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Back to Basics
by Mary Elizabeth Sperry
The beginning of a new learning year is a great time to focus on fundamentals.
The beginning of a new learning year is a great time to focus on fundamentals.

This year’s Catechetical Sunday theme (usccb.org/catecheticalsunday) calls us to focus on an essential task of catechesis: proclamation of the Word. This task comes to us directly from Christ in the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel (28:19-20). As the National Directory for Catechesis (NDC) explains, “Christ first directs his apostles to go, to set out in all directions with a specific goal in their hearts: to proclaim his Gospel and bring people into communion with God” (n. 1). In the same way, each person called to participate in the ministry of catechesis (parents, pastors, teachers, catechists, sponsors, etc.) must proclaim Christ’s Gospel message in word and deed and invite others into a relationship with the living Jesus Christ through his Body, the Church.

Our privileged place for proclamation of the Word and communion with the Body of Christ is in the Eucharistic Liturgy, especially the Sunday liturgy. “The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God's word and of Christ's body” (Dei Verbum, n. 21).

* Do you encourage your students to attend Sunday Mass with their families?
* Do you discuss the Sunday readings or the Sunday homily in your catechetical sessions?
* Do your classroom prayers reflect the liturgical season? (You can find the opening prayers for the various Sundays and feasts of the year in the Sacramentary or in a participation aid.)
* Do you stress the importance of attending the entire liturgy—from the opening song to the final blessing?
* Do you model active participation in the liturgy when you attend Mass with your students?

In your catechetical sessions, you can take several steps to help students recognize the presence of Christ in Sacred Scripture:

*Encourage families to read or listen to the Sunday readings before attending Mass. (The printed text and audio files of each day’s readings are available for free at usccb.org/nab. Include this URL on any materials you send home to parents.)
*Whenever possible, read Scripture passages from the Bible rather than a textbook. Students should be comfortable looking up Scripture passages.
*Always treat the Bible with respect. Help students, no matter how young, recognize that the Bible is not just another book. If possible, place an open Bible in a prominent place in the classroom. Encourage families to enthrone the Bible in their homes. (A prayer service for enthroning the Bible in the home is available online at usccb.org/catecheticalsunday/family-enthronment-bible.shtml.)
*Encourage students to keep a “word in action” journal, listing ways that they lived the Gospel call of Jesus (e.g., obeying a parent willingly, helping a classmate catch up with school work after an illness, welcoming a new student, assisting an elderly neighbor with chores, etc.).
*Help the students learn to pray with Scripture. The Psalms and the letters of St. Paul are particularly well-suited for classroom prayer. The students can read them aloud in unison or in parts (girls/boys, right/left sides of classroom, etc.). Primary grade students can begin with a simple prayer verse such as Psalm 119:105. Middle school students can learn Psalm 1 and Psalm 23. Older students might recite Psalm 34 or Psalm 103. Also appropriate are the great Christian hymns such as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), the Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79), Philippians 2:5-11, and Colossians 1:15-20.

The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that “the word of God is living and effective” (4:12). Let your catechesis help the Word come to life in your students’ hearts to make them more effective witnesses to the Gospel.


Mary Elizabeth Sperry is the Associate Director for USCCB Permissions and NAB Utilization at USCCB Publishing. She serves as staff to the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine which is responsible for the development, publication, and distribution of the New American Bible and the promotion of biblical literacy.



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