By Andy Sparke
Rio Grande Catholic
Religious formation Catechists in the Diocese of El Paso will participate in a special “Catechist’s Kermes” Sept. 20 at the Pastoral Center.
The bazaar-like event — with the theme “Soy Catecista” — will precede the celebration of Catechetical Sunday, Sept. 21, said Dr. Veronica Rayas, diocesan director of Religious Formation.
“It will feature faith-based games as well as free food and a chile con Queso Cook-off for catechists and their families,” she said. We will gather affirm the catechetical ministry in the diocese.
Approximately 2,500 catechists provide religious formation for various age groups throughout the diocese, including rural West Texas, Rayas said.
On Catechetical Sunday parishes traditionally commission and send forth the catechists who serve in the parish religious formation programs. This year’s Catechetical Sunday theme “Teaching About God’s Gift of Forgiveness.” Focuses on the sacrament of reconciliation.
“Whether you confess regularly, or this is the first time in a long time, may this be your moment to draw near to the confessional with confidence to celebrate the tender loving mercy of God,” said Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, chairman of the Evangelization and Catechesis committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a message to U.S. Catholics.
Pope Francis has encouraged Catholics to return to confession at some of his Wednesday general audiences and even modeled the practice during a Lenten penance service this year in St. Peter’s Basilica.
“Even before anyone of us can consider seeking forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance, we know God is already at work in our hearts,”
Bishop Ricken said. “God the Father pursues us down the byways of our life, intent to restore and share with us in greater measure a life of grace and union with him, which was secured at so great a cost through the saving death of his Son. The Spirit helps us to discern where sinfulness has wounded and enslaved us, and creates in us, the penitents, a readiness to embrace ongoing conversion of life through sorrow for sins, sacramental confession through the ministry of the priest, and a firm purpose of amendment.”
The bishop noted that a variety of materials have been prepared to assist pastors, parish catechists, Catholic school teachers and the faithful in celebrating Catechetical Sunday, not only in September, but also throughout the 2014-2015 year.
Resources for the observance of Catechetical Sunday include a guide for clergy, “Preaching About the Gift of God’s Forgiveness,” by Father John Guthrie, USCCB’s associate director of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, a teaching aid by Jesuit Father Peter Ryan, USCCB’s executive director of Doctrine, and a catechist in- service by Father Louis Cameli of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Catechetical Sunday, which is observed on the third Sunday in September, is a celebration of catechists and all teachers of the Catholic faith. Many parishes commission those who serve in catechetical ministry on Catechetical Sunday. The U.S. bishops have provided resources for Catechetical Sunday since 1971. More information is available at: www.usccb.org/
The Religious Formation Office of the El Paso Diocese conducts a formation program for catechists to help them gain the theological knowledge, creative skills, and pastoral abilities for the ministry, Rayas said.
The office’s report for 2013 showed more than 800 catechists taking part in the program at 14 locations throughout the diocese.
‘Catechist Kermes’ to open religious formation year
Other activities conducted and sponsored by the Religious Formation office were:
The Religious Formation Conference which brings together local and national presenters in a format that allows catechists to experience liturgy, formation and Community in one event, Rayas said. Conciertos de alabanza y oración on prayer and worship are offered in Spanish to help raise funds to cover the cost of the Religious Formation Conference.
Publishers Day gives pastors, parish catechetical leaders, and coordinators opportunity to review approved textbook materials and meet with publishers’ representatives.
The Confirmation Youth Celebration unites young people throughout the Diocese in a joyful event emphasizing the meaning of the sacrament they have received.
A Scanlan Foundation grant has allowed parishes to obtain religious instruction materials for those with special needs at a nominal cost. Advent and Lenten retreats are held for Parish Catechetical Leaders. And Coordinators
In-service days help Parish Catechetical Leaders continue their formation and stay current on issues.
The Religious Formation Office serves the parishes in rural West Texas through catechetical training and the formation of catechists to serve in the parishes.
Maria Guadalupe Rodriguez de Gonzalez, coordinator of religious formation for rural West Texas, travels to 20 communities in nine counties each month to assist the catechists in these far flung communities.