For the past forty years, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has highlighted the importance of catechesis and the ministry of teaching in the Catholic Church by establishing an annual event on its calendar known as “Catechetical Sunday,” celebrated on the third Sunday of September.

“Catechetical Sunday” is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the role that each person plays, by virtue of Baptism, in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel. The USCCB encourages dioceses and their parishes to take special notice of those individuals in the Catholic communities by calling them forth to be recognized and commissioned for their ministry.  As Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, I hope that parishes will mark the occasion in a truly special way.

Catechists are commissioned in our parishes to lift up and hand on to young people what they/we believe in our heart of hearts about the God who created and loves us, about God’s presence among us, about God’s desire to hold us close and never let us go, no matter what happens around us.

Those are the simple, uncomplicated things that catechists in the Catholic Church teach and nurture in the young people who come to us in our parishes for religious education, so that they can hold on to them in a very complicated, anything-but-simple world that wants to convince them otherwise, that wants to deny and take them away. But simple things like truth and faith last. Catechetical Sunday is one among many ways the Catholic Church recognizes and celebrates that fact.

This year, the Catholic Church in our country will mark Catechetical Sunday on Sept. 18. Earlier this summer, the USCCB began what it calls a “Eucharistic Revival,” focusing the attention of the entire Catholic community on the Holy Eucharist, one of the central mysteries of the Catholic faith.  Recent studies conducted among Catholics have suggested that there is a wide misunderstanding about the Eucharist. If that is true – and it may be – the occasion for targeted catechesis on the “source and summit” of the Catholic life is opportune.

This year, the theme chosen by the USCCB for Catechetical Sunday is: “This is my body given for you,” with the expectation that catechetical programs offered in parishes will promote a true, full understanding of the Eucharist to the young throughout the coming year. Pastors, priests and deacons might also consider presenting catechetical homilies – catechesis – in their parishes as a way of renewing Eucharistic understanding among all the faithful, not only young people in religious instruction classes.

To all who serve as catechists in the parishes of the Diocese of Trenton, thank you. To pastors, DREs and those who make their work possible and effective, thank you. May the year ahead witness a renewed appreciation of the Eucharist and all that we cherish as truths of our Catholic faith!