Catechesis takes dedication – something Mary Mykityshyn witnessed firsthand when Hurricane Isaias swept through New Jersey Aug. 4.

With trees and powerlines down across the state, parents used phones and textbooks to make sure their children did not fall behind in Mykityshyn’s summer religious education program. Six hundred children took part in St. Gabriel Parish’s online summer courses, and they would not be deterred.

“One parent took her girls and went to a hotel in Philadelphia,” said Mykityshyn, parish catechetical leader in the Marlboro parish. “She later texted me to say the girls had gone online, done all their work and made a little adventure out of it. That's dedication.” 

Dedication and a willingness to serve are among the God-given gifts utilized by catechists in the Catholic Church, whether they are parents and families, parish catechists, priests, or men and women religious.

With that in mind, this year’s Catechetical Sunday, set for Sept. 20, takes its theme from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians: “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.” Held every year on the third Sunday in September, Catechetical Sunday acknowledges the importance of catechesis and honors those teaching the Catholic faith.

“The Diocese of Trenton is especially blessed by those who have committed themselves to deepening their own faith as they enrich the life and faith of those they teach in our parish-based religious education and adult faith formation programs,” Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., said in this year’s message recognizing catechists.

Noting their collaboration with the diocesan Departments of Catechesis and Evangelization and Family Life, Bishop O’Connell said, “Our lay catechists not only instruct in and impart the Catholic faith –  they inspire!”

Catechetical Sunday traces its roots to 1935, when the Vatican published a document (“On the Better Care and Promotion of Catechetical Education”) urging every country to recognize the importance of passing on the Catholic faith and honor those who teach it. In the early 1970s, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops began publishing materials to aid and encourage parishes to celebrate Catechetical Sunday at the local level.

Traditionally, on Catechetical Sunday, catechists are formally commissioned for ministry, and they rededicate themselves to this mission in their community. With COVID-19 restrictions in place, these commissions may take on different forms this year, but the importance is in no way diminished.

For as Pope Francis said in “Evangelii Gaudium,” “In catechesis … we have rediscovered the fundamental role of the first announcement or kerygma, which needs to be the center of all evangelizing activity and all efforts at Church renewal … it is the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment.”

Similarly, in his 2020 Catechetical Sunday message, Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, called catechesis a “beautiful ministry … to further actualize the Body of Christ in our world.” 

Quoting this year’s theme, he said, “May our lives be instruments of faith, which we have ‘received from the Lord [and…] handed on to you.’”