By Maureen Smith
Catechetical Sunday, which is celebrated annually on the third Sunday in September in parishes across the United States, falls this year on the weekend of September 21, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. It is a day to recognize and honor those who teach the faith as well as a time for Catholics to recommit themselves to study, prayer and practice.
On Saturday, August 16th, the office of Faith Formation will host a Faith Formation Day at Madison St. Francis of Assisi in their Family Life Center. All catechists are welcome. “We feel it is necessary to provide all catechists with opportunity and exposure to life-long formation in the faith of the church and we need to provide the catechist with the necessary skills to prepare for the practical aspects of catechetical ministry,” wrote Melissa Smalley, associate director of the Office of Faith Formation, in her invitation. Cathechists have the opportunity to take five workshops throughout the day. The schedule also includes lunch. The cost is $10 per person.
The speaker, Tom Ryan, Ph.D., the director of the Loyola Institute for Ministry (LIM) of Loyola University New Orleans, will talk about how Pope Francis, a pope of many firsts, is quite traditional, but he has also lived and taught that tradition in new ways. “This multi-media presentation focuses on how the actions and words of Pope Francis can inspire and challenge catechists in their work of communicating ‘the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel’ in new times and to new audiences,” wrote Smalley. The Department of Formational Ministries has embraced the theme of joy for this year, in keeping with Pope Francis’ exhortation, the “Joy of the Gospel.” This workshop, along with the theme for Catechetical Sunday this year all fits within that framework.
The theme for 2014 Catechetical Sunday is “Teaching about God’s Gift of Forgiveness.” Bishop David Ricken, chairman of committee on evangelization and catechesis for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote a reflection about the special day for the USCCB website. “Even before anyone of us can consider seeking forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance, we know God is already at work in our hearts. God the Father pursues us down the byways of our life, intent to restore and share with us in greater measure a life of grace and union with him, which was secured at so great a cost through the saving death of his Son. The Spirit helps us to discern where sinfulness has wounded and enslaved us, and creates in us, the penitents, a readiness to embrace ongoing conversion of life through sorrow for sins, sacramental confession through the ministry of the priest, and a firm purpose of amendment,” wrote Bishop Ricken.
The artwork distributed by USCCB, seen on the previous page, depicts the end of the story of the Prodigal Son, a model of forgiveness for the Christian community. In 1935, the Vatican published “On the Better Care and Promotion of Catechetical Education,” a document that asks every country to acknowledge the importance of the Church’s teaching ministry and to honor those who serve the Christian community as catechists. For the first few years after Catechetical Sunday was established, national catechetical congresses were held in conjunction with the celebration.
Beginning in 1971, the USCCB’s Department of Education began producing materials to help parishes celebrate the event at the local level. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has designated the third Sunday in September as Catechetical Sunday.
As in past years, the theme for Catechetical Sunday often becomes a base for programs put in place by pastors, parish catechists, Catholic school teachers and the faithful in celebrating Catechetical Sunday, not only in September, but also throughout the 2014-2015 year. The USCCB has posted on its website resources related to the theme for catechists, parishes, families and individuals. The site has downloadable prayer services, bulletin inserts, reflections and more.
“Whether you confess regularly, or this is the first time in a long time, may this be your moment to draw near to the confessional with confidence to celebrate the tender loving mercy of God. May you experience again and again God’s gift of forgiveness and healing through the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation,” said Bishop Ricken.
Those who wish to register for the Faith Formation Day should contact Fabvienen Taylor at email@example.com or 601-960-8470.
(Material in this story adapted from www.usccb.org)
By Maureen Smith