Catechetical Sunday Opens the Door to a Formative Process for Catechists – by Anita M. Foley, MA

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At this time of year, catechetical leaders communicate many details about the upcoming year to their community of catechists, such as grade assignments, class lists, and program procedures. This type of information is important to share with catechists and teachers. There is, however, a major event that should be highlighted within our entire faith community: Catechetical Sunday, which is celebrated on the third Sunday in September.

On this day, parishes and schools commission those members of their faith communities who actively serve in the ministry of catechesis. Catechists respond to the call of the Holy Spirit to serve the Church by echoing God’s Word and the Church’s teachings to children, young people, and adults who participate in the faith formation process of their parish. Catechists nurture people’s growing relationship with Jesus Christ, and our Church considers this service to be a vocation. It is vital that catechists are recognized, commissioned, and thanked publicly on Catechetical Sunday so the entire faith community can give witness and support to their calling. Catechetical Sunday also offers pastoral leaders an opportunity to emphasize the role that each baptized person holds to be witnesses to the Gospel as disciples of Jesus Christ.

After the celebration of this ministry on the third Sunday of September, an ongoing process of formation for catechists should be in place within our parish and school communities, for both new and seasoned catechists. It is important for catechetical leaders to assess the unique needs of the catechists serving in their particular setting in order to develop a well-balanced, engaging, and appropriate plan for formation. Providing catechists with options for topics, dates, and times of gatherings can lead to a higher level of participation from the catechist community. Here is a checklist of some areas that can be integrated into an effective process:

  • Workshops that address the religion curriculum, offering approaches for effective methodology and updates in theology
  • Days or evenings of reflection so catechists can reflect on their faith journey and their call to discipleship
  • Online catechist certification courses that can meet the needs of busy catechists
  • Community gatherings for catechists and their families, such as appreciation suppers, family picnics or brunch
  • A resource display where creative ideas for use in the classroom can be shared
  • Grade level planning meetings so catechists can swap ideas and strategies that work with a particular age group
  • Pairing together a seasoned catechist with a new catechist, which can lead to growth in faith between both partners
  • Provide information about diocesan sponsored congresses and workshops

Remember that prayer and hospitality are essential elements whenever catechists gather together.

Supporting catechists by offering an ongoing formative process can help build a community of committed, confident, and capable catechists who are passionate about sharing their faith as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Anita Foley is a senior sales representative for RCL Benziger, serving the Catholic community of the Archdiocese of Newark and the Dioceses of Metuchen and Paterson, New Jersey.

Anita holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Master’s in Religious Education from Seton Hall University. She has also attended Immaculate Conception Seminary, South Orange for continuing post-graduate education and formation. Before joining RCL Benziger, Anita taught in Catholic elementary and high schools, served in ministry in the Archdiocese of Newark, in parish ministry as a Director of Religious Education, Pre-K Religious Education Program Coordinator, and Director of RCIA and Adult Faith Formation. Articles written by Anita have been published in “Today’s Parish”, “Catechist Magazine”, and “Word on Worship”. She is currently a workshop and retreat facilitator, and serves a member of the Liturgical Commission of the Archdiocese of Newark.

 

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Luz en un mundo de oscuridad – por Marta McGlade

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Un domingo, en medio de los preparativos para la catequesis, unos padres de familia se acercaron y compartieron conmigo lo difícil que era llevar a sus hijos a la catequesis. Preguntaron: “¿Cómo podemos animarlos?”.

Cuando el doctor confirmó que esperábamos nuestro primer hijo, no solamente me instruyó acerca de cómo cuidar mi cuerpo durante el embarazo comiendo sanamente y tomando vitaminas, sino que también nos dijo que estábamos aceptando la labor más difícil que existe: criar seres humanos con buenos valores, firmes en su fe y conscientes de que fueron creados para glorificar a Dios. ¡No miento al decir que sentí ansiedad de poder llevar adelante tal misión!

No somos de ninguna manera una familia perfecta ya que entre mi esposo y yo y nuestros 3 hijos hemos vivido enojos, desacuerdos, llantos, etc. Pero nunca ha dejado de existir entre nosotros la comunicación y la oración. En una sociedad que nos incita a que vivamos para darnos todo el placer que podamos y que nada es pecado si te hace sentir bien; en un mundo en que dos personas se casan con la idea de que si la unión no funciona entonces existe el divorcio; tengo completa seguridad en que las raíces de fe y buenos valores están bien sembradas en nuestros hijos. Cuando una de nuestras hijas tenía 7 años llegó a casa muy triste pues su mejor amiga le había hablado del divorcio de sus padres. Dialogamos y oramos por su amiga. Durante la cena mi hija nos presentó un documento hecho con su puño y letra para que lo firmáramos asegurándole que jamás nos íbamos a divorciar. Aun a su tierna edad ella sabía lo que era un compromiso y nuestra firma selló en su mente el amor que existía entre sus padres.

Una universidad local hizo una encuesta y encontró que el 87% de los estudiantes prefieren vivir en unión libre y no procrear hijos. Gran parte de esta generación milenaria se crió delante de un televisor, juegos de video o pasando horas en frente de una computadora y por eso tal vez desconocen la belleza de interactuar en familia. Mis hijos no son perfectos pero respetan la dignidad de otros y desean tener hijos para darles la felicidad que ellos vivieron de niños y aunque son jóvenes adultos nos piden oración cuando tienen un dilema o necesitan tomar una decisión importante. Ser una familia con Cristo en el centro crea moralidad y conciencia. Martin Luther King Jr. una vez dijo: “La oscuridad no puede expulsar a la oscuridad: sólo la luz puede hacer eso”. Cristo es la luz que quiere brillar en nuestras familias y solamente debemos renovar nuestra alianza con Él.

