

In 1958, while still living in Manila, Hofinger wrote a major work on liturgy with four other Jesuits from the Institute of Mission Apolegetics: Worship: The Life of the Missions (1958). Based on their liturgical experience in the missions, the five Jesuits asked the institutional church to provide greater freedom to use vernacular languages during liturgies, to adopt liturgical rites with greater simplicity and clarity of meaning. In this pre-Vatican II period, one of the chief principles of ecclesiology in Catholicism called for uniformity in nearly all things, Hofinger and his colleagues, however, made a strong and carefully nuanced case for a "flexible conformity" with the universal church (Worship, pp. 282 -301). This, of course, became the practice in many areas of the world after the Council.

Hoftinger always qualified his calls for reform and renewal. He was also sensitive to the liturgical excesses that could develop as a by-product of the "divisive nationalism" and "religious subjectivism" that was rampant in the world at mid-century (p. 7). These sensitivities made him difficult to categorize by others when Catholicism began to polarize into "liberal" and "conservative" camps in the late 1970s.

For instance, central to his desire for liturgical reform was his advocacy of intense lay involvement. He wanted the laity of the 1950s to re-discover the "holy action" of those participating in the liturgies of the early church, in contrast to the "spectating" that marked so many cultures at mid-20th century Catholicism (p. 8). Hofinger's enthusiasm for empowering the laity created concerns from more traditionally-oriented scholars and Catholic practitioners. When fellow cleric John Miller reviewed Hofinger's Liturgische Erneuerung in der Weltmission, Miller (December, 1958) expressed strong disapproval with Hofinger's suggestion that laity could hold an official liturgy without a priest. Yet, Miller had a difficult time disagreeing with the basic ideas presented by Hofinger and ended up praising the book overall.

Advocate of the Laity

Although a proud member of the clergy, and a defender of the importance of the hierarchical structure directing Roman Catholicism's religious education efforts, Hofinger was outspoken about the critical and indispensable role of laity in the church's catechetical or religious education ministry. This position was heightened by his missionary work in China and the Philippines as a young priest, a region of the world in which religious women and laity did far more educational ministry than clergy. Holding to a rather radical concept for 1940s and 1950s Catholicism, Hofinger believed the primary criteria for determining a good religious educator was based not so much the "teaching authority" conferred by ordination or the official conferral of authority to teach by appropriate authorities, but rather by the catechist's "formative influence" on others (Hofinger, 1957, p. 7). He was an advocate for the vocation of the lay religious educator, but he was also painfully aware that this "immense army of catechists" posed a formidable challenge in continuing education in both teaching methods and, more importantly, the "basic principles" of the "modern catechetical renewal (Hofinger, 1961a, p. 305). He committed much of his life to responding to this need.

Because religious educators needed to become "mouthpieces" and "instruments" of Christ, and needed to imbue both their method and their content with the "mystery of Christ," which was the "fundamental theme" and "unifying principle" of Christian religious education, Hofinger dedicated much of his life to catechist formation and preparation (Hoffinger, 1957, p. 11). He saw much of his contribution to catechesis as centering on re-claiming the "inspirational power" and "the perspective of value" that was part of the religious education efforts in the early church (p. 4).

The shift from primarily religious women to laity, Hofinger noted, created problems with achieving the goal of a catechesis in the power of the Spirit.

We concentrated too one-sidedly on the word the catechist was supposed to do. We took pains to provide the religion teachers with more adequate professional training. We showered them with an abundance of fine teaching aides, but we did not concern ourselves in the same degree with the catechists and their own personal formation and life as witness of the Gospel (Hofinger, Fall 1981, p. 309).

Hofinger was a realist and knew that most parishes did not have sufficient resources to provide the kind of spiritual care that was needed for laity to achieve the level of religious excitement, ownership and motivation that characterized religious women. But, he advocated initial steps, such as group prayer and reflection, along with on-going efforts to provide inspiration, encouragement and guidance. He recommended a five-minute period in each weekly faculty meeting, and the devotion of a full hour every month (p. 312).

The last few years of his life, Hofinger lived at the Center of Jesus the Lord, a charismatic community located in New Orleans on N. Rampart St. near the French Quarter. He believed the charismatic movement had things to teach catechists about an intense relationship with God, as well as the cultivation of a love of scripture. He sought a religious education community that worked in the "power of the Spirit" and shared in that intimate relationship with God, which he hoped would serve as the motivation for their teaching. But, Hofinger did not think that the charismatic movement had a monopoly on the Spirit's action in the world. Every generation, he believed, had catechists who taught in the Spirit (Hofinger, 1982; Summer, 1976c).

His Devotion to Content and Catechisms

Hofinger's mentor, Josef Jungmann, suggested that Hofinger focus his doctoral thesis on the origin and uniqueness of the catechisms of Sagan in Silesia. The focus of research solidified in Hofinger a fascination not only for the content of religious education, but the organization and unification of the content around the "kerygma" of Christianity. The collections of church belief and teachings known as catechisms played a prominent role in German and Austrian religious education in the 18th century. Hofinger later broadened his study to include catechisms from the 16th century into the 19th century, giving him a unique historical view of doctrinal content. The dissertation was published in 1937 as: Geschichte des Katechismus in Oesterreich seit Petrus Canisius mit Berücksichtigung der gesamtdeutschen Katechismusentwicklung (Hofinger, 1937). It was condemned by the Nazis and destroyed in 1939, possibly because Hofinger complained about the interference of the state in catechetical work during 18th century Austria (Hofinger, 1983; Clark, 1984).

