Catechetical Sunday is celebrated on the third Sunday in September and represents a day in which we recognize all of the catechists, teachers and parents who pass on the faith.

Sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, this year’s Catechetical Sunday observance will have as its theme “Stay with Us,” which provides the opportunity to deliver an evangelizing and healing message through our religious education programs, Catholic schools, youth ministry programs and more.

This theme is derived from recent studies that found that young Catholics stop identifying as Catholic at a median age of 13 for reasons ranging from disbelief to dissatisfaction with the teaching of the Church.

The October 2018 Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, however, found that young people who walk away from religion do not necessarily end their spiritual desire. Therefore, this desire is an opportunity for us as a Church to focus on the encounter and accompaniment with young people and their families.

The word “catechesis” comes from a Greek word meaning “to echo.” The catechist is the one who teaches in the name of the Church, who brings the Church’s teachings to the world. 

All teachers of the faith are also instruments of the Lord’s healing; as such, the responsibility of the catechist is more than conveying information – it is knowledge that embodies the faith in their own life, the authentic witness and encounter shared with the learner and the entire family. Catechists are called to humble service through a consistent life of prayer and faithful discipleship.

When we think of Jesus, a model for others, we are called to be the healing presence of the Lord within us. We live in a world of brokenness, a culture of suffering; families are experiencing false values, accumulations of possessions, depression, addiction, suicide. Pope Francis calls this the “field hospital,” and we as catechists are called to bring God’s healing and mercy to others.

Catechists and parish communities can become instruments of God’s healing. The first step can be to recognize that people carry emotional wounds of many kinds as well as physical ailments. Being able to provide safe and sacred spaces for conversations, and giving the student the ability to dialogue, can provide an opportunity to help our young people find a sense of belonging in the Church community. When we truly listen to our young people, we are engaging their hearts to bring them to the truth of the Gospel.

Through our baptismal call, we are called to hand on the faith and be authentic witnesses to the Gospel. Catechetical Sunday is an occasion for the entire parish community to reflect on that role. It is also an opportunity for catechists to rededicate themselves to the healing mission of catechesis as well as to invite others in the Church community to take on a role in a religious education program, youth ministry, adult programs or others. 

We thank all of our catechists in the Diocese of Trenton for their continued service.

Denise Contino is director of diocesan Department of Catechesis.