Catechists serving in the Diocese of Trenton, like their counterparts throughout the nation, stood up before their parish communities during Masses Sept. 17 to receive appreciation and encouragement for their vital work of passing down the faith to the next generation.
The annual observance of Catechetical Sunday unfolded in St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville, when the community’s volunteer catechists were recognized and celebrated. Father Leandro Dela Cruz, pastor, commissioned the catechists and blessed them for their pivotal role in teaching the Catholic faith to youngsters.
“Catechesis is always very important for our little ones, so we really need to pass on the faith,” said Father Dela Cruz. “We try to encourage our catechists and our parishioners to take up the mission to bring the word of God to them, because that’s the best gift we could offer our children. Understanding our own faith and really loving God – especially as we are now celebrating the Eucharistic Revival — [we want them to understand] that they should all the more love the Eucharist.”
Catechetical Sunday allows the faith community to “recognize catechists not only formally in a group but also [at Mass] as a reminder to all listening that ‘it takes a village,’” said Gary Maccaroni, St. Ann director of religious education and pastoral associate. “All of us need to take some role in passing on the faith, and we do that in many different ways.”
The parish’s religious education curriculum, “Generations of Faith,” includes a monthly family participation option that includes faith formation for parents.
“I love it because it affirms parents in their role as the first presenters of the faith to their children,” Maccaroni explained. “We try to help parents do that with resources and encouragement.”
Catechist Pat Staltari, who has worked for more than 50 years with young children with special needs, said Catechetical Sunday “reaffirms my commitment to teach children about God and to reach out to the community so they are aware of the mission, which is building the faith.”
“I’ve seen the growth they have and the need for them to really learn about God,” she said, “and a big piece of that is support for the parents — they need to learn how to go about communicating about God to them.”
Her husband, Anthony Staltari, has been a catechist in St. Ann Parish for 10 years. He began by teaching first grade, then settled into preparing middle schoolers for Confirmation. He brings insight from teaching correctional officers and juvenile detention officers of Hudson County, noting the importance of seeing teens as “in a transition stage of life.”
Being commissioned in front of the parish gives Anthony Staltari hope because “you know there’s somebody out there, applauding and cheering you on — their spirit helps.”
Tina Cobb, another 10-year veteran of teaching parish religious education, works with first graders and has a teaching background. The commissioning provided on Catechetical Sunday “renews the feeling of bringing (the) life of Jesus in to starting off a good year with the kids,” she said. The most important thing about her mission as a catechist, she believes, is “getting kids to smile and be joyful as they learn to pray.”