Melkite Greek Catholic Church

Catechetical Sunday 2006

An Overview and Introduction

Office of Educational Services
Melkite Eparchy of Newton
1710 Surf Avenue - Belmar , NJ 07719
Voice 732-556-6917 - Cell 201-417-3804
Email -
Saint Stephen

The Beginning of the Indiction--The New Liturgical Year

The Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea in the year 325 adopted the first of September as the opening of the New Church Year and this day has been observed to the present time. The indiction of which we are speaking—for there were other indictions—is called the Byzantine (or Constantinopolitan or Constantinian) indiction which, except for Egypt, became mandatory throughout the Roman Empire. Justinian I (527-565) made dating by indiction compulsory for all legal documents.

We are aware of the way the year unfolds—the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God among the first observance. This birth is a prelude to the salvation that was promised to humanity. The Elevation of the Holy Cross follows soon after—focusing our attention upon this fulcrum of human history—the saving Cross of the Lord.

In the days that follow we learn more of the Christ—His Nativity, Baptism, and mission. We follow along through the blessed days of Lent to find the way to be joined with Him in Resurrection, and then experience the fullness of His grace through the Gift of the Church He gave us for the present day.

We learn to make the world alive with His spirit. And, in the spirit of the Apostles—for we commemorate on September 26 the death of St John the Theologian—the end of Scriptural input, and an impetus for a new era in our Church.

In many places the secular school year—and our parochial programs—also begin anew around this very same time. The anticipation of new experiences often motivates students and teachers alike to strive to take advantage of the opportunity to grow—in knowledge and in faith.

"Catechetical Sunday" has long been a feature in American religious education. What better way to open the school year than to co-incide with the new Church Year? You can tailor the first class to take advantage of the natural progression that flows from the local school year.

What follow is the troparion and prokeimenon verse for September 1, the first day of the Church New Year. You may wish to incorporate them with "Catechetical Sunday" observances. A suggested ceremony has been adapted from various euchologia:


Troparion (tone 2)
Fashioner of all creation, you fixed times and seasons by Your own authority; bless the crown of the year, O Lord, with Your goodness, preserving our nation and Your city in peace; and save us through the prayers of the Mother of God.

Prokeimenon (tone 3)

Great is our Lord, and great is His strength, and of His knowledge there is no end.

[The above is a troparion for September 1— it is included only as a reference point, to appreciate the connection between the Church year and the School year, which begins with a special commemoration, known as "Catechetical Sunday" for which the parishes are asked to set aside a date in early September.] For the beginning of the School Year, a petition for the Augumented Litany. During the Divine Liturgy the following may be inserted.

Deacon or Priest:

Again we pray that the Lord will enable these students to grow in wisdom, understanding and virtue, for the glory of His Holy Name; and that He would give them health and long life for the up-building of His Holy Church, we pray to You, Lord, hear and have mercy.

After the Ambo Prayer and the announcements, all of the school-age children and catechists come to the front of the church, where the priest reads the following prayer over them:

Deacon: Let us pray to the Lord

All: Amen!

Priest: O Lord, our God and Creator, You have honored us with Your own image, and You taught Your chosen disciples that the fear of You is the beginning of true wisdom. You revealed Your wisdom to children and taught Your law to Solomon and to all who have sought You in purity of heart. Open the hearts, the minds, and the lips of these students.

Enable them to receive the power of Your law, and to comprehend the useful things which will be taught them. Help them understand Your perfect will and contribute to the building up of Your holy Church. Deliver them from eVery' snare of the enemy, preserve them in the true faith, and righteousness and purity all the days of their lives. May they grow in wisdom and in the observance of Your commandments. May they be revealed as worshippers of Your name and heirs of Your Kingdom.

Bless also their teachers; grant that their words be free from every worldly deceit and vanity, and that they always clearly proclaim the word of Your truth. For You are God, the Author of Truth and the Fountain of Wisdom, and to You we render glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and always and for ever and ever.

