Those designated by their parish communities to serve as catechists will be commissioned for their ministry Sept. 17, marked worldwide as Catechetical Sunday, when the Catholic Church recognizes the essential role of catechists in passing on the faith and witnessing to the Gospel.
During Masses that weekend, catechists will be called forth and given the opportunity to recommit themselves to their mission, as their congregations pray over them and ask for God to bless their work.
Catechesis – “the act of resounding or bringing the Church’s teachings to the world” as described on the website for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – receives special distinction in the Church. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Catechesis is intimately bound up with the whole of the Church’s life . . . her inner growth and correspondence with God’s plan depend essentially on catechesis” (no. 7).
The word “catechesis” has roots in Greek, meaning “to echo, or resound.” It is the act of bringing the Church’s teachings to the world; a catechist is one who teaches in the name of the Church.
“This ministry of teaching in the name of the Church has a profound dignity, which is why catechists are formally commissioned by the Church,” the USCCB website states. “It is only fitting that we set aside a day to highlight this ministry and invite the entire church community to think about our responsibility to share our faith with others.”
Parents, too, are included in the Catechetical Sunday celebration as the primary catechists for their children, as they “prepare the soil and plant the first seeds of faith,” the USCCB describes. “On Catechetical Sunday, we not only highlight the work of catechists in parishes and schools, but we also commend parents and guardians and encourage them to take seriously their role of making their Catholic households a place where faith is passed on to the next generation. This is why the rite of blessing of catechists used on Catechetical Sunday includes an optional blessing of parents and guardians.”
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 USCCB began publishing materials to aid and encourage parishes to celebrate Catechetical Sunday at the local level.