The third Sunday of September in the United States is celebrated as Catechetical Sunday in honor to acknowledge and commission those who are catechists. In his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, Pope John Paul II, said, “Among the laity who become evangelizers, catechists have a place of honor…Catechists are among those who have received Christ’s command to ‘go and teach all nations.’”
In the General Directory for Catechesis (#225) one of the tasks proper to the presbyterate and particularly to parish priests is: “to foster a sense of common responsibility for catechesis in the Christian community, a task which involves all, and a recognition and appreciation for catechists and their mission.” The celebration of Catechetical Sunday provides a means to do this.
The idea of establishing a catechetical day in each parish was brought to light by Popes Pius X and Pius XI. On January 12, 1935, the Sacred Congregation of the Council (now the Congregation for the Clergy) issued Provido sane consilio (On the Better Care and Promotion of Catechetical Education) suggesting that such a day exist in every parish. From paragraph 25 of this instruction, the day should be one in which:
- The faithful should be called together in the parish, and having received the Holy Eucharist, they should pray to obtain greater fruit from catechesis (divine teaching)
- A special sermon should be preached to the people on the necessity of catechetical instruction. Parents are to be told their duty to instruct their children in Catholic doctrine and to send them to parish catechism (religion) classes.
- Books, pamphlets, and other material suitable for the purpose should be distributed.
- A collection may be taken up for the promotion of catechetical works.
The first celebration of national catechetical day in the United States was held on October 30, 1935 in Rochester, New York. By 1944, the practice was evident in every state of the union and by 1955 most dioceses had opted for the third Sunday in September for its celebration.
Since this was decreed by a Vatican congregation, it should be universal, but little is published in on it in other nations.
For information and resources pertaining to Catechetical Sunday, be sure to visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website.