All: Amen.

After the final "Amen," all of the school-age children (and catechists) approach the priest who sprinkles each one of them with holy water, saying:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: May you be preserved from all evil and falsehood, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

At the same time the catechists may be commissioned:

Commissioning and Blessing of Catechists

In conjunction with Catechetical Sunday, and/or on or near the feast of Saint John the Theologian, (September 26) Petition for the Augmented Litany: (may precede petition for blessing of children during the same Divine Liturgy)

We also pray for all of our catechists, that the Lord our God would send His all-holy Spirit to guide and strengthen them as they instruct our students, Lord, hear us and have mercy.

After the Ambo Prayer all of the catechists (and students) come to the front of the church, where the priest reads the following prayer over them. (may precede petition for blessing of children during the same Divine Liturgy)

Deacon: Let us pray to the Lord.

All: Lord, have mercy.

Priest: O Lord, Jesus Christ, our God: You revealed fishermen as wise teachers, and commanded them to make disciples of all nations. Look upon these catechists, who offer themselves in service to You and Your holy Church. Bless them, enlighten their minds, and help them to proclaim Your word in their daily lives. Let their faith and love radiate throughout our community, so that all who know them might desire to glorify our Father in heaven. Help them vanquish all fear. Empower them to overcome all fatigue. Fill them with love for their students, and drive from their classrooms every wile of the devil. May their lessons be filled with Your wisdom, so that all who hear them might be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. For You are the Wisdom of God, O Christ our Lord, and we render glory to You, together with Your Father and Your enlightening Spirit, now and always, and for ever and ever.

All: Amen.

Some parishes have the custom of presenting the catechists a copy of the Scriptures or another appropriate item. In either case, after the Dismissal,
the priest intones the God grant you many years" to the catechists, and they all approach him to receive a Blessing.


Two weeks prior to "Catechetical Sunday":

"Catechetical Sunday" is an annual observance at the onset of the instruction of our parish's students. In two weeks we will have a special blessing of our children (and their teachers) during the Divine Liturgy. (specify time, if needed). We ask that all students and faculty be present for this ceremony that emphasizes the importance of our teaching and learning ministry as Christians.

Week before "Catechetical Sunday":

Next Sunday, an important ceremony will take place in our parish. The importance of religious instruction will be emphasized. Special prayers for the Beginning of the School Year will be included during the Divine Liturgy. (specify time, if needed) We will give authority to our catechists, and implore God's Wisdom upon them and their students, for whom we will also pray, and bless. All instructors and students are reminded to be present.

"Catechetical Sunday":

Today we are pleased to celebrate an important event in our parish life. The children and the adults who teach them are here to pray together—and to be blessed—at the start of a new School Year. This coincides with several other important events: the Beginning of the Church New Year; The Nativity of the Mother of God; the Elevation of the Holy Cross; and the death of the Apostle, John, the Theologian, which are key moments in our spiritual life and growth. We join the history of the Church in this ceremony today to our own. God grant his servants, our students and teachers many happy years!

Sunday following "Catechical Sunday"

Last Sunday ____ (#) students and ___ (#) teachers received special blessings as they embarked on a new step in their journey toward Heaven. Keep them in your prayers, encourage the students and their parents in their studies, and ask God's enlightenment upon them and those who accepted the responsibility to teach them through lessons, activities and example the Way of our Lord.

Office of Educational Services
Melkite Eparchy of Newton
1710 Surf Avenue - Belmar , NJ 07719
Voice 732-556-6917 - Cell 201-417-3804
email -


The coordination of a parish catechetical program, of whatever size, has a number of dimensions Each of these aspects utilizes different skills and presumes different abilities. They may all be done by one individual, in which case that person is probably a paid church staff person. In communities where these tasks are done by part time or volunteer ministers, several people may assume various parts of the supervisory role. In either case, the goal of parishes committed to strong catechetical programming should be to se that all these tasks are the responsibility of someone in the community.