Marta McGlade nació en Nueva York pero vive en el estado de Georgia con su esposo y sus hijos. Por 13 años dirigió la formación de fe para la comunidad hispana en su parroquia. Al momento se dedica a dar charlas y retiros tanto en inglés como en español.

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Light in the Darkness – by Dobie Moser, D. Min

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We were that “Church family.” House decorated for liturgical seasons, seven children, family service projects, music lessons, chore charts, family meetings and retreats, on our third copy of Prayers for the Domestic Church.

We loved and celebrated the sacraments that nourished our family life. We imagined we could handle whatever came our way by transforming obstacles into achievements. We had the plan and followed it: Work and do our part. Hope for the best and share hope with others. Pray that God would guide and bless our efforts. Why did we think vulnerability and suffering would not be part of our life story?

We were slow to realize the extent of our son’s illness. Early-onset schizophrenia is rare. Yet the challenges presented by his escalating illness gradually took over our family life. We read books and sought help everywhere.

Despite all our efforts, our son’s condition worsened, and hospitalizations and medications were required. He was admitted to a juvenile residential facility for severe mental illness. We were happy for the respite but longed to have him home with us.

“He can’t come home,” stated his doctor. “You have to think of your other children and your little girl. She has grown up with this chaos.” At that moment, the contagious quality of his disease was laid bare. Indeed, three of our children have been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of their brother’s psychotic episodes and expressions of paranoid delusions and hallucinations.

The plan we had long been using, “Work – Hope – Pray,” was not working. We were in a new and unexpected place, unsure of where to turn. The words of Simon Peter became our anchor: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (John 6:68).

The surprising answer was a change in the order of our plan.

Pray – Take our joys, gratitude, fears, and pain to God and trust that God is in control in ways we are not. We now make time to read Scripture, reflect, listen, and share the deepest yearnings of our hearts with the Lord.

Hope – Our prayer helped us to have the courage to hope for that which is unseen and invisible. Hope is an act of imagination and courage, allowing us to see beyond what is and to see with our inner eye what might and what ought to be. Christian hope guided us into that place where we had not yet been, and into becoming the persons we have not yet become.

Work – Our prayer and hope informs and directs our work in a way it had not before. Moral clarity requires that when you have the tools available to lessen the suffering of others that you must take action to do so.

There are still tremendous needs for our son and all who suffer from mental illness. Rooted in prayer and anchored in hope, we work together to do God’s work on behalf of all who suffer.

Greg “Dobie” Moser, D. Min, is the Executive Director, Youth and Young Adult Ministry and CYO in the Diocese of Cleveland. He holds an MA in Family Systems Counseling and his doctoral work focused on leadership development within the family. He and his wife, Lisa, are proud parents of seven children.

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All Love Bears Fruit – by David M. Thomas

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Like other dutiful and thoughtful dads and moms on the road, I frequently returned from trips with treats for our children. When they were young, these gifts were expected. It was what they asked about as soon as I arrived home. Often their interest was stated in an almost formulaic question: What did you bring us?

There were good reasons behind their desire for a souvenir. Besides self-interest, they felt if I truly loved and missed them (which I did), I would give them something that showed it. Love without some tangible sign seemed unreal to them. Paraphrasing a Broadway song, if you say that you love me, show me.

They were right, of course. Genuine love is creative. It is also productive and generative. It makes a difference. It is why St. John Paul II called the family “a community of love.” Papal teachings often call the family “a school of love.” It is hopefully where all of us first experience genuine love, Christian altruistic love, a love that deepens our lives.

As Christians, we know everything that exists, from the universe to our personal existence, can be traced back to an ultimate source: God’s love. God’s love is deeply creative. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here – or anywhere!

Hidden in Vatican II’s wonderful words on marriage and family life (The Church in the Modern World, paragraphs 47-52) we find, “Marriage and married love are by nature ordered to the procreation and education of children.” That single sentence was carefully constructed by a special committee of the council and not without some very serious discussion.

To grasp the impact of this sentence, we have to recall how this same idea was stated in earlier church documents. Basically it was this: Children are the result of the sexual union of husband and wife. The new conciliar teaching replaced “sexual union” with the phrase “married love.” This pointed to a much more complete, more Christian understanding of procreation. Basically, the council stated that at the source of new life is not only the joining of bodies, but an enactment of human love. The love that exists between husband and wife is holy, sanctifying and creative, and leads to the creation of new life.

Deep down, this pattern of love generating life mirrors the way God loves. God’s love is essentially fertile and fruitful. And as created in Gods image, so too is all human love. All genuine acts of human love, including those in marriage and family life, contribute to God’s good creation, now and forever.

David M. Thomas has been a leader in Catholic Family Ministry for many years. He holds a Ph. D. in Systematic and Historical Theology from the University of Notre Dame. He has served as a consultant to the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family Life and as a Peritus to the U.S. Bishops, World Synod on Family in 1980. He currently serves as Theological consultant to the Bishops of England and Wales, Committee on Marriage and Family. He served as General Editor for the revision of the RCL Benziger’s Family Life Program.

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