Each year Catholic parishes throughout the United States begin the catechesis of their young parishioners through religious education programs held in the evenings or on weekends for those who do not or are unable to attend Catholic schools.
The Church celebrates Catechetical Sunday this year on Sept. 18 with the theme: “Prayer: The Faith Prayed.”
“This year’s theme invites all the baptized — especially catechists and Catholic school teachers — to devote themselves to a deeper study and practice of prayer, for their own spiritual good and for the good of those they serve,” Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, chairman of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a letter on the USCCB web site.
Archbishop Blair suggests in his letter that people take time to read weekly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults to “open our minds and hearts to a deeper relationship with God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — present and at work in our lives.”
On a local level, parishes in the diocese enlist the assistance of adults in their parishes to assist in teaching and passing on the faith to the young people in parishes and, in the case of Notre Dame Academy in Belleville, to adults as well.
Jane Stock, co-CRE of the program, said an adult faith formation class has been offered, first through St. Peter Cathedral before the parish religious education — PSR — programs of St. Mary, St. Augustine and the cathedral were combined, and now at St. Mary where the classes are held.
Adults who drop off children for their classes are invited to stay for their own faith formation gatherings, led by Mike and Jeanette Marek.
Stock said the theme for the youth program this year is “This Little Light of Mine.”
“Each person,” Stock said, “has an individual light of Christ within them with the obligation to spread that light. Don’t hide the light.”
Stock has been a coordinator of religious education for 13 years, beginning she said, when many of her nieces and nephews began their classes through the cathedral.
Now, she continues to work with young people, along with Ann Bach, her co-CRE from St. Augustine.
“I love my faith,” Stock said. “Catholicism as a religion is fascinating, and faith is the key. When other things in life fail us, the Lord never fails us.”
Stock said she and Bach rely on email to keep teachers informed about upcoming events, answer questions, and send reminders out.
Because St. Augustine and the cathedral both have food pantries, reminders are sent out for young people to bring an item or two to be distributed to the two pantries.
The program has 21 sessions that run for an hour and 40 minutes each with a number of young people volunteering to help with the various classes, including at least one of Stock’s nephews as well as other high school students who see the value of passing on their faith to the next generation.
Doug Lugge co-teaches the fifth-grade class with his daughter, Olivia, this year in eighth grade.
In the past, Lugge co-taught the confirmation class with Bach, but decided to move to the fifth grade to teach the sacraments with his daughter.
In his 14th year, Lugge sees a great need for the parish religious education programs for young people who go to public schools.
Lugge said his father and mother had a great influence on him as a child growing up in the public schools and participating in a parish program.
“They led the program at St. Augustine’s that I attended. I know how important it is to have a Catholic education and to assist parents in faith formation,” Lugge said.
With his daughter, Olivia, who will be confirmed this year, he saw the opportunity to study the sacraments with the fifth-graders they will teach as a way for her to more fully appreciate the sacrament that she will receive this year. “This is my opportunity to give back and to help kids know that God loves them,” Lugge said.