By Peter G. Sánchez
This past weekend, the Catholic Church celebrated Catechetical Sunday, as parishes recognized the importance of the church’s teaching ministry at their Masses and called forth and commissioned those serving as catechists, who will pass on the faith in classrooms this year.
With this year’s theme being “Celebrating God’s Gift of Forgiveness,” the parish community was “reminded again of God’s love and generosity,” said Sister Kathy Burton, SSJ, co-director of Faith and Family Life Formation for the Camden Diocese.
“We are also challenged to respond to this gift by sharing it with others, deliberately as catechists or indirectly through the witness of our lives,” she said.
She pointed out that many parishes also recognize that catechists are partners with parents and the entire community in passing on the faith to others.
In these parishes, “the parents as well as the rest of the parish community will be blessed and commissioned to go out and live their baptismal call as disciples of Jesus.”
Laurie Power, director of Lifelong Faith Formation at Holy Child Parish in Runnemede, echoed Sister Kathy’s sentiments, saying that all parish catechists, teachers at St. Teresa school, and parents were blessed by the pastor, Father Joseph Ganiel, who reminded them “of the vital role they play in the church’s mission of handing on the faith and being witnesses of the Gospel.”
In this year’s parish religious education classes, Power said, there are 235 students in first through eighth, with 28 catechists.
Rosemarie Iacovone, coordinator of Religious Education at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Turnersville, called the commissioning and blessing a “fruitful expression of our faith” to “unite the uniqueness of the intergenerational family members, catechists, aides and our parishioners with the infinite gifts that God has for us.”
“The church as a whole obliges its people to be open to God’s gifts,” she said. This year, there are 400 first through seventh grade students, with 30 catechists.
Catechetical Sunday is “extremely important,” mentioned Patricia Patterson, coordinator of Religious Education at St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Gibbstown, with 862 students and 50 catechists.
“In front of the parish community, we show that what (catechists) bring is invaluable, in sharing their faith with the children. In doing so, we hope to encourage others to consider doing the same,” she said.