Official poster for Catechetical Sunday 2016. Students will spend the religious education year focused on prayer.
Official poster for Catechetical Sunday 2016. Students will spend the religious education year focused on prayer.

The arrival of autumn on the liturgical calendar announces a new faith formation year in the Valley of the Sun.

Parishes throughout the Diocese of Phoenix registered thousands of children and teens in religious education classes where catechists pass on the teachings of Christ.

So pivotal is the witness of the catechist, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops designated the third Sunday in September as Catechetical Sunday.

From as early as 1935, those serving in the teaching ministry of the Church to the Christian community have been honored for their work.

The catechist as leaders and models of prayer (U.S. Bishops)

Embracing our universal call to Holiness (U.S. Bishops)

Works on Catechesis have wide appeal to professionals, casual readers (Catholic News Service via The Compass News)

The word, “catechize,” literally means, “to echo.” The role of a catechist is to share or “echo” the knowledge of the faith as directed by the Church.

“We need to use the word, ‘catechist,’ more consciously,” said Ignacio Rodriguez, coordinator of religious education at St. William Parish in Cashion and associate director of Ethnic Ministries for the diocese.

“It’s a word that doesn’t mean ‘teacher’ or ‘volunteer,’ but a word that has deep meaning and implications — a responsibility for handing on the faith in the classrooms.”

On Catechetical Sunday, Sept. 18, catechists and aides from St. William will be commissioned and receive a certificate for their service.

They join countless parishes throughout the diocese, and the world, in recognizing those who answered the call to be a catechist.

The parish has 350 children currently registered for classes that meet three times a week to accommodate the different levels and learning styles of students.

“When I met with the catechists I told them it’s a vocation, a call from God, and they are not here by coincidence,” Rodriguez said, adding, “It’s not a job you do, it’s an expression of private and public faith.”

Improving relations, strengthening faith in kids (Catholic News Service)

A How-to-Pray Primer for Parents and Families (U.S. Bishops)

Concrete prayers for those in need worldwide (CRS)

Honoring their role as the primary educators, Rodriguez said parents of children in the program are given tools to help them transmit the faith at home, and encouraged to develop a prayer life they can share with their families.

The theme for Catechetical Sunday, “Prayer: The Faith Prayed,” invites catechists and Catholic school teachers to deepen and grow in their practice of prayer for their own wellbeing, and the good of those they serve.

Bridgette Barcelo, director of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at St. Timothy Parish in Mesa, said the annual blessing and commissioning of catechists “calls the whole community to the work of the Church,” and awareness is critical because “we are all responsible.”

More than 15 catechists, aides and staff members from the Mesa church will be honored for their work conveying God’s loving plan of salvation in the person of Jesus to 250 children.

According to the National Directory of Catechesis, “The sacred duty and the joy of each succeeding generation of Christian believers has been to hand on the deposit of faith that was first entrusted to the Apostles by Christ himself. … It is our privilege and our responsibility to preserve the memory of Christ’s words and the words themselves and to teach future generations of believers to carry out all that Christ commanded his apostles” (87).

Other resources

When you pray, open your app (U.S. Bishops)

Catechesis y catequesis in the Diocese of Phoenix

Evangelizing persons with disabilities

Curriculum support

Franciscan Brother Scott Slattum, director of faith development at St. Mary’s Basilica, said the parish is emphasizing the role of each person as “priest, prophet and king.”

He said families “build prayers and rituals” because parents have the priestly call within their families.

This year the religious education program will highlight that role, and help families make the connection between the sacraments and family life through Scripture, lessons and a family project.

“We’ll teach them the component and as the parent they will figure out how to put that to flesh and blood in the family setting,” Br. Slattum said.