Although Hofinger (1957) valued catechisms throughout his life and saw the need for presenting Christianity as a "system of truth" in order to achieve a "fuller intellectual penetration of Christian doctrine" he also knew systematic theology had to constantly resist the tendency of becoming "theoretic and remote from life" (p. 44). The typical presentation of the faith tradition through catechisms often created the perception that Christianity was primarily a system of "rules, restrictions, or limiting behaviors" (p. 43).

Ahead of his time in ecumenical openness, Hofinger found inspiration during his research into Protestant catechisms. When he read the preface to the Heidelberg Catechism, German Calvinism's most famous religious education tool in the 16th century, he wept, moved deeply by its description of the central message of Christianity - God's love (p. 22). He also found in Luther's Small Catechism a much better teaching tool than Catholic catechisms of the time. His catechism research convinced him that Catholic catechisms needed to re-conceive the way the faith tradition was organized and presented.

The 19th and early 20th century catechisms presented the tradition first from the perspective of what it took to achieve salvation. He believed God's "overwhelming love" was the most important message, with the Creed and the sacraments together challenging humanity "to a new life of love" (Hofinger, 1983, p. 27). The "inner most sanctuary of Christianity" which had the core invitation of God to humanity, did not emphasize "what must I do" as a Christian, but rather "how best might I respond to the loving initiative of God?" (Hofinger, 1957, p. 78).

Prior to Vatican II, the church often spoke of faith as a submission of the intellect to "a long list of truths (Hofinger, 1974, p. 3)." Hofinger emphasized living, with a commitment to a growing and continually deepening and inspiring assimilation of the tradition (p. ix). Key to this assimilation process was positioning particular doctrines, such as the Trinity, Incarnation, or Sacraments, as integral elements of the "self manifestation of the Divine Lover" and that lover's "personal concern for the well-being" of the human race (p. 3). God's friendship with humanity challenged humans to respond in faith with a readiness to convert and reorient their entire life (p. 4).

Hofinger wrote two companion texts in the mid-1970s, which he considered resources for the General Catechetical Directory (GCD). Our Message is Christ: The More Outstanding Elements of the Christian Message in 1974 was followed three years later by Living in the Spirit of Christ (1977). The subtitle of the first text came from the third section of the GCD. The texts are a "short, precise outline of the whole Christian message" (Hofinger, 1977, p. viii), and therefore the texts prefigure the intent (and much of the content) of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was released in 1992.

In Our Message is Christ, Hofinger provides a systematic presentation of the creedal tradition moving from the original intent of God's creation to sin, hell, original sin, Christ's saving work and God's "foolish love" in the incarnation, Christ's hidden and public lives, the culmination of his life and ministry in the Paschal Mystery, the revelation of the Trinity, institution of the sacraments as memorial of Christ's saving acts, and the place of the expectation of the Second Coming. In Living in the Spirit of Christ, Hofinger fleshes out how the life of faith informed by these creedal principles becomes formed into a posture that is in a state of constant conversion. This posture allows for the in breaking of God's reign to the earth through a right relationship to God in faith, hope and love, a right relationship with others, the promotion of life (John Paul II would later coin the term "culture of life"), and proper attitudes toward material objects, sex, work and the world.

The Catholic Church was laying the ground work for the Catechism of the Catholic Church when Hofinger died in 1984. Hofinger certainly played a role in promoting the need for a catechism, and would have approved of the new catechism's emphasis on God's love, prayer and social justice, as well as its highlighting of the Beatitudes as a model for life rather than avoidance of sin. But he would have been troubled by the use of a catechism by some areas of the Catholic faith community to bring back a pre-Vatican II intellectualism and denial of human and religious experience.


If Hofinger was practical in his educational efforts, he was equally savvy in his sensitivities to the political culture of the church and the possibilities of culture to help and hinder the renewal effort. Hofinger was very aware that many Catholic leaders prior to Vatican II resisted efforts to improve catechesis or explore the real core message of Christian doctrine. Both of these efforts were occurring in academic circles during the first half of the 20th century, and many scholars paid a high price for their inquiries. Rather than battle or dismiss the suspicions many Catholic leaders harbored toward change, Hofinger tried to build conceptual bridges between progressive and traditionalist elements in the faith community. For instance, in explaining progressive energies in the religious education field to traditionalists he often made the distinction between "innovation" which traditionalists feared, and "restoration" which drove liturgical and biblical research in its desire to return to the dynamism of the early church (Hofinger, 1964a, p. 5).

Hofinger was also aware of the concerns many traditionalists had about the role of methodology in religious education. Even in the 1950s he warned the catechetical community that many bishops were concerned that catechists were telling too many stories in their teaching and omitting the explanation of doctrines. Hofinger (1957) cautioned catechists to "heed" these criticisms and become more astute at integrating doctrinal elements into their lesson plans. They needed to modify their practices because doctrine needed to become more central to religious education practice, but they also needed to modify their practices because if they did not, traditionalist forces, already suspicious of renewal efforts, would gain influence in trying to halt needed reform in the Catholic community (Hofinger, 1957, p. 30).

