The head of the U.S. bishops' catechesis and evangelization committee has called upon Catholics to draw closer to Christ by deepening their understanding of the sacraments during the Year of Faith.  

"The Seven Sacraments continue the saving work of Jesus until he comes again and form the center of the celebration of the Christian mystery," said Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay.

He explained that through the Church's ministry, "all are invited to hear the Good News, follow Christ and share in these saving mysteries."

Sacramental participation, particularly in the Eucharist, is "foundational to sustain the faithful in union with the very life of the Trinity and to strengthen them for the rigors of living their faith as committed disciples," he said.

In a letter to his brother bishops on Oct. 4, Bishop Ricken suggested the use of a resource developed by the committee, "Sacramental Catechesis: An Online Resource for Dioceses and Eparchies."

The document is intended for use by bishops and diocesan leaders in "developing or enhancing programs for sacramental catechesis."

It offers ideas on confronting modern challenges in teaching about the sacraments ahead of the Year of Faith, which begins on Oct. 11 as an opportunity for Catholics around the world to deepen their faith.

"Full participation in the sacramental life of the Church is essential to sustain the faithful in pursuit of a life of committed discipleship," the document says.

It emphasizes the importance of the sacraments, through which the faithful encounter Christ and receive grace.

Through Baptism, we enter into the Church, an ecclesial communion that "finds its greatest expression within the Eucharist," it says, explaining that the sacraments offer a "privileged moment of encounter with God," which, when "accepted in faith, has a tremendous transformative power to it."

The resource notes that there are "encouraging signs of vitality" in the U.S. Church today, but also "signs for concern," including skepticism of religious leaders and institutions, low levels of sacramental participation and inadequate faith formation.

Among the contemporary challenges to sacramental catechesis are the forces of secularism, relativism and a "faulty" anthropology that leads to mistaken ideas about the human person, it explains.

In addition, it acknowledges, a "weakened sacramental worldview" is common among believers, and many Catholics are leaving the Church.

To address these challenges, dispel confusion and promote a full sacramental life in the Church, "a vibrant and doctrinally sound sacramental catechesis is needed," the document says.

The resource offers "specific guidance for doctrinally and pastorally sound catechesis for each of the sacraments."

It also discusses special opportunities for sacramental catechesis, including outreach to the sick, homebound and disabled, families, diverse cultural groups and marriages in which one individual is not Catholic.

"Sacramental catechesis is both preparatory and a lifelong process," the document says, acknowledging the importance of gearing such catechesis "in content and method to meet the unique learning needs of individuals."

In addition, it encourages the use of social media to reach out to those who might not otherwise hear the Church's message.

As part of the New Evangelization, it explains, the faithful are called not only to proclaim the Gospel to those who have never heard it, but also to re-propose the Good News "to those who are baptized members of the Church but who have lost a living sense of the faith."