From staff and wire reports
Remaining faithful to the call of all baptized Christians to spread the Gospel message, catechists worldwide will renew their dedication to evangelization on Catechetical Sunday, celebrated this year on Sept. 16.
Those whom the parish community has designated to serve as catechists will be called forth to be commissioned for their ministry. This year’s theme, “Enlisting Witnesses for Jesus Christ,” exhorts catechists and all members of the Catholic Church to bear witness to the faith, sharing it whether commissioned or not, as they interact with an increasing demographic of the “Nones” – the self-identified religiously unaffiliated.
“We are living in a secularized society, which continues to squeeze Christianity to the margins or completely out of engagement with Jesus Christ and the Church,” said Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles, chairman of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “We are losing baptized Catholics at an alarming rate.”
Citing a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, Bishop Barron noted that nearly 24 percent of Hispanic adults are now former Catholics and most of them are Nones.
“Many parents are saddened to report that their children are leaving the Church after preparing for and celebrating initiation Sacraments, and after years of Catholic School or parish religion classes,” Bishop Barron continued. “Figures for Baptisms, Church weddings and weekly Mass attendance are down. Those who self-identify as atheists or agnostics now make up roughly 23 percent of the U.S. adult population.”
Also growing in numbers, the study indicated, are baptized high-schoolers who are increasingly leaving a Christian affiliation and grouping themselves among the Nones. Young adults in particular are more likely to express non-religious affiliation than in past generations.
But hope still exists among the faithful of the Church, in a Gospel message that is eternal. “Catechetical Sunday is an opportunity for all to rededicate themselves to this mission as a community of faith,” the USCCB website states.
“At the same time, we are blessed with an incredibly generous cohort of faithful who are sacramentally graced to give Gospel witness in their homes, schools and workplace,” Bishop Barron said. “It will take the whole Church’s witness and engagement of the Nones, inside and outside the walls of the Church and across society, to reach out, accompany them and share the joy of the Gospel with them.”
Catechetical Sunday began based on the 1935 Vatican document, “On the Better Care and Promotion of Catechetical Education,” which asks every country to acknowledge the importance of the Church’s teaching ministry, and to honor those who serve as catechists for the Christian community.
After its establishment, the first few years of its celebration accompanied a national catechetical congress. In 1971, the USCCB’s Department of Education began producing materials to assist parishes in celebrating the event at a local level.
Upon the creation of a Committee on Catechesis, now called the Committee of Evangelization and Catechesis, as a standing committee, it continued the publication of Catechetical Sunday materials each year. The USCCB designated Catechetical Sunday as the third Sunday of September annually.
The USCCB’s 2018 and 2019 Catechetical Sunday and Leadership Institute themes are designed to address the phenomena of the Nones in two parts. During 2018, the causes eroding faith and moving people to step away from Christ and the Church will be explored. The 2019 focus will be on the steps needed to enable the faithful to claim their true roles as witnesses to Jesus Christ.
To access the USCCB’s resources for Catechetical Sunday, visit www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/catechesis/catechetical-sunday/enlisting-witnesses/index.cfm