Hofinger's ideas and personality truly engaged the Catholic world during the 1950s through the 1970s. He taught an emotionally-charged approach to faith, and he was not shy about using the doctrinal principles of Christianity and Catholicism to critique human culture and practice. But, he also had a pastor's heart that came through in the nuances of his positions. For instance, while unequivocally condemning abortion, he challenged parents not to act "irresponsibly" by overcrowding the earth (Hofinger, 1977, pp. 111-112). Although he was not a pacifist, he supported those who chose this path if they did so as part of a clear vision of moving the human community toward more authenticity, and encouraged Christians supporting war to remain "inclined to forgive" their adversaries or enemies (p. 113).

The Art of Teaching (1957) offers a template of Hofinger's approach to religious education throughout his life - provide a sound theoretical orientation to the nature and purpose of catechesis, and make use of the best methodologies available, keeping in mind that some are not suited to the unique nature of religious education. Lastly, organize the content of the educational effort through the prism of the Christian kergyma, remembering first and foremost the good news of the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. Ultimately, all religious education is about the good news.


Works Cited

  • Buckley, F.J. (2003). Johannes Hofinger. In B. Marthaler (Ed.), New Catholic Encyclopedia (2nd ed.). Detroit: Thomson, 903.
  • Clark, F.X. (1984). Johannes Hofinger, S.J. (1905-1984): life and bibliography. East Asian Pastoral Review, 21, 2, 103-120.
  • De la Cruz, A. M. (1984, June). Johannes Hofinger remembered: 1905-1984. The Living Light, 20, 345-347.
  • Ekstrom, R.R. (1985, February). "He is much missed." Catechist, 18, 56.
  • General Directory of Catechesis (1971).
  • Hofinger, J. (1937). Geschichte des Katechismus in Österreich von Canisius bis zur Gegenwart. Innsbruck: Verlag F. Rauch.
  • Hofinger, J. (1946). Nuntius noster seu themata predicationis nostrae. (Our good news, or Principle themes of Christian preaching). Editore Seminario Regionali Kinghsien: Tientsin.
  • Hofinger, J. (1957). The art of teaching Christian doctrine. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958). The urgent need for liturgical reform. In J. Hofinger, J. Kellner, P. Brunner, J. Seffer (Eds.), trans. by Mary Perkins Ryan, Worship: The life of the missions. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame.
  • Hofinger, J. (Ed.). (1960). Liturgy and the missions: The Nijmegen papers. New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons.
  • Hofinger, J. (Ed.). (1961a). Teaching all nations: A symposium on modern catechetics. Revised and partly translated by Clifford Howell, S.J. New York: Herder and Herder.
  • Hofinger, J. (1961b, Summer). America's first kerygmatic manual of catechetics. Lumen Vitae, 16:536-540.
  • Hofinger, J. (1963). Contemporary catechetics: A third phase? Chicago Studies, 257-268.
  • Hofinger, J. & Reedy, W. J. (1964a). The abcs of modern catechetics. New York: William Sadlier.
  • Hofinger, J. & Stone, T. C. (Eds.). (1964b). Pastoral catechetics. New York: Herder and Herder.
  • Hofinger, J. & Buckley, F. J. (1968). The good news and its proclamation. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • Hofinger, J. (1974). Our message is Christ: The more outstanding elements of the Christian message. Notre Dame: Fides/Claretian.
  • Hofinger, J. (1976a, Fall). J.A. Jungmann (1889-1975): In memoriam. Living Light, 13:350-359.
  • Hofinger, J. (1976b). Evangelization and catechesis: Are we really proclaiming the gospel? New York: Paulist Press.
  • Hofinger, J. (1976c, Summer). Charismatic spirituality and the catechist. Review for Religious, 35:663-672.
  • Hofinger, J. (1977). Living in the spirit of Christ. Pecos, N.M.: Dove.
  • Hofinger, J. (1981, Fall). Catechesis in the power of the spirit. Chicago Studies, 20:303-316.
  • Hofinger, J. (1982). Pastoral life in the power of the spirit. New York: Alba House.
  • Hofinger, J. (1982, Spring). Panel honors pioneering Catholic educator, Religious Education Association Clearing House, 12, 3-6.
  • Hofinger, J. (1983a). You are my witnesses: Spirituality for religion teachers. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor.
  • Hofinger, J. (1983b). "The Catechetical Sputnik." In M. Mayr (Ed.), Modern masters of religious education. Birmingham, Alabama: Religious Education Press, 9-32.
  • Jungmann, J. A. (1959). Handing on the faith: A manual of catechetics. London: Burns & Oates, Inc.
  • Lee, J. M. (1973). The flow of religious instruction. Birmingham, Alabama: Religious Education Press.
  • Mayr, M. (Ed.). (1983). Modern masters of religious education. Birmingham, Alabama: Religious Education Press.
  • Miller, J. H. (1958, December). Theological Studies, 19:633.
  • National Catechetical Directory (1979). Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference of Bishops.
  • Nebreda, A. M. (1984). "Johannes Hofinger: Catalyst and pioneer." East Asian Pastoral Review, 21, 2, 120-27.
  • Warren, M. (Ed.). (1983). Sourcebook for modern catechetics. Winona, MN: St. Mary's Press.


