This year, the Catholic Church celebrates Catechetical Sunday on Sept. 17. The theme is: “Living as Missionary Disciples.” Those who serve their parish communities as catechists will be called forth to be commissioned for ministry.
By John Fitzgerald
SUNDAY MORNING and the concluding rite at the end of Mass begins with the celebrant saying, “The Lord be with you” and we respond, “And with your spirit.”
Very often, we are thinking about running to the door, getting into our car or walking home as quickly as possible. It is then that the priest or deacon will announce, “The Mass is ended,” or “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life,” or simply, “Go in peace.”
But there is one more bidding they will probably use on Sept. 17 and that is, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” Is there any request of a Catholic that is more important than this? There are hundreds of faithful men and women who answer that question week after week as catechists.
Who are these people? If you were asked to look around your parish and find a catechist, you might wonder: Am I looking for a priest, a deacon or a sister? What does a catechist look like? Where would I find one? Once I found one, what greeting should I use? A catechist looks just like you. You would find the catechist walking down the street, going to work or sitting next to you at church. Be careful when you get angry at a service worker, he or she might just be a catechist.
Theodore J. Musco, diocesan secretary for evangelization and catechesis, reminds us frequently that the future of the Catholic Church in Brooklyn and Queens is the tens of thousands of young people in the diocese. Unfortunately, most have received no religious training and show up at a parish faith formation program with little or no knowledge of Jesus Christ. Generally, these young people are only available after school, on the weekends and often after the basketball, soccer or baseball schedule. It is the catechists who give of their time and talents to “announce the Gospel of the Lord” to this group.
When these catechists are not working or tending to their homes, they are preparing for class and trying to keep 15 children interested in learning about the faith. Classes last about an hour and a half. Educational experts tell us that the average student today has an attention span of about seven minutes. A catechist must be prepared to revitalize the student 12 to 13 times during the lesson. By the way, the catechist is also expected to involve themselves in continuing education, either in person or online, to be best prepared to accomplish this ministry.
I bet you think these people must be paid very well for all they do. Nothing could be further from the truth. These unsung heroes receive no remuneration for their efforts. They do it for love: love of Christ, the Church and their parishes, and of course, love of the children.
This Catechetical Sunday, take a moment to thank the faith formation team in your parish. Thank the director or coordinator of faith formation, and the rest of the staff. More importantly, seek out the individual catechists, shake their hands and thank them for helping to preserve the Church in Brooklyn and Queens.
I would be remiss if I forgot the men and women who are members of the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). These men and women help adults who wish to join the Catholic Church or may be Catholic, but have not received all of the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation and Holy Eucharist). What motivates these adults is between them and God, but keeping them for two years is the job of the RCIA team. It is a Herculean task if you understand that it is a two-year commitment for all. But when these adults receive their sacraments at the Easter Vigil, it is worth the work.
This Sunday, don’t go away so quickly. The charge to “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” is not only for a few; it is for all. Think about becoming a catechist and help someone build a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Fitzgerald is a parishioner of St. Joan of Arc, Jackson Heights, and a lay pastoral minister.