On Sept. 15, the Catholic Church throughout the nation will mark its annual celebration of Catechetical Sunday, which acknowledges the importance of the Church’s teaching ministry and honors those serving the Christian community as catechists.

During the celebration, parish catechists will be called forth to be commissioned for their ministry.

“The most important thing that the Catholic Church can do is hand on our Catholic faith to the next generation,” Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., said in a message recognizing catechists.

The Catechetical Sunday tradition began as a response to a 1935 publication from the Vatican, “On the Better Care and Promotion of Catechetical Education.” Embraced around the world but celebrated in the United States 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,” reads a statement on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

“Catechetical Sunday is an opportunity for all to rededicate themselves to this mission as a community of faith,” the U.S. bishops said.

This year’s theme, “Stay With Us,” entreats young Catholics to remain with and learn from the Church and her teachers, resisting the powerful influences of secular culture to leave the Church altogether.

“The 2018 St. Mary’s Press study, ‘The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics,’ includes extensive research on young Catholics who have left the Church,” said Bishop Robert Barron, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. “One of their most alarming findings was that youth stop identifying as Catholics at a median age of 13, for reasons ranging from disbelief to dissatisfaction with Church teaching.”

Bishop Barron noted that “sociologist Christian Smith, renowned for his investigation of the phenomenon of disaffiliation, discovered that many young people who stop identifying as Catholics tended to have ‘weak signs of attachment to the Church’ in the first place.

“In other words, they were not formed very well in the faith,” Bishop Barron said.

The Vatican’s October 2018 Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, however, found that “young people who end religious practice do not necessarily end their spiritual desire.”

That is why the role of catechist is ever-important, Bishop O’Connell said in his message. “Despite the obstacles, those entrusted with catechetical ministry in our Diocese are the ‘good news.’ Their dedication, commitment and readiness to teach the true faith of Christ in its fullness as proposed by the Church create an energy, the energy of and for evangelization that will confront these challenges … with strength and steadiness.”

Pope Francis, in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation to young people and the entire people of God, “Christus Vivit!,” wrote that in addition to doctrine and morality, “It is likewise important that it have two main goals. One is the development of the kerygma, the foundational experience of encounter with God through Christ’s Death and Resurrection. The other is growth in fraternal love, community life and service … All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma and incarnating it ever more fully in our lives,” (213-214).

 

 

RESOURCES:

Catechetical Sunday materials are available for parishes and individuals on the USCCB website, under the theme “Stay With Us,” including a variety of articles, videos and podcasts. Visit www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/catechesis/catechetical-sunday/index.cfm.