Catechetical Sunday offers a chance to recognize those who pass on the faith

Children prepare to receive their first Communion at Sacred Heart Parish in Dearborn earlier this year. Across the Archdiocese of Detroit, those who pass on the faith to young people and adults by serving as catechists, teachers, religious education directors and RCIA coordinators will receive a special blessing as part of Catechetical Sunday. (Naomi Vrazo | Detroit Catholic)

As catechism classes get under way for the year, parishes across Archdiocese of Detroit to offer special blessing for catechists

DETROIT — Catholic schools aren’t the only classes back in session, as parishes across the Archdiocese of Detroit are starting up catechism classes once again. 

Catechists are tasked with teaching thousands of children, teens and adults across the Archdiocese of Detroit the fundamentals of the faith, which in turn need to be reinforced at home and in daily life. 

To commemorate the work of catechists, Sunday, Sept. 15, marks Catechetical Sunday, when catechists are formally recognized by parish communities for their contributions to Catholic education. 

“Catechetical Sunday is very important, because we need to highlight and honor the important work of passing on the faith in different roles,” said Sr. Kathleen Matz, CDP, associate director of catechesis for the Archdiocese of Detroit. “On Sept. 15, we invite every parish to present catechists to the parish for a commission service, allowing them to give witness to their efforts to minister to adults, children, vacation Bible school and Catholic schools.”

Catechetical Sunday has fallen on the third Sunday of September since 1935, when the Vatican published a document called “On the Better Care and Promotion of Catechetical Education,” to further promote the work of catechists. 

This year’s theme for Catechetical Sunday in the Archdiocese of Detroit is “Encountering the Risen Christ,” said Patty Chase, regional coordinator in the Office of Catechesis for the Northeast Region. 

“We had two weeks of catechist formation at the seminary in June, and we have the upcoming Parish Day of Renewal in November,” Chase said. “We’re focusing on the encounter, and how we can help staff, families and individuals encounter Jesus.”

Children gather for religious education during Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Palm Sunday.

As Catechetical Sunday recognizes those who teach the faith in a formal capacity, Chase said the day is a reminder to parents that religious education first and foremost begins and ends in the home, and parents are the primary teachers of the faith to their children.  

“We always say, parents are the first catechists,” Chase said. “Catechists need the support of the family. We need the values and lessons taught in catechism to be reinforced in the home. That is where a child’s faith is deepened, strengthened, that is where they grow the most, when they have the support of their family.”

Catechetical Sunday is an opportunity for parishes to build community and appreciate the vital work of catechists, who facilitate the “grow” portion of the archdiocese's three-fold “Encounter, Grow, Witness” evangelization paradigm, Sr. Matz said.

“I think it inspires people who might not know their neighbor, the person sitting behind them or their cousin who is involved in the life of the Church,” Sr. Matz said. “This is a chance to give witness and inspire others with that witness.”

Colleen Gonzalez, director of religious education at St. Mary of the Snows Parish in Milford, said the parish will honor its 35 catechists, beginning with small trinkets of appreciation and special prayers the week before Catechetical Sunday.  

“We have a breakfast for those training to be catechists, and we’re making it convenient for them to receive a blessing at every Mass next weekend,” Gonzalez said. “This year, we have six new certified catechists, so we’ll present them with a certificate after Mass.”

That level of support from parents in turns needs to be met with a level of support from the parish and the archdiocese, said Gonzalez, in terms of materials for further spiritual development to better equip catechists to preach the Gospel. 

“Catechists want to grow more as a group, to show a real strength when working together,” Gonzalez said. “It’s be really great if we get everyone, the archdiocese, the parish, parents, all on board, working together on materials to teach in class, but also to bring home to the parents. The idea is for everyone in the family be involved in formation.”

As the entire Archdiocese of Detroit is looking to realign its mission to meet the standards set in Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron’s pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel, Sr. Matz said it's exciting to see catechists across the archdiocese reinvent how they are teaching the faith.  

“I see an excitement in our directors of religious education who organize the catechists in trying new ways to pass on the faith,” Sr. Matz said. “When I hear catechists talk about teaching others how to have a personal relationship with Jesus, I see them light up.”

Catechetical Sunday

Catechetical Sunday this year is Sept. 15. To learn more about how to commemorate and support the work of catechists at your parish, check out the resources developed by the Archdiocese of Detroit's Office of Catechesis.