My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Our parishes in Brooklyn and Queens will join over 17,000 other parishes throughout the United States on Sunday, September 15 to celebrate Catechetical Sunday. The theme for this year is “Stay with Us,” as announced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In the Gospel, according to St. Luke, two men were traveling toward the village of Emmaus on the day of the Resurrection of Jesus when suddenly they encountered someone unknown to them. As they continued on their journey, the two men said to their new traveling companion, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.”
So, He went in to stay with them. When He was at the table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him, and Jesus disappeared from their sight.
In his recent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Christus Vivit, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, reminds us that Jesus is risen, and He wants to make us sharers in the new life of the Resurrection. He is the true youthfulness of a world grown old, the youthfulness of a universe waiting “in travail” (Romans 8:22) to be clothed with His light and to live His life. With Jesus at our side, we can drink from the true wellspring that keeps alive all our dreams, our projects, our great ideals, while impelling us to proclaim what makes life truly worthwhile.
Both the Gospel account and the passage from Christus Vivit draws our attention to the fact that we are at our best when we recognize and celebrate the Risen Lord among us. In the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens, we have been truly blessed with men and women who work as collaborators in the great mission of catechesis and evangelization. Like the two men traveling to Emmaus, welcoming the stranger and staying with the stranger has its benefits. The job of the catechist is to assist the student to recognize Christ in our midst.
Engagement and accompaniment are key factors when it comes to our faith journey and our recognition of the Risen Lord. Catechists and catechetical leaders, properly educated and formed in the Faith, assist the diocesan bishop as chief catechist in fulfilling the great commission to “Go and make disciples.”
In the Diocese of Brooklyn, nearly 10,000 catechists and catechetical leaders participate in our nearly ten-yearold Living and Leading by Faith Catechetical Leader and Catechist Formation Program. Through this time-tested program, volunteers and paid staff alike grow in faith by completing online or onsite courses and spiritual growth opportunities. Go to www.bqonlineformation.org for information.
We partner with other dioceses, archdioceses, agencies, and organizations to provide opportunities for all who wish to become a catechist, that is someone who hears the Word of God and desires to pass it on to others, as well as those who already serve in that capacity.
Through our many partnerships with groups such as Dynamic Catholic, RENEW International, My Catholic Faith Delivered, Catholic Distance University, the Catechetical Institute at Steubenville, and the Paulist Evangelization Ministries, thousands of people in Brooklyn and Queens have benefited from a deeper understanding and appreciation of Christ and His Church.
An additional benefit has been a renewed involvement by many formerly disconnected from the parish or Church. A majority of the programs and events organized by our diocesan Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis during the past year were “sold out.” It is a challenge, and yet a happy one of sorts, to serve the needs of so many interested people, but this was done effectively and creatively. Many “missionary disciples” had their eyes opened and saw the Risen Christ who now guides and supports them as they share the good news with others as catechists and catechetical leaders.
I am grateful to all who serve as parish catechists, parish, Catholic academy, and parish school catechetical leaders, catechetical volunteers, coordinators of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and the RCIA Adapted for Children, other parish coordinators, and those participating in the various programs of the Holy Spirit Institute for Service and Leadership. I recognize, too, the excellent work of the staff of the Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis, who work diligently to assist the parishes, Catholic academies, and parish schools in their service to the people of God.
Last but certainly not least, we must pay special attention to the family. Saint Pope John Paul II declared, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
On Catechetical Sunday, which annually marks the start of a new catechetical year, we recall that parents are the first educators and formators in the Faith. We put out into the deep together as one family of Faith, as people “Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World.” The Strong Catholic Families—Strong Catholic Youth initiative, a national program meant to motivate and engage parents to embrace their responsibility for the faith development of their children, was inaugurated in the Diocese this past spring, and will be implemented in various parishes that desire to participate throughout this new year.