  • Hofinger, J. (1937). Geschichte des Katechismus in Österreich von Canisius bis zur Gegenwart. Innsbruck: Verlag F. Rauch.
  • Hofinger, J. (1944). De deo creante et elevante: Momentum theologicum et kerygmaticum tractatus 'de deo creante et elevante. Collectanea Commisionis Synodalis. Peking.
  • Hofinger, J. & Kellner, J. (1956). Der priesterlose gemeindegottesdienst in den missionen. Schöneck.
  • Hofinger, J. (1957). The art of teaching Christian doctrine. South Bend, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • Hofinger, J. & Kellner J. (1957). Liturgische erneurung in der weltmission, Innsbruck: Tyrolia Verlag
  • Hofinger, J. (1961). The basic aims of modern catechetics. Missionary Apolegetics Series. Hong Kong: Catholic Truth Society.
  • Hofinger, J. (1961). A christocentric survey of doctrine. Missionary Apolegetics Series. Hong Kong: Catholic Truth Society.
  • Hofinger, J. (1961). How to use the Bible in religion class. Missionary Apolegetics Series. Hong Kong: Catholic Truth Society.
  • Hofinger, J. & Reedy, W. J. (1964). The abcs of modern catechetics, New York: William Sadlier.
  • Hofinger, J. & Buckley, F. J. (1968). The good news and its proclamation. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • Hofinger, J. (Ed.). (1969). The Medellin papers. Manila: East Asian Pastoral Institute.
  • Hofinger, J. (1974). Our message is Christ: The more outstanding elements of the Christian message. Notre Dame: Fides/Claretian.
  • Hofinger, J. (1976). Evangelization and catechesis: Are we really proclaiming the gospel? New York: Paulist Press.
  • Hofinger, J. (1977, 1983). You are my witnesses: Spirituality for religion teachers. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor.
  • Hofinger, J. (1977). Living in the spirit of Christ. Pecos, N.M.: Dove.
  • Hofinger, J. (1982). Pastoral life in the power of the spirit. New York: Alba House.
  • Hofinger, J. (1983) Prayer services for the Christian educator. Washington, DC: National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA).

Edited Books

  • Hofinger, J. (1946). Nuntius noster seu themata predicationis nostrae. (Our Good News, or Principle Themes of Christian Preaching). Editore Seminario Regionali Kinghsien: Tientsin.
  • Hofinger, J., Kellner, J., Brunner, P. & Seffer, J. (Eds.). (1958). Worship: The life of the missions. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • Hofinger, J. (Ed.). (1960). Liturgy and the missions: The Nijmegen papers. New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons.
  • Hofinger, J. (Ed.). (1961). Teaching all nations: A symposium on modern catechetics. Revised and partly translated by Clifford Howell, S.J. New York: Herder and Herder.
  • Hofinger, J. (1961). Renouvellement de la catéchèse. Rapports de la semaine internationale d'etudes d'Eichstätt sur la catéchèse dans les pays de mission. Parish: Editions du Cerf.
  • Hofinger, J. (1961). Imparting the Christian message. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • Hofinger, J. & Stone, T. C. (Eds.). (1964). Pastoral catechetics. New York: Herder and Herder.
  • Hofinger, J. & Sheridan, T. (Ed.). (1969). The Medellin papers. Manila, Philippines: East Asian Pastoral Institute.

Periodicals Hofinger Founded

  • Glad Tidings (1962)
  • Teaching All Nations (1964)
  • East Asian Pastoral Review (1979) (This was a merging of the two previous periodicals.)