A catechetical program coordinator's responsibilities are often seen in terms of: direction, formation, and management.

By "Direction" we mean decision-making in the program: who determines what will happen on the various levels of catechesis in the parish. By "Formation" we mean, besides the implementation of programs directed at general parish membership, those aspects of teaching done by the supervisors themselves, eg. The training of catechists. Finally, by "Management" we mean the attention to logistics which can be expected in any program.

The individual tasks are many. An overview of the aspects in coordinating a program follow. A fuller treatment of these topics will be given in future chapters.

On the Level of Direction

Program Planning
The determination of programs needed in the community, both regular ongoing programs (such as the church school, sacramental preparation, adult enrichment, etc.) and special programs (such as retreats, feastday observances, end of year celebrations, etc.)
Curriculum Design
The selection of materials for use in church school programs, from pre-school through high school levels as well as family programs. Note: The use of certain materials is mandated in the diocese.

On the Level of Formation

Catechist Recruitment, Training, and Support
Working with your catechetical personnel is the most important aspect of program coordination. It involves communicating a sense of ministry, providing the spiritual and pedagogical resources needed for the work at hand, and supporting the catechists in their commitment to the Lord in the catechetical ministry.
Working with Parents
It is essential to the success of your programs for children and youth that parents develop a commitment to the values and goals you are promoting. Organized programs (such as orientation days, open houses, parenting programs), church school parents' associations, or pastoral visitations help to involve the entire family in the effort of catechesis.
Working with Persons with Special Needs
Every program has some students who do not fit into the average categories (catch-up students, language problems, erratic attendees). Special approaches may have to be taken in these circumstances.

On the Level of Management

Class Design and Scheduling
The placement of catechists and students in appropriate groupings, the combining of classes, and the involvement of substitutes should follow standard patterns to insure consistency.
The development of efficient systems of record keeping, registration, and calendar formation for your programs
Keeping your program highly visible to the parish at large through written communications, displays, and presentations helps make the entire community feel a part of what you are doing
The selection and arrangement of facilities appropriate to your program helps provide a supportive atmosphere to catechists and student alike.
Your program should include a library stocking the various supplementary resources called for in your curriculum and the equipment necessary to use them as well as items for the personal enrichment of the catechists.
What you should expect from the parish as a whole in terms of financial support and what the parish should expect from you in terms of an appropriate budget and accountability.

Questions for Reflection

Based on the tasks indicated above, write your own job description, listing those tasks for which you accept responsibility.

Go through the list again. Determine who is to be responsible for the tasks you do not undertake


Catechist Formation

Office of Educational Services

Office of Educational Services
Melkite Eparchy of Newton
1710 Surf Avenue - Belmar , NJ 07719
Voice 732-556-6917 - Cell 201-417-3804
Email -


Since the rise of Protestantism in the West religious education has been more and more considered the task of the school, whether it be a day school or Sunday school format. As a result our model of catechesis is too often assumed to be the classroom and the model catechist is the classroom teacher.

While professional teachers are indispensable to our programs because of their group management and communication skills, we still must recognize that our model catechist is not the classroom teacher but the pastor. The task of the classroom teacher is often seen as communicating a knowledge of this or that subject. The task of the catechist is more than that. Like the pastor, the catechist is a leader of worship, both the prayer sessions in the class and - as role model - the regular liturgical life of the parish. Children know when their catechist is at Liturgy, at vespers, at other services and whether they are participating actively or not.

Like the pastor, the catechist may be drawn into the lives of the students—their joys, their problems, their home life—both to share and sometimes to counsel. Like the pastor, the catechist may find special moments outside the formal class time to witness their faith to both the students and their families. Like pastors, catechists have been given a "charge": a group of people to whom they minister and for whom they are responsible to the Lord. The parish priest may have 100 families in his charge while the catechist has three. Still, there are more similarities between catechist and pastor, than between catechist and public school teacher.


