Having used all programs mentioned, this is my (ever so humble) opinion.
Page layout, especially for a catalog, would be easiest with
QuarkXPress. An Xtension can be purchased that will link your document
to a database, which is especially useful for catalog publishing.
Graphics: Depends on version. Prior to version 7 of both FreeHand and
Illustrator, I would have placed the two very close, and agreed that the
way you work probably would determine the best product for you. HOWEVER,
I am very disappointed with Illustrator 7, but am very pleased with
FreeHand 7. (Just so you know, I preferred Illustrator before). I think
FreeHand is now much more intuitive. Adobe is attempting to make all of
their apps work and look the same, and I think that this goal is
actually hurting the programs.
Image Manipulation: Depending on your catalog, you may or may not need
Photoshop. If doing any photographs, it is a must.
The learning curve mentioned by Kyle (I think) is very accurate. If your
background is not in computers, typesetting and design, plan to invest
quite a bit of time in learning the programs. Ideally you should hire a
trainer/consultant, or if time permits take some classes at a community
college. The beauty of hiring a trainer is that you can work on what you
specifically need to know, rather than getting "generic" training. (Yes,
I am in this profession! I teach XPress, PageMaker, Illustrator,
FreeHand and Photoshop, to name a few.)
Hope that helps, Timothy.