Article or Chapter in a book

  • Hofinger, J. (1940). De apta divisione materiae catecheticae. Collectanea comissionis synodalis. Peking, 583-599; 729-749; 845-859; 960-965.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958). Our concern for the liturgy in the life of missionary history. In J. Hofinger, J. Kellner, P. Brunner, J. Seffer (Eds.), (trans. Mary Perkins Ryan), Worship: The life of the missions. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 3-20.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958). Basic missionary values of the liturgy. In J. Hofinger, J. Kellner, P. Brunner, J. Seffer (Eds.), (trans. Mary Perkins Ryan), Worship: The life of the missions. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 21-30.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958). The urgent need for liturgical reform. In J. Hofinger, J. Kellner, P. Brunner, J. Seffer (Eds.), (trans. Mary Perkins Ryan), Worship: The life of the missions. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 31-38.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958). Qualities that should characterize the celebration of the liturgy in the missions. In J. Hofinger, J. Kellner, P. Brunner, J. Seffer (Eds.), (trans. Mary Perkins Ryan), Worship: The life of the missions. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 39-44.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958). Scripture readings in Christian worship. In J. Hofinger, J. Kellner, P. Brunner, J. Seffer (Eds.), (trans. Mary Perkins Ryan), Worship: The life of the missions. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 75-86.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958). The celebration of the liturgical feasts. In J. Hofinger, J. Kellner, P. Brunner, J. Seffer (Eds.), (trans. Mary Perkins Ryan), Worship: The life of the missions. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 106-122.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958). Communal worship in the absence of a priest: Its importance and its structure. In J. Hofinger, J. Kellner, P. Brunner, J. Seffer (Eds.), (trans. Mary Perkins Ryan), Worship: The life of the missions. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 125-145.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958). The liturgical arts in the missions. In J. Hofinger, J. Kellner, P. Brunner, J. Seffer (Eds.), (trans. Mary Perkins Ryan), Worship: The life of the missions. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 196-207.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958). The missionary value of the liturgy of the sick and of the dead. In J. Hofinger, J. Kellner, P. Brunner, J. Seffer (Eds.), (trans. Mary Perkins Ryan), Worship: The life of the missions. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 237-245.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958). Should we work towards permanent deacons in the missions? In J. Hofinger, J. Kellner, P. Brunner, J. Seffer (Eds.), (trans. Mary Perkins Ryan), Worship: The life of the missions. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 249-261.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958). The liturgical formation of clergy and faithful. In J. Hofinger, J. Kellner, P. Brunner, J. Seffer (Eds.), (trans. Mary Perkins Ryan), Worship: The life of the missions. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 267-281.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958). What we desire and request of the church. In J. Hofinger, J. Kellner, P. Brunner, J. Seffer (Eds.), (trans. Mary Perkins Ryan), Worship: The life of the missions. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 282-301.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958). Missionary requests formulated at the Assisi congress. In J. Hofinger, J. Kellner, P. Brunner, J. Seffer (Eds.), (trans. Mary Perkins Ryan), Worship: The life of the missions. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 302-306.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958). Outlines of sermon cycles for missionary use. In J. Hofinger, J. Kellner, P. Brunner, J. Seffer (Eds.), (trans. Mary Perkins Ryan), Worship: The life of the missions. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 307-316.
  • Hofinger, J. (1962). The catechetical training of missionary priests. In J. Hofinger (Ed.), (trans. Clifford Howell), Teaching all nations: A symposium on modern catechetics. New York: Herder and Herder, 305-316.
  • Hofinger, J. (1964). Stages leading to faith and their role in the catechesis of the faithful. In J. Hofinger and T. C. Stone (Eds.), Pastoral catechetics. New York: Herder and Herder, 144-159.


