I don’t think my niece, Kathleen, will mind if I share the story of an e-mail she sent to me not long ago. Her 5-year-old son Kevin, a bright and curious child, began to ask questions about God, Jesus, the Blessed Mother and church. While Kathleen would have felt reasonably comfortable in conversing with adults about such themes, she was uncertain about how best to respond to such questions from her little boy. How much is enough? Can you suggest some age-appropriate language and concepts to help me?
Experience has taught me that in responding to the questions of children, it helps to respond as simply and directly as one possibly can. But, I had to confess to myself that I didn’t have ready answers for the specific questions Kevin raised to his mother. What I did have was the resources of our Department of Evangelization and Catechesis. I asked for the help of Maribeth Mancini and Shannon Loughlin, who made some practical, simple suggestions, and who also recommended some resources that Kathleen might find helpful now and in the future. I forwarded those suggestions to Kathleen. Within a day or two, she sent her thanks for the suggestions Maribeth and Shannon offered to her. They eased her mind because they helped her connect with her son in a matter very important to both of them.
I think of that story because Sunday, Sept. 20, is Catechetical Sunday. On that day, parishes typically call forth and commission those who will be serving as catechists in their community for the year 2009-10. It is a wonderful time for us to recognize, pray for and support those who devote themselves to helping parents hand on the faith to their children. It also offers to all of us a wonderful opportunity to reflect on our common baptismal call to share our own faith and to be a witness to the Gospel.
A recent experience reminded me of how blessed we are to have women and men who are ready, willing and able to dedicate themselves to this critically important ministry. The event was a gathering of some 65 catechists from several regional parishes who gathered for a day of enrichment at St. Joseph, Penfield.
The organizers of the event invited me to spend some time with them to thank the catechists for their generous dedication, to offer them encouragement and to share with them whatever I thought might be helpful to them in their ministry.
I drew great inspiration from their company and our conversation. Some of the reasons for that: Let’s start with their freely giving up the best part of a Saturday in September to prepare to serve our children. I also was much taken by the reverence and respect with which they spoke about both their ministry and the young people whom they serve. And, I add that I was touched by the number of participants who spoke about how their work in this ministry fostered their own spiritual growth. I knew exactly what they were saying because, while I was invited to minister to them on that fine Saturday morning, they were truly strengthening my faith and deepening my hope. For those gifts, I express my sincere thanks.
Please pray for our catechists. Thank them as often as you can. Cooperate with them in all ways possible.
Peace to all.