SALT LAKE CITY – Along with other dioceses across the country, the Diocese of Salt Lake City will celebrate Catechetical Sunday on Sept. 20. This occasion has been chosen by the Church to recognize catechists for the important work they do.
In 1935, the Vatican asked that every country acknowledge the importance of the Church’s teaching ministry and honor those who serve the Christian community as catechists. To do this, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops designated the third Sunday in September as Catechetical Sunday.
“Catechetical Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the role that each baptized person plays in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel,” according to the USCCB. The theme this year is “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.”
“We are encouraging local pastors to find ways to recognize the catechists in front of the congregation so that people know who are teaching the children in that particular parish or mission and that they are recognized for their many hours of volunteer work plus their catechetical certification,” said Susan Northway, director of the diocesan Office of Faith Formation.
Often, pastors will offer a special ritual and blessing of catechists that is available from the USCCB “Book of Blessings;” catechists may be presented with their certificates at that time. However, this year pastors may choose not to observe the event because of pandemic conditions, although the USCCB has a variety of resources to celebrate Catechetical Sunday on their website, including homilies, posters, certificates, prayer cards and more.
“I really want to encourage pastors and DREs to work on their liturgies to include this ritual and blessing of catechists,” Northway said.
Catechists are more than just religion teachers, they are essential to the life of the diocese and its parishes, she said. “Catechists really shares the faith from the heart. It’s not just the theory or lecture; it’s really their faith-sharing with children, teens or adults. Because of their own well-held belief, they’re able to reach out to others and share the faith.”
“They are instruments of the new evangelization within the parish in a formal sense,” she added. “They pass along the faith from their heart” along with meeting guidelines from the Directory of Faith Formation produced by the Vatican.
Most catechists in the diocese are certified or working toward their certification, which requires a minimum 48 hours of training. The parishes and their directors of religious education are primarily responsible for providing this training. The Office of Faith Formation helps with this training through the Pastoral Congress (canceled this year due to the pandemic), workshops and other resources, such as online classes offered by the University of Notre Dame and other colleges.
Catechists are individuals who have received all their sacraments and, if married, are in a Catholic marriage. Those who would like to learn more may contact their parish director of religious education.
Although the Diocese of Salt Lake City has a strong tradition of celebrating Catechetical Sunday, not all parishes will honor the catechists this year, Northway said. Along with pandemic conditions that limit options, some of the newer priests in the diocese may not be familiar with this practice, she said.