  • Hofinger, J. (1940). De apta divisione materiae catecheticae. Tentamen historico-criticum, Collectanes Commissionis Synodalis. Beijing, China, 583-599; 729-749; 845-859; 960-965.
  • Hofinger, J. (1942). De formatione catechetica Seminaristarum, Collectanes Commissionis Synodalis, 14. Beijing, China, 58-95.
  • Hofinger, J. (1942). De recentiore litteratura catechetica, Collectanes Commissionis Synodalis, 14. Beijing, China, 146-165.
  • Hofinger, J. (1947). Die rechte gliederung des katechetischen lehrstoffes. Lumen Vitae, 2, 719-746.
  • Hofinger, J. (1948). How to better the catechetical institution in China. China Missionary, 2, 15-21.
  • Hofinger, J. (1948, October). Position of the missions in China from the catechetical point of view. Lumen Vitae, 3, 796-810.
  • Hofinger, J. (1950, April). Our message. Lumen Vitae, 5, 264-280.
  • Hofinger, J. (1952, January). Teaching the mass in mission countries. Lumen Vitae, 7, 43-54.
  • Hofinger, J. (1952, July). Adaptation in missionary catechesis. Lumen Vitae, 7, 425-431.
  • Hofinger, J. (1952, July). Religious education in communist China. Lumen Vitae, 7, 455-458.
  • Hofinger, J. (1953). Use of the popular language in Chinese community prayer. China Missionary Bulletin, 5 (6), Hongkong, 12-15;115-118; 250-251.
  • Hofinger, J. (1953, March). Keeping Sunday in the missionary's absence. Lumen Vitae, 8, 114-118.
  • Hofinger, J. (1954). The love of God in missionary catechesis. Lumen Vitae 99, 582-596.
  • Hofinger, J. (1954, Summer). Christian hope: Some suggestions for a catechesis. Lumen Vitae, 9, 387-397.
  • Hofinger, J. (1954, December). Guide for teachers of religion: Katechetik by J.A. Jungmann. Lumen Vitae, 9, 649-653.
  • Hofinger, J. (1955). Liturgy and the winning of the nations. Worldmission, 6, New York, 25-33; 173-184.
  • Hofinger, J. (1955). Towards the better kerygmatic training of missionaries suggested by a new edition of the book Theses Dogmaticae by the Rev. Maurus Heinrichs, O.F.M. Lumen Vitae, 10, 509-516.
  • Hofinger, J. (1955). Missionary catechesis in mission lands and dechristianized regions, Lumen Vitae, 547-556.
  • Hofinger, J. (1955). Leading principles for a more correct division of the catechism. Catholic School Journal, 55, 86-88.
  • Hofinger, J. (1955). Is our catechism properly divided? Catholic School Journal, 55, 119-121.
  • Hofinger, J. (1955, January). Catechetics and liturgy – Teaching the good news – The grade school child, Worship, 29, 89-95.
  • Hofinger, J. (1955, January). Catchetics and liturgy. Worship, 29, 89-95.
  • Hofinger, J. (1955, February). Teaching the good news, Worship, 29,126-135.
  • Hofinger, J. (1955, March). Leading principles for a more correct division of the catechism. Catholic School Journal, 55, 86-88.
  • Hofinger, J. (1955, September). The grade school child, Worship, 29, 461-468.
  • Hofinger, J. (1955, October-December). Towards the better kerygmatic training of missionaries, Lumen Vitae, 10, 509-516.
  • Hofinger, J. (1956, September). The catechism yesterday and today, Lumen Vitae, 11, 279-486.
  • Hofinger, J. (1956, August). They call it kerygmatic theology, The Priest, 12, 642-47.
  • Hofinger, J. (1956). Catechesis in the United States today. Lumen Vitae, 11, 246-258.
  • Hofinger, J. (1956). Progressive initiation into the mystery of Christ. Worship, 30, 118-122.
  • Hofinger, J. (1956). Catechesis in the united states today. Lumen Vitae, 11, 246-258.
  • Hofinger, J. (1956, August). Liturgical training in seminaries. Worship, 30, 424-437.
  • Hofinger, J. (1956, December). Assisi and the missions. Worship, 31, 10-22.
  • Hofinger, J. (1957). Holy Mass: The source and center of the Christian life. North American Liturgy Week, 18, 113-116.
  • Hofinger, J. (1957, January). Bride and herald: The catechetical apostolate of sisters. Catholic School Journal, 57, 12-14.
  • Hofinger, J. (1957, February). Kerygmatic spirituality for the heralds of Christ. Catholic School Journal, 57, 39-41.
  • Hofinger, J. (1957, May). How to arrange theological courses for sisters. Catholic School Journal, 57, 148-151.
  • Hofinger, J. (1957, June). How to train sisters for the catechetical apostolate. Catholic School Journal, 57, 115-118.
  • Hofinger, J. (1957, August). Christocentric survey of Christian doctrine. Homiletics, 57, 990-1001.
  • Hofinger, J. (1957, December). Catechetical apostolate of lay teachers. Lumen Vitae, 12, 650-656.
  • Hofinger, J. (1957). Catechetical apostolate of the priest. Worship, 31, 269-276.
  • Hofinger, J. (1957). Catechetics and the liturgy. North American Liturgical Week Proceedings, 18, 129-135.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958, March). Missionary values of the liturgy. Worship, 32, 207-218.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958, June). Is the new German catechism worthy of being studied? Catholic School Journal, 58, 36-38.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958, June). Sick calls and funerals should be native too. World Missionary Review, 8, 24-34.
  • Hofinger, J. (1958, Summer). Case for permanent deacons. World Mission, 9, 11-26.
  • Hofinger, J. (1959, January). Why catholics should pray (and sing) together. Sign, 38, 21-23.
  • Hofinger, J. (1959, March). Kerygma in the service of liturgy in the missions. Lumen Vitae, 14, 92-102.
  • Hofinger, J. (1959, Summer). How to further our lay catechists. Lumen Vitae, 14, 413-422.
  • Hofinger, J. (1959, November). Learning by doing with a catechism. America, 102, 240-241.
  • Hofinger, J. (1961, Summer). America's first kerygmatic manual of catechesis. Lumen Vitae, 16, 536-40.
  • Hofinger, J. (1961, December). Teaching faith today: Interview. America, 106, 333-335.
  • Hofinger, J. (1962, May). Missionary character and quality of modern catechetics. Japan Missionary Bulletin, 16, 234-238.
  • Hofinger, J. (1962, July). Missionary character and quality of modern catechetics. Japan Missionary Bulletin, 16, 379-384.
  • Hofinger, J. (1963, Summer). The new Australian catechism. Lumen Vitae, 18, 529-538.
  • Hofinger, J. (1963, Winter). Contemporary catechetics: A third phase? Chicago Studies, 2 (3), 257-268.
  • Hofinger, J. & Carroll, K. (1964, March). Nigeria: Western region: Catechetical news. Lumen Vitae, 19, 138-139.
  • Hofinger, J. & McConville, P. (1964, August). A summer course in religion: Ireland. Furrow, 15, 540-543.
  • Hofinger, J. (1974, April-July). Evaluación del directorio catequístico general: Comentarios al directorio, Mexico. Catequesis Latinoamericana, 6,177-181.
  • Hofinger, J. (1974, April-July). Evangelización y catequesis o catequesis evangelizadora, Catequesis Latinoamericana, 6,155-162.
  • Hofinger, J. (1974, October-December). La functión evangelizadora de la catequesis a los niños. Catequesis Latinoamericana, 6, 445-51.
  • Hofinger, J. (1974, Fall). Evangelizing catechesis: Basic principles. Living Light, 11, 338-347.
  • Hofinger, J. (1974, December). Evangelizing power of the eucharist. Priest, 30,11-16.
  • Hofinger, J. (1975, January-March). La potencía evangelizadora de la eucaristia, Catequesis Latinoamericana, 7,15-24.
  • Hofinger, J. (1975, Summer). Evangelization in the catechesis of children. Living Light, 12, 213-19.
  • Hofinger, J. (1976). El potencial catequético de la renovación carismtiáca. Catequesis Latinoamericana, 8, 51-64.
  • Hofinger, J. (1976, June). The catechetical potential of the charismatic renewal. Priest, 32, 23-27.
  • Hofinger, J. (1976, July-August). The catechetical potential of the charismatic renewal. Priest, 32, 27-31.
  • Hofinger, J. (1976, Summer). Charimatic spirituality and the catechist. Review for Religious, 35, 663-672.
  • Hofinger, J. (1976, Fall). J.A. Jungmann (1889-1975): In memoriam. Living Light, 13, 350-359.
  • Hofinger, J. (1979, April-June). La dimension charismatic de la catequesis, Catequesis Latinoamericana, 39, 51-61.
  • Hofinger, J. (1979, July-August). Some reflections on evangelization. Priest, 35, 31-33.
  • Hofinger, J. (1979, Fall). The charismatic dimension of authentic catechesis. Living Light, 16, 256-76.
  • Hofinger, J. (1979, Fall). Lenten prayer service for catechists, repent and believe in the gospel. Catechist, 12, 55.
  • Hofinger, J. (1979, October). The healing power of the mass. Priest, 35, 39-45.
  • Hofinger, J. (1980, February-March). Go and proclaim the good news. Catholic Charismatic, 4, 29-32.
  • Hofinger, J. (1980, April). How to pray for healing. Priest, 36, 41-46.
  • Hofinger, J. (1980, Fall). Some theological and pastoral problems of the healing ministry. Priest, 36, 21-25.
  • Hofinger, J. (1980, October). Sacraments are meant for healing. Priest, 36, 49-52.
  • Hofinger, J. (1980, November). Sacraments are meant for healing. Priest, 36,14-16.
  • Hofinger, J. (1980, December). Does catechetics need a shift in emphasis? Priest, 36, 30-33.
  • Hofinger, J. (1981, January). Post-conciliar marian devotion. Priest, 37, 43-45.
  • Hofinger, J. (1981, February). Post-conciliar marian devotion. Priest, 37, 12-15.
  • Hofinger, J. (1981, May). The practice of post-conciliar marian devotion. Priest, 37, 38-42.
  • Hofinger, J. (1981, June). Ten theses on pastoral renewal. Priest, 37, 36-39.
  • Hofinger, J. (1981, Fall). Catechesis in the power of the spirit. Chicago Studies, 20, 303-316.
  • Hofinger, J. (1983, July-August). Three models of Christian prayer. Priest, 39, 34-39.
  • Hofinger, J. (1983, Summer). The come Lord Jesus program: A dynamic approach to teenage and adult education. Priest, 3, 7-9.
  • Hofinger, J. (1984, June). Looking backward and forward: Journey of catechesis. Living Light, 20, 348-57.


