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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