Celebrating Catechetical Sunday

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 honour those who serve the Christian community as catechists.

Jan 30, 2021

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 honour those who serve the Christian community as catechists.  

The Malaysian Catechetical Commission began producing materials to help parishes celebrate the event at the local level. In the beginning, Catechetical Sunday was celebrated on the Third Sunday in September. Upon further reflection, it  was decided to celebrate Catechetical Sunday in January, in line with the beginning of the Malaysian school year.

Those whom the community has designated to serve as catechists will be called forth to be commissioned for their ministry. Catechetical Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the role that each person plays, by virtue of Baptism, in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel. Catechetical Sunday is an opportunity for all to rededicate themselves to this mission as a community of faith.

What does the Word  “Catechetical” mean
The word might be more familiar than you think. Many Catholics have used the word “catechism” for years, and they know it has something to do with the compendium of the Church’s teachings. The root word, “catechesis,” is from a Greek word meaning “to echo, or resound.” Catechesis is the act of resounding or bringing the Church’s teachings to the world. A catechist is one who teaches in the name of the Church. Catechesis is a distinct and special ministry in the Church.

Why do we have a special day set aside to commission catechists?
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear, “Catechesis is intimately bound up with the whole of the Church’s life . . . her inner growth and correspondence with God’s plan depend essentially on catechesis” (no. 7). This ministry of teaching in the name of the Church has a profound dignity, which is why catechists are formally commissioned by the Church. It is only fitting that we set aside a day to highlight this ministry and invite the entire Church community to think about our responsibility to share our faith with others.

How are parents, the primary catechists of their children, recognised on Catechetical Sunday
Parents are truly the primary catechists of their children. They prepare the soil and plant the first seeds of faith. On Catechetical Sunday, we not only highlight the work of catechists in parishes and schools, but we also commend parents and guardians and encourage them to take seriously their role of making their Catholic households a place where faith is passed on to the next generation. This is why the rite of blessing of catechists used on Catechetical Sunday includes an optional blessing of parents and guardians.

       Ways to help catechists maintain their enthusiasm

Here are some ways to help catechists cope with stresses that are a part of their ministry.

1.Focus on solutions, not just problems
One temptation for people working in helping professions and ministries is to gripe about problems. While it may feel good at the moment to vent feelings, in the long run it only serves to deflate people’s spirits and add stress. Provide time for catechists to share stories of their successes. Likewise, by inviting them to contribute to problem solving, you can channel their energy in a positive manner.

2.Give them autonomy
People can experience good stress, such as embarking on a grand adventure, as well as bad stress, such as being stuck in traffic. Having choices in situations has been proven to help people deal with stress in positive ways. Allow your catechists as much autonomy as possible in carrying out the goals of the program.

3.Help them “involve their whole selves”
Being involved in faith formation is not just a “head trip.” As Jesus advised, we need to use our whole hearts and minds and souls. Pay attention to the many other parts of catechists’ lives that might be weighing on them as they come to teach. A brief moment of shared prayer before beginning a session allows catechists to give voice to their special intentions and can help your catechists feel wholly present.

4.Know and use the catechist’s preferred style of affirmation
Some people like public recognition; others like a quiet pat on the back. Some enjoy a handwritten note while others would be touched by a different token of appreciation. Whatever the form may be, affirmation is key to maintaining enthusiasm. Here are some ways to help catechists cope with stresses that are a part of their ministry.

5.Listen to what your catechists say
Everyone longs to be heard. Coordinating a complex programme can put limits on how much time you can devote to hearing everyone’s comments. On the other hand, cutting people short can lead to their feeling unimportant. Letting catechists know that they are seen, heard and appreciated can raise their level of enthusiasm.

6.Listen to what they don’t say
You do not need to become a mind reader. On the other hand, you do need to watch for and pick up on nonverbal cues that catechists may be giving you about their enthusiasm or lack thereof. If they seem in a terrible rush, help them slow down. If they seem withdrawn, gently invite them to actively participate again. If they seem uncharacteristically sullen, acknowledge the changed behaviour and ask, “Is something wrong? You don’t seem like yourself today. Anything I can do to help?”

7.Provide support in ways that don’t add stress
Endless meetings and constant supervision are counterproductive. Make sure that your presence is communicated as supportive to catechists so that you do not burden them with added anxiety.

8.Encourage catechists to establish realistic goals
Sometimes catechists lose enthusiasm for their ministry because they establish unrealistic goals. Help catechists identify several challenging yet attainable goals and then provide feedback and support to help them achieve and possibly surpass these goals.

9.Catch them doing something right
Such vague expressions as “Great job!” or “That’s fine!” are not nearly as effective as the mention of a specific action or behaviour that you have observed in a catechist and wish to commend. Express your observation in person or in a note but be sure to be specific and unwaveringly positive.

10.Build parish-wide knowledge and support for their work
The faith formation of our children is no one person’s job. Everyone in the faith community has a part to play, even if it’s simply to support the efforts with prayer. You can cultivate both awareness of and support for the catechists in your parish by informing parishioners of the work that catechists do and by inviting them to show support through their prayers and tangible forms of affirmation.

These are just a few ideas on how you can support your catechists and help to maintain their enthusiasm. By supporting and affirming your catechists, you will not only help them excel in their ministry but will also increase the likelihood that they will return next year!

As a catechist, you are responding to a call to share the gift of faith with others, even as you deepen your own faith. This call may have reached you through your pastor, the director of your parish’s religious education program, or through your role as a Catholic school teacher. But know that this calling ultimately comes from God whose Holy Spirit inspires and guides you.

Take a few moments to pray in thanksgiving and ask for the grace to serve in your vocation as a catechist with a special threeminute retreat for catechists.

Prayer for Catechists

Loving God, Creator of all things, you call us to be in relationship  with you and others.

Thank you for calling me to be a catechist, for the opportunity  to share with others what you have given to me.

May all those with whom I share the gift of faith discover how you are present in all things.

May they come to know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. May the grace of the Holy Spirit guide my heart and lips, so that I may remain constant in loving and praising you.

May I be a witness to the Gospel and a minister of your truth. May all my words and actions reflect your love. Amen.


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