  • Miller, J. (1958, December). [Review of book Liturgische Erneuerung in der Weltmission]. Theological Studies, 19, 633.

Doctoral Dissertation

  • Horan, M. (1989). Kerygmatic catechesis: An analysis of the writings of Jungmann and Hofinger as reflected in post-conciliar catechetical documents. (Doctoral dissertation, The Catholic University of America.) University Microfilms No. AAT 8912976.

Secondary Literature

  • Buckley, F. J. (2003). Johannes Hofinger. In B. Marthaler (Ed.), New Catholic Encyclopedia (2nd ed.). Detroit: Thomson, 903.
  • Clark, F. X. (1984). Johannes Hofinger, S.J., (1905-1984): life and bibliography, East Asian Pastoral Review, 21, 2, 103-120.
  • De la Cruz, A. M. (1984, June). Johannes Hofinger remembered: 1905-1984. The Living Light, 20, 345-347.
  • Ekstrom, R. R. (1985, February). He is much missed. Catechist, 18, 56.
  • Horan, M. (1995, Spring). The contribution of Johannes Hofinger as precedent for the reception of catechisms. Religious Education, 90 (2), 303-313.
  • Lee, J. M. (1973). The flow of religious instruction. Birmingham, Alabama: Religious Education Press.
  • Mayr, M. (Ed.). (1983). Modern masters of religious education. Birmingham, Alabama: Religious Education Press.
  • Miller, J. H. (1958, December). Theological Studies, 19:633.
  • Nebreda, A. M. (1984). Johannes Hofinger: Catalyst and pioneer. East Asian Pastoral Review, 21 (2), 120-27.
  • Warren, M. (Ed.). (1983). Sourcebook for Modern Catechetics. Winona, MN: St. Mary's Press.
  • Warren, M. & Stransky, T. F. (1960, November). Up-to-date catechetics, an interview with Johannes Hofinger. Catholic World, 19, 94-101.

Excerpts from Publications

Hofinger, J. (Summer, 1976). Charismatic spirituality and the catechist. Review for Religious, 35, 663-72.

The pentecostal movement of our century must be understood as a reaction against a one-side rational approach to religion, one which did not do justice to its emotional side ... The significance of this contribution for catechetics becomes immediately evident as soon as we try to evaluate it against the background of our present catechetical situation... catechetics the past ten years may often have neglected the vertical dimension in the process of religious education, but they have surely not neglected at all to stress the great importance of spontaneity, of genuine human experience and emotions in all spheres of human activity. Modern man (sic), growing up as he is in a secularized culture, may find great difficulties in discovering God. But whenever he does discover God and does come to personal contact with him, modern man (sic) definitely favors the kind of dialogue which is characterized by great spontaneity and by the engagement of strong emotions. (pp. 669-670).

