Despite the soaring heat and traffic congestion from the Emmy Awards ceremony at the nearby Nokia Theatre, more than 2,000 women and men from Santa Maria to Long Beach — along with their family and friends — gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Sept. 23.The annual Service of Prayer and Commissioning honored those who have completed various catechetical formation programs in English and Spanish that included youth ministry, Catholic Bible Institute and master catechist certification. Of particular note: This was the first year that Catholic school teachers were invited to the Cathedral to receive their certificates for completion of the basic course in catechetical formation.From here, many will continue their studies and/or bring their knowledge of the faith to others in their schools, parishes and communities.The day heralded not only a completion of a commitment — some, like the master catechist program, require three years — but also a continuation of a personal faith journey. Rose Anna Principe Cruz, director of religious education at Sacred Heart Church in Lancaster, said her interest in Scripture and faith was sparked after she participated in a Bible Splash weekend years ago. “I had a little taste and I wanted more,” she said. Meeting with her fellow catechists monthly over the years, Cruz said the experience allowed her to “see things differently with the eyes of faith. It was transformational. God is my lamp and light, it’s that simple.”The bilingual service, with Archbishop José Gomez presiding, included songs, prayers and a distribution of certificates. Recipients approached the altar to greet the archbishop and, after accepting their certificates, received waves, applause and smiles from family members and friends.With her children and parents beaming in attendance, Stephanie Ramos received her certificate as a master catechist, a process she likened to “being back in college. The kids knew that when I was studying, they needed to shut off the TV and be quiet,” she said with a laugh.A DRE for 12 years at St. Anthony Church in San Gabriel, Ramos said the process inspired her so much that she is considering getting a master’s degree in Bible Studies. “This is just the beginning,” she explained. “This makes you want to reach for more.”During his reflection, Archbishop Gomez connected the day’s commissioning to the bigger picture of the New Evangelization. “We are living in times when the love of God grows cold in many hearts and large numbers are drifting away from the faith in Jesus Christ,” he said. “But people need someone to show them the way back to God. They are waiting for us to show them the way.”The archbishop also referred to the upcoming canonization of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha and Mother Marianne Cope, explaining that these two women are “great examples for us on how to be saints and missionaries. Each of you is called to be like them.”Indeed, many of the recipients understand that calling. “God keeps calling me and he touches our hearts even when we are tired and frustrated,” said Nancy Longo, one of four who received a certificate in advanced Bible Study Leadership. The DRE at St. Joseph Church in Long Beach, Longo says that working with adults in formation, which she is able to do with her training, is especially fulfilling. “When you see the light bulb turn, see that moment that God calls them, well, there’s nothing like it,” she said. “Perhaps it’s selfish of me, but I would like to see that more and more.”For Sergio Lopez, the program has deepened his faith and to “gently know our real faith from the inside out, to see how to put it to work every day.” A parishioner at St. Raphael Church in Santa Barbara, Lopez sees his calling as a way “to give hope to a lot of people who come to our church. We can bring the message of Christ to all those, especially those who need it the most.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/0928/catechist/{/gallery}