The theme for this year’s Catechetical Sunday is essential to our ministry as catechists: Safeguarding the Dignity of Every Human Person. As catechists, we are charged with this task in different ways.
First, we are charged with safeguarding the dignity of those in our classes. We do this by treating each child with loving respect and by ensuring that each child has an opportunity to share his or her unique gifts and perspectives. In this way, we not only model how the children should treat others, but we also show each child that he or she has dignity and is worthy to be treated with respect. Often we have no idea what kind of challenges our children face outside of our classroom; the simple experience of being shown respect and love, of having choices, and of being valued can make a great difference.
Second, we are charged with teaching the children about their own human dignity and the dignity of others. While modeling respect is important, we must explicitly teach it within the context of our faith. When younger children learn about God’s creation, they discover that they too have been created good by a God who loves them. Since children use stories to make sense of the world around them, we present them with vivid examples from the Gospels of how we are to treat one another. As children grow, they will identify more and more with their peer group. To the extent that their peer group does not reflect what the Church teaches about human dignity, this can pose a real challenge. Young people must be reminded constantly and led to discover that God created them out of love for a unique purpose. Their ultimate happiness lies in living their vocation, not in following the crowd. Encouraging youth to take seriously their roles as disciples gives them a mission to see the dignity in and show respect to those outcast by their peers.
This Catechetical Sunday reminds us that human dignity rests in the fact that we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26–27). It is also a time to commission those of us who have been called to serve in this wonderful ministry. In addition, it is a time for the entire community to rededicate itself to sharing the Gospel. Here are some ideas to make this year’s Catechetical Sunday special.
- Distribute a blank paper cutout of a person to each child enrolled in the parish’s religious education program and invite them to draw or write about themselves to show how they are made special by God. Hang these cut-outs around the church or social hall as a backdrop for your parish celebration.
- Invite families after Mass to gather for doughnuts and a service project. For example, you could make sandwiches and lunch bags for a local homeless shelter. Include a prayer for the dignity of those people who are the beneficiaries of your service project.
- Use this year’s theme as an opportunity to provide additional training and resources for your catechists. Brainstorm ways to create inclusive lesson plans and classrooms. Reach out to parents whose children are not enrolled in your classes and offer them a personal invitation. Show that you are not only prepared for their child but that you sincerely want their child to be a part of your program.
For more ideas on celebrating Catechetical Sunday, see this page of resources from Loyola Press. What plans does your parish have for celebrating Catechetical Sunday?