Hofinger, J. (1957). The art of teaching Christian doctrine. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 200.

May we suggest, therefore, that every future (religious educator) needs most especially to be brought into close and personal contact with Sacred Scripture and with the Liturgy, and this both for his (sic) own sake and for the special kind of teaching he (sic) is to do. For his (sic) own spiritual vitality, he (sic) needs continually to be more completely formed to the image of Christ by the Word of God in Sacred Scripture and by the very life of Christ given us in the Mass and the Sacraments. These are the living sources of Christian vitality, the great means Christ gives us in the Church for growth in His live and union with Him.
And, in addition, the (religious educator) is concerned above all with providing an elementary initiation into the Christian religion, and to make this elementary initiation the fruitful seed of the students' future religious development. Sacred Scripture and the Liturgy are, precisely, at once the most fruitful means of elementary initiation, as we saw earlier in this book, and the perennial sources of growth in Christ. The (religious educator), then, needs both to lead his (sic) students to these sources, and at least in some degree, to show them how to find here the unfailing means to ever-fuller participation in the Mystery of Christ. And how can the teacher do so, if he (sic) has not experienced this for himself? (p. 200)

Hofinger, J. & Reedy, W. J. (1962). The abcs of modern catechetics. New York: William H. Sadlier, Inc.

In this same connection we make two important considerations about method. (1) Method must be suited to the nature of the particular subject matter we are teaching. We do not teach religion as we would arithmetic, geography, social science, or spelling. Religious teaching demands a method in keeping with its nature. We have that method already in the narratives as employed by God and Christ. (2) Method must be adapted to the students whom we are teaching. In addition to considering their age level and previous training, we must also be aware of how much they can grasp in a single lesson and how far we can expect them to apply this lesson to their Christian lives. In other words we must be realistic, which is another way of saying that we must adapt. We do not teach the Sixth and Ninth Commandment to six year old as we do to teen-agers. Nor do we require of little ones in primary grades the kind of Catholic action we expect of high school seniors. Religious knowledge is not our end, but religious living. Both must be viewed as organic growth in the same way that the child is a growing organism. (p. 61)

Miller, J. H. (1958, December). [Review of book Liturgische Erneuerung in der Weltmission]. Theological Studies, 19 .

Hofinger makes the claim that in the first centuries Christians received whatever religious knowledge they possessed from the worship of the Church exclusively. Although Hofinger says he fears no exaggeration here, I am afraid it is precisely that, for many of the reports that have come down to us from earliest times clearly show that special instructions were imparted to the catechumens ... But in Hofinger's treatment of worship without a priest we find a really astounding statement. He says that such worship is genuinely liturgical ... His reason for claiming this: we have here the worship of a Christian community which is ordered gby the Church and performed in her name. We certainly have present the worship of a Christian community, but it is not ordered by the Church. Without (a papal institution of the rite as liturgical), the rite simply is not liturgical ... To continue to make such assertions is simply to deceive oneself and others and to attribute to acts of purely private piety, even though performed by a group in a sacred place, a value and efficacy which simply contradict the mind of the Church ... (Yet) the book, these items apart, is a valuable contribution to missiology and the place a sound liturgical life should have in the missionary endeavor of the Church. (p. 633)

Kraus, J. E. (1962, October). [Review of book The ABCs of modern catechetics]. Worship, 36.

Here we have new evidence, if any were needed, of the invaluable service which Fr. Hofinger has performed for religious education in America. His enthusiasm (the exclamation point is never far away), his own contagious joy and wonder at the Good News of Salvation is an inestimable contribution to us and the check characteristic of the kerygmatic renewal ... I must confess that as an individual I very frequently have uneasy feelings, on theological, scriptural, or pedagogical grounds about the shape or value (certainly not about the orthodoxy) of individual elements of this presentation ... The answer is that minor inconsistencies and imperfections are a small price to pay when the book contains so much good and is the only one of its kind. (p. 599)

Fitzpatrick, D. (1965, June). [Review of book Pastoral catechetics]. Theological Studies, 26.

A popular attempt, successful on the whole to (explain the catechetical renewal and its pastoral implications) ... To perform this task the editors have divided the contents into three categories of the catechetical apostolate: the revelation of, the response in faith to, and the communication of God's saving message ... The direction the book takes is good. Catechetics is taken out of its typical classroom setting and is shown to be one of the essential aspects of the life of the church. The main problem areas are put before us, thought not adequately answered in every case. (p. 353)

Recommended Readings

Hofinger, J. (1957). The art of teaching Christian doctrine: The good news and its proclamation. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame.

Hofinger, J. (1976). Evangelization and catechesis: Are we really proclaiming the gospel? New York: Paulist Press.

Hofinger, J. (1983). You are my witnesses: Spirituality for religion teachers. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor.

Author Information

Mark Markuly

Mark Markuly, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in religion and education at Loyola University New Orleans, and the director of the Loyola Institute for Ministry (LIM). Markuly has a doctorate in education from St. Louis University and is a former director of religious education for a Catholic diocese. The implications of cognitive science and emotional learning for the field of religious education led to a research interest in the role of doctrine in the life of faith and the creative thought and pastoral action of Johannes Hofinger.