Submitted by Andrea Slaven
Each year, the Catholic Church in the United States designates the third Sunday in September as “Catechetical Sunday” — a day on which we celebrate and pray for the Church’s mission to teach the Gospel to all people, calling everyone to the fullness of life in Jesus Christ. This year, Catechetical Sunday will be nationally celebrated on Sept. 15.
This year’s theme for reflection and action is “Stay with Us,” quoting the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who encountered Christ and asked Him to stay with them on the journey (Luke 24:13-35).
Catechesis sounds like a very churchy and complicated word, but it really has a simple definition. The word “catechesis,” Greek in origin, means “to echo the teaching”; in other words, teaching of the faith is an interactive process in which the Word of God “re-sounds” between the catechist and the learner. The aim of catechesis is to bring others in communion and intimacy with Jesus Christ through a life-long process of initial conversion, formation, and conversion.
So, who is the catechist? By virtue of our baptism, the catechetical ministry is everyone’s mission, yet it manifests in various vocations. In family life, parents are the first teachers of the faith, and therefore they catechize in a unique way of witnessing the faith. Parents have a special and essential role as catechists of their children. Parents can express this role as they pray and worship together as a family, serve others in need, and care for all of God’s creation, including each other.
Beyond the home, the family’s parish serves as a place to learn more about our faith through the vocation of those called to the ministry of catechesis. There are many gifts of the Spirit, and so there are many ways people are called into a catechetical ministry. Lifelong and ongoing catechesis calls for catechists to teach our young children, youth, adults, and those entering the Catholic tradition through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) process. These teachers of faith are in our parishes and in our Catholic schools.
What does it take to be a catechist? Really, all it takes is your faith and your joy. Pope Francis encourages you: “The Church needs you. Your enthusiasm. Your joy that is so characteristic of you!” Responding to the call of the catechist means a willingness to give one’s time and talent, not only to catechizing others, but also to tend to one’s own growth and understanding of the faith. Here are some things to consider as you ask yourself, “Am I being called as a catechist?
A catechist is …
• A person who faithfully believes in Jesus and is a witness to His message;
• A person who enjoys the company of children and youth;
• A practicing Catholic willing to commit to spending a couple of hours a week sharing the faith they have received;
• A person who is spiritually alive and willing to share the faith enthusiastically;
• A person who wants to learn more about the Bible and Christ’s teaching;
• A parent, grandparent, single person, college student, or high school student;
A catechist is not necessarily …
• A person who has studied theology and Scripture;
• An experienced teacher;
• A “perfect” person.
The Diocese of Syracuse has over 13,800 children and youth enrolled in parish catechetical programs from pre-K through 12th grade. There is always a need for catechists to accompany these children and youth on their journey of faith. If you feel called to this ministry, talk to your parish faith-formation leader to learn how you can respond to this call.
The Office of Faith Formation is always here to support parish catechetical programs. Offered are professional learning opportunities for parish leaders, parish evaluations and program planning, catechist-formation opportunities, and more.
Our staff includes Theresa May (firstname.lastname@example.org); Andrea Schaffer (email@example.com); and Andrea Slaven (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Our diocese is grateful to all those currently serving as catechists who “echo the teaching” in the faith-formation classes, youth ministry gatherings and of course, parents. Thank you! This year on Catechetical Sunday, take time to thank all those who have dedicated their time and talent to share the Gospel and consider the ways you are called to share the Good News in the world today.
Andrea Slaven is the associate director of Faith Formation/Instructional Technologist for the Diocese of Syracuse
Blessing to Our Catechists
Lord God, you are the source of life and love.
Send down your Spirit upon our catechists. Inspire them to be teachers of your truth and witnesses of your love.
Give them the courage to heal. Help them to offer hope through loving gestures of support and prayer to all those they encounter. May they be merciful to others as you are merciful.
Give them wisdom as they share the mysteries of our faith in new and exciting ways. May they inspire those who they journey with to become your disciples.
Give them joy as they proclaim the Good News. May their lives radiate Christ’s love in their words and deeds.
We pray to you, almighty Father, in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, and in unity with the Holy Spirit who inspires us with knowledge, courage, and understanding.