This year, the theme and accompanying logo for Catechetical Sunday seem to be especially poignant in the context of where we are as Church, and civilization overall. The 2019 theme is “Stay With Us,” and is depicted by an image of Christ walking arm-in-arm with two young followers as they engage with people in all walks of life. This call to stay with Christ and be part of his mission of salvation speaks to us at a time when each day brings new reports of despicable assaults on innocent human life, when too many profess belief in Christ, yet reject the Gospel mandate to care for the least among us, and when more young people than ever have disengaged from the faith.

The responsibility to evangelize – to witness to the Gospel of Christ – has always been with us, but it seems to be critically needed at this time in the life of the Church and the world.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reminds us that “evangelization is the Church’s deepest identity and brings the good news of the Gospel to all who seek the life giving message of faith in Jesus Christ.” Evangelization means “bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation … at essence are the proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ and the response of a person in faith, which are both works of the spirit of God.”

There is no true evangelization if the name of Jesus, his teaching, his life, his promises, his kingdom, his mysteries, (his Church!) – all of which constitute the Good News – remain unknown and unannounced (Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 22) and unlived!

And so we have the special designation of Catechetical Sunday to affirm, to commission and to support those men and women whom we have entrusted with the teaching and catechetical preparation of the young, as they create, foster and encourage in their young lives a hunger and thirst for the Gospel of Christ and his Church. That is evangelization!

What a sacred trust has been given them by and within the Church! What an awesome responsibility! What a profound opportunity!

We must acknowledge that the challenge before them can be difficult. There are influences that work against the success and efficacy of our catechetical efforts. The cultural environment today is simply anti-Catholic and anti-Christian; just access the internet or social media; just watch evening TV programs or go to the movies, let alone read a newspaper or magazine; not only are our Catholic values and morals absent – they are actively opposed; in these days in our country, even the very freedom to believe is at risk!

Contemporary family life does not always support a life of active faith; just look at surveys conducted in recent years about Mass attendance and participation as well as understanding and acceptance of Church beliefs and practices; what are we handing on to the young?

The most important thing that the Catholic Church can do is hand on our Catholic faith to the next generation. When our Catholic faith is not connected to real life as “essential,” faith is perceived simply as an “add-on,” one among many “add-ons,” all of equal value, relevance and truth when compared with any and all other beliefs or no belief at all.

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 mentioned above with strength and steadiness.

As Bishop, I want to encourage all catechists: lead by example with truth at your side. Jesus Christ is our salvation. His Word is truth. His message is freedom. His way is not only our path to eternal life but also to the fullness of human life here and now. Be a witness to Christ and inspire others to do the same.

That is the goal of evangelization.  That is the purpose of catechesis.

It was Pope Paul VI who once wrote: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses (“Address to the Members of the Consilium de Laicis,” October 2, 1974).”

I am deeply grateful for the work of our parish leaders, our catechists and our parents in this essential work of catechesis.  I will keep you all in my prayers as you strive to encourage the next generation to see Christ in their midst, and to stay with him throughout their lives.