Hundreds filled the pews at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Downtown Los Angeles the afternoon of Sept. 13 for this year’s Catechist Commissioning Prayer Service, which honors Catholics from across the archdiocese who have successfully completed catechetical formation programs.

Archbishop José H. Gomez presided at the service, joined by newly-ordained Bishop Robert E. Barron — the recently appointed episcopal vicar of the Santa Barbara Pastoral Region — to officially commission the new and continuing catechists, who have completed between six months and three years of study in youth ministry, Catholic Bible Institute, master catechist certification, and/or other catechetical programs.

During the service they were each invited to approach the altar to accept their completion certificates, and to greet both the archbishop and Bishop Barron.

During his homily, the archbishop stressed that it is the responsibility of all Catholics to “sow the seeds of faith.” He lauded the hundreds of men and women in attendance who have made the extra effort to live their faith and embrace their call to discipleship by studying to serve as catechists for their parish communities.

“It is our Christian duty to venture out and share with others the beauty of our faith, and that’s what you are all doing in your ministry as catechists — sowing the word of God with joy … being joyful ministers of the Gospel,” said Archbishop Gomez. “We should all be apostles of Jesus Christ in our daily lives.”

During the service he requested prayers for Pope Francis as the date of his highly-anticipated U.S. trip nears. (He is scheduled to arrive in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 22.) During his five-day visit the pope will canonize Blessed Junípero Serra, a Spanish-born Franciscan Friar who helped launch nine missions across California during the 1700s. The canonization Mass will be held on Sept. 23 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Just as Junípero Serra’s dedication to establishing the California missions has served as a spiritual inspiration for subsequent generations, the devotion of today’s catechists is inspiring for Father Chris Bazyouros, director of the archdiocesan Office of Religious Education. The priest pointed this out during the presentation of certificates.

“All of you inspire me, because you are devoting yourselves wholeheartedly … to sharing your faith,” said Father Bazyouros. “Always forward, as Junípero Serra would say to inspire people … to continue to live out our faith. You inspire me so much to work hard, so that we can continue to transmit this wonderful faith.”

For Alma Lorena Caceres, a parishioner at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church in Los Angeles, where she leads parenting/family classes, the decision to pursue her master catechist certification went hand-in-hand with her desire to strengthen her ability to “help create happier homes, better students and stronger families.”

“In the home is where it all begins … especially for children,” Caceres told The Tidings. She said she hopes to share her Catholic faith not only through teaching classes, but also by serving as a living example to those around her every day.

“I believe that many of us are called to [be disciples], but few of us answer that call,” continued Caceres. “By becoming a master catechist I become stronger in my faith and closer to Christ, which allows me to be the salt and light to others.”

According to Matilde Valencia of St. Helen Church in South Gate, who became certified in Bible Studies, taking the certification classes is about growing and strengthening his own Catholicism as well as sharing the Gospel with others.

“As a priest once told me, having faith doesn’t happen by having it rain down on you,” he recalled. Rather, the priest explained to Valencia, it’s a lifelong process, containing peaks and valleys, with moments of doubts and difficulties, even for the most fervent of believers.

“It’s something you have to work on daily with prayer, asking God to help grow your faith,” he said. “I want to do that for myself and for others.”