Which model we follow has consequences as to how we view the formation of catechists. If our model for catechesis is the classroom, we will stress classroom techniques; if we follow the pastoral model suggested above, our formation will have a different emphasis. It will stress the interior conversion and growth to which every serious Christian is called and which is particularly expected of anyone serving the Church in ministry. No one can help others grow in the Christian life without living it themselves.

Related to this is the fact that, at this time and place in the life of our Church, we have come to realize that we do not know our spiritual heritage as we ought. Most of us were not raised in a living experience of authentic Eastern Church life. We need to rediscover what is authentically - Eastern Christian, sometimes from scratch. The number of catechists who freely admit that they did not know anything about the contents of the books they are teaching from bears witness to this.

These needs have determined the structure of the Interdiocesan Catechist Formation and Adult Enrichment Program sponsored by the ECDD (see Section 6, below), which also publishes most of the materials used in our parish programs. The program concentrates on raising awareness of our Eastern spiritual heritage and applying this awareness to discern the vision of our catechetical curriculum. The basic theology, liturgy, spirituality and ethics of the Christian East become the focus for reflection and application to the catechetical session.

The ECDD program presents this material in a number of courses listed below, each of which consists of six topic sessions. The course texts, indicated in italics, are available through Theological Book Service.

  1. Introduction to Catechist Formation — An exploration of the fundamentals of service as a catechist: the call, the tasks, the background of catechesis in general and the importance of personal formation (text: Discerning Your Call).
  2. Elements of Holy Tradition — A look at Tradition as the ongoing operation of the Holy Spirit; an examination of various outward forms of this Tradition (Scripture, Church Fathers, creeds and councils, liturgy and iconography) and how the Spirit works in them (text: Stream of Living Water).
  3. Introduction to Eastern Theology — A reflection on the basic teachings of the Nicene Creed: the mystery of God, God's self-revelation, Christ as the fullness of that revelation, and the Spirit as the presence of God with us now. The Church, the Body of Christ, and the life of the world to come are also discussed (text: With Eyes of Faith).
  4. Introduction to Eastern Spirituality — The Byzantine approach to faith, worship and prayer along with the place of asceticism community and service as our personal response to God's self revelation are considered (text: The Face of God).
  5. Introduction to Eastern Liturgy — The spirit informing our liturgical tradition, the daily and yearly cycles n Byzantine worship, liturgical space and the roles of the liturgical ministers in our tradition are presented, along with a basic exploration of the Divine Liturgy (text: Life and Worship).
  6. Catechesis: Forming a People — Exploration of what constitutes a total parish formation program, including catechesis for adults, children and youth. (texts: The Parish Catechetical Program and A Vision of Youth Ministry).
  7. Introduction to Eastern Christian Moral Thought — The Eastern approach to this subject relates righteousness of living to the holiness of life which is ours through baptism (text: Shown to be Holy).
  8. The Old Testament — Topics for these sessions include how the Eastern Churches see the Old Testament, its place in Christian life, and how its types are fulfilled in the New Testament. (text: The Old Testament: a Byzantine Perspective).
  9. Aspects of Eastern Catholic Church History — Major periods considered include the apostolic Church and the age of the martyrs, the golden age and monasticism, the missionary period and adaptation to culture, the pluralism, fragmentation and movements to unity in the Church, and the Church in America (text: To the Ends of the Earth).

Other courses projected will cover the following topics: the Holy Mysteries: the Sanctification of Life, The New Testament, Prayer, The Divine Liturgy, Deification: Main Theme of the Church Fathers and Spirituality and Personal Growth.

These courses are given in a variety of formats in centers serving Byzantine parishes throughout the country. In areas where there are several parishes in geographical proximity, courses are offered on an inter-parish basis. Such a model enables catechists to become acquainted with their counterparts in other Byzantine parishes and to share ideas with them. Where such cooperative offerings are not possible, courses may be offered for an Individual parish. In either case the six sessions may be held in all day seminar, half day or evening formats.

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