September is usually the month in which catechetical or religious education programs start in the parishes and Catholic schools of the Archdiocese. Last Sunday the entire Catholic Church in the U.S.A celebrated “Catechetical Sunday.” The word “catechesis” means the act of teaching or passing on the faith, therefore on Catechetical Sunday parishes around the country publicly acknowledge and commission those who will be teaching the faith to our children and youth.
And while Directors and Coordinators of Religious Education have their hands full, completing all the details of enrollment for this year’s catechetical sessions, they know that hundreds of Catholic children and youth in their parishes have not yet registered to attend or will not register at all. This means that unless parents are teaching the faith to their children at home, hundreds of baptized children and youth will not have the opportunity to be initiated in the faith, and most likely will not have the opportunity to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ, receive the sacraments, or identify and worship with the Catholic faith community. Little by little our children and youth will be losing their Christian Catholic faith and identity.
We may debate the many social and religious reasons for this reality but as adult baptized Catholics, sent to evangelize and teach the Good News “until the end of the world,” we need to ask and answer this question: Who is responsible for passing on the faith to the present generation of young Catholics?
The USCC bishops in the National Directory of Catechesis published in 2005 state that the entire Catholic community has the responsibility for passing on the faith to other generations but they emphasize the role of the parents, “Parents are the most influential agents of catechesis for their children. They have a unique responsibility for the education of their children; they are the first educators, or catechists. They catechize primarily by the witness of their Christian lives and by their love for the faith” (NDC 10-C).
The research done by the “National Study on Youth and Religion,” published in Soul Searching: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, 2005 indicates that parents are the single most important influence on the religious and spiritual formation of their children. After that come the grandparents and other members of the family, teachers, priests, catechists, youth ministers and peers.
Parents and families today have a lot of social and work pressures that make difficult their religious educational task, and some parents may find that they don’t know enough to teach their children the faith they profess. These are big reasons for sending your children and youth to catechetical and youth ministry programs in your parish community. We are all responsible for the Christian education of our children and youth, but priests, catechetical leaders and catechists can’t bring the kids to classes - you do.
Your pastor, catechetical leader, catechists and youth ministers are ready to help you in fulfilling your very important role of passing on to your children and youth the legacy of the faith you have received.