On Catechetical Sunday, catechists in the Diocese of Baton Rouge will be recognized as evangelizers of those they teach. Catechists instruct young and old, children and adults in the Catholic faith, whether in the classroom, meeting room or private home.
Jody Delaune, confirmation catechist at Holy Rosary Church in St. Amant, leads confirmation class in a skit about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Photo provided by Wendy Enloe
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states, “Catechetical Sunday is an 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. It is especially opportune to recognize and commission catechetical leaders and catechist who are the backbone of the catechetical ministry.”
The bishops add, “It is also an opportunity for all members of the Church to rededicate themselves to the mission of teaching the Gospel in our community of faith and beyond.”
This year’s theme for Catechetical Sunday, which will be celebrated the weekend of Sept. 16, is “Catechists and Teachers as Agents of the New Evangelization.”
According to the USCCB, the New Evangelization, the effort to rekindle the faith in Catholics, whether practicing or not, is a major focus of the Year of Faith, an effort announced by Pope Benedict XVI beginning on Oct. 11, 2012, and continuing until Nov. 24, 2013.
“Before Catholics can go out and evangelize, they must be evangelized,” said Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, Wis., chairman of the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. “We celebrate catechists because, since they instruct our people, they have a crucial role in the New Evangelization.”
Lori Dean, director of religious education at St. John the Evangelist Church in Plaquemine, spoke about evangelization as one of the primary roles of catechists.
“The first thing about teaching is to bring the message of the Gospel of Christ to the students,” Dean said. “Because without them (the students) receiving Christ in their hearts, all the catechists are doing is giving them information.”
She said through Christ and the Holy Spirit, faith comes alive to children.
Catechists impact children’s faith lives by praying with them and “introducing them to Jesus in a personal way and not only a historical way,” stated Dean.
She pointed out that because some families are busy today and don’t often sit together and pray, catechists may be the only ones bringing faith to the children.
Gwen Richard, director of religious education at Immaculate Conception Church in Denham Springs, said teachers evangelize through their actions as well as what they teach in their classroom.
“They (catechists) break open the word, teach the tenants of the faith, pray and put it into action,” Richard said.
She added, “The teachers are the living example of Christ in the classroom. The children can’t understand that Jesus loves them without the teachers loving them.”
According to Richard, teachers exemplify Christ’s love and willingness to serve the children when they receive the Eucharist and help others in the church and community.
When children and teens are observed and questioned about their beliefs by their peers, catechists can help them to have answers and witness their faith more strongly.
Richard and Dean agreed that catechists can bring the message of Christ and hope to the many youth who struggle with their faith.
“In this world where all the media are telling them they don’t matter, everything is relative, they get in touch with catechists who are talking about morality,” Dean said. “Then teenagers find out they have value in the church’s eyes and they have a responsibility to embrace the morality of the faith.”
She emphasized that the morality the teens embrace is “not a bunch of guidelines but rather love and discipline.”