Celebrating Catechetical Sunday

Published on Aug 22nd, 2012 by Austin Keith | 0
Catechists and Teachers as Agents of the New Evangelization
By Erin McGeever

The third Sunday of September in the United States is celebrated as Catechetical Sunday in order to acknowledge and commission those who will be serving as catechists during the coming year. In his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, Pope John Paul II, said, “Among the laity who become evangelizers, catechists have a place of honor…Catechists are among those who have received Christ’s command to ‘go and teach all nations.’”

In the General Directory for Catechesis (#225) one of the tasks proper to the presbyterate and particularly to parish priests is:  “to foster a sense of common responsibility for catechesis in the Christian community, a task which involves all, and recognition and appreciation for catechists and their mission.” The celebration of Catechetical Sunday provides a means for pastors and parishes to do this.

This year, Catechetical Sunday will be celebrated on Sept. 16, the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary time. The theme is one of evangelization, Catechists and Teachers as Agents of the New Evangelization.

The idea of establishing a catechetical day in each parish was brought to light by Popes Pius X and Pius XI.  On Jan. 12, 1935, the Sacred Congregation of the Council (now the Congregation for the Clergy) issued Provido sane consilio(On the Better Care and Promotion of Catechetical Education) suggesting that such a day exist in every parish. From paragraph 25 of this instruction, the day should be one in which:

a) The faithful should be called together in the parish, and having received the Holy  Eucharist, they should pray to obtain greater fruit from catechesis (divine teaching)
b) A special sermon should be preached to the people on the necessity of catechetical instruction.  Parents are to be told their duty to instruct their children in Catholic doctrine and to send them to parish catechism (religion) classes.
c) Books, pamphlets, and other material suitable for the purpose should be distributed.
d) A collection may be taken up for the promotion of catechetical works.

The first celebration of national Catechetical Day in the United States was held on Oct. 30, 1935 in Rochester, N.Y.  By 1944, the practice was evident in every state of the union and by 1955 most dioceses had opted for the third Sunday in September for its celebration.

Since this was decreed by a Vatican congregation, it should be a universal practice, but little is published on Catechetical Sunday outside the United States.

The United States Catholic Council of Bishops (USCCB) provides both free resources as well as some for purchase in order to help parishes celebrate this day.  Bishop David L. Ricken, chairman of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis provides a welcome message and overview on the landing page.

Included this year for free [download]:
A Commissioning Service
A Catechists Prayer
Theological Reflections
Teaching Aids
Bulletin Inserts on Evangelization
Family Resources

For purchase: 
Prayer Cards
Commissioning Certificates

Resources available in Spanish and English