By Marie Zavala
Special to The Texas Catholic
The third Sunday in September is designated as “Catechetical Sunday” by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It is a day to celebrate the ministry of catechesis, the passing on the faith. This year’s theme, “Come to me all who labor and are burdened,” (Matthew 11:28) reminds us of the invitation we receive from the Lord Jesus to follow Him and the promise that He doesn’t want to add to our burdens; he wants to lighten them. Observing Catechetical Sunday is a great way show appreciation to our catechists for the hard work that they do accompanying the many people of all ages throughout the year. It is in their dedication, efforts, and true servant’s heart that they continually give of themselves by helping so many families in their faith journey.
To prepare for the upcoming 2023–2024 faith formation year, the Office of Evangelization, Catechesis, and Family was very active this summer in promoting workshops, conferences, and events. While many people might believe that catechists have taken a summer break, in reality faith formation never takes a break! Catechists have been working hard to update their skills, knowledge, and abilities to become better catechists. Though they may be weary and tired, they still find the time to refresh and renew their faith by participating in the diverse training and educational opportunities offered to them by the Diocese.
In June, our office invited Rhonda Gruenewald, the founder of Vocation Ministry, to do a talk on vocations. Rhonda and her Spanish counterpart, Leticia Ramirez, came to St. Monica to present a workshop for catechists to enable them to teach children about vocations to the priesthood, consecrated life, and sacramental marriage at their age-appropriate level. Vocation Ministry provided a wealth of practical and simple-to-implement resources to help parishes and families promote vocations and to create a culture of awareness that vocations start in the family. Leticia can attest to this since she has two sons ordained into the priesthood and a brother who is a bishop.
The long, hot days of August found us busy hosting a three-day orientation training at Holy Trinity for new parish catechetical and ministry leaders. We were able to give the ministry leaders an in-depth overview of the services that the Diocesan Office offers and the support that is available to them. The training session also allowed the new leaders an opportunity to get to know and network with one another.
We gathered at St. Cecilia in the middle of August for the Southwest Deanery Conference. With over 300 people registered, it was very well attended. Our keynote speakers for the English- and Spanish-speaking attendees were Dr. Joseph White and Esther Garcia, who spoke on “Engaging Parents and Families in Religious Education.” Additionally, we had several breakout sessions with speakers from the professional world, the clergy, and religious life, as well as Diocesan staff, covering a wide range of topics, including catechetical and those dealing with family life issues. All of the participants expressed gratitude for the chance to interact, exchange knowledge, and build relationships with one another. It was also a great way for them to begin their fall faith formation classes.
Lastly, towards the end of August, we traveled to St. Mark for a conference organized by our office and sponsored by Pflaum Publishing Group, who provided our guest speaker, Dr. John Osman. In his lecture, “Family Catechesis in the New Normal: It’s Not Just About Digital,” Dr. Osman gave a compelling presentation on this crucial subject, provided insightful advice, and helpful tips, and mentioned the cultural aspects affecting families. It clarified the state of catechesis in the modern world.
As you can see, our catechists and ministry leaders were kept busy this summer refreshing and reenergizing themselves as they continue to respond to their call to this wonderful ministry of helping families grow in their faith and getting to know the person of Jesus and His invitation to follow him. Please pray for all catechists and catechetical leaders of our diocese.
Marie Zavala is the Associate Director, Evangelization, Catechesis and Family Life for the Diocese of Dallas.