Catechetical Sunday highlights importance of faith formation programs

Photo Credit: Dennis Callahan

By Mary Powers

On Sunday, Sept. 19, parishes across the archdiocese celebrated Catechetical Sunday, the opening Mass for faith formation programs. Each year, catechists gather to open their year with the celebration of Mass and commissioning.

Faith formation programs play a key role in the life of the Church. Students of all ages participate in order to grow in their relationship and knowledge of God and the faith, as well as to prepare to receive the sacraments.

“Faith Formation is foundational in our Catholic Church,” commented Sr. Celeste Arbuckle, director of the Office of Faith Formation for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, “From the early church communities of women and men, inspired by Jesus’ teachings and the Holy Spirit, they set out to witness a life of love. In the Archdiocese of San Francisco, we are enriched by so many catechists – teachers of the Word. They work with children, youth, adults and families. They are present to bear witness and talk about Jesus. It is a compelling ministry!”

Pope Francis highlighted the world-wide celebration on Twitter by tweeting, “Catechesis is not an abstract communication, the memorization of theoretical knowledge. We must insist on pointing to the heart of catechesis: Jesus Christ, the Risen One, loves you and will never abandon you!”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ theme for the 2021-2022 faith formation year is, “Say the word and my soul shall be healed” (Mt 8:8), highlighting the urgent need for healing in society today—physically, spiritually, emotionally—in ourselves and in our world.

This year, parishes will offer in-person and online instruction for faith formation programs this year. Missy Sundblad, director of religious education at St. James Parish, told Catholic San Francisco that the parish was excited to be back in-person.

Lisa Veto, director of faith formation at St. Hilary Parish, commented that their programs, “endeavor to bring families into closer relationship with Jesus as children learn about and grow in the Catholic faith; and help make Jesus matter in the lives of our parish families.”

Echoing Veto’s message at St. Hilary’s, Sr. Celeste noted, “Our ministry speaks of hope in Jesus, the message that we so desperately need to hear in our hungry world today.”

Sr. Celeste also offered a word of encouragement to families to return to faith formation programs: “Just a word as we begin this program year – to parishes reach out to your children, youth and adults and invite them to come; to parents/guardians/ grandparents see to it that your children go to faith formation, receive their sacraments and go to Sunday mass; to all pray in this Year of St. Joseph that all will return and echo God’s word of love.”