Home Education and Careers Seeing Christ: Schools leader hopes to provide ‘information, formation and transformation’ in...

Seeing Christ: Schools leader hopes to provide ‘information, formation and transformation’ in Catholic education

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Second-grader Alba Loatman reads aloud at Cathedral of St. Peter School. Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens

There are 9,500 children and teens attending 30 parish, diocesan and private Catholic schools in the Diocese of Wilmington. Lou De Angelo, the diocese’s superintendent of schools, says the main reasons parents in the diocese choose to send those students to Catholic schools are for faith, values and academics.

“People choosing us for the first time, generally choose us for academics,” De Angelo said, “secondly, for safety; third discipline; then fourth, faith development.”

But, De Angelo said, when parents have children in Catholic schools over time, “the faith formation” priority “moves up on their list and usually rivals the academics and they come to us for two reasons: faith formation and academics.

Each year, parish- and diocesan-run schools are all helped by contributions to the Annual Catholic Appeal.

Contributions to the Appeal help more than 30 ministries in the diocese.

Commitment Weekend is planned for April 25-26 when in-pew solicitation will be conducted at parish Masses. Parishioners will be invited to support the Appeal by pledging a financial commitment conducive to their household budget.

“Seeing Christ in the Faces of Others,” the theme of this year’s Appeal, is at the heart of the mission of Catholic education, De Angelo said. “Teachers and administrators dedicate themselves to Catholic schools because they see Christ in the faces of their students. They teach their pupils to see Christ’s face in others.”

“We talk about Catholic education doing three things,” De Angelo said, information, formation and transformation. “Information, much the work of the school is an easier task than formation,” the superintendent said. “Formation is partly the work of the school, but it’s also the work of the family,” De Angelo added. The third task of Catholic education is “transformation,” De Angelo said. “I always emphasize that the transformational piece doesn’t work, if parents rely on the school to do the whole thing. We can teach students to pray, but the parents have to pray with them. We can teach them how to receive the sacraments, but the parents have to bring them. We can teach them about the Mass, but again, the parents have to bring them.”

When transformation is accomplished, “we see people “who make a difference” in the community. “When we say ‘see the face of Christ in others,’ that’s where you’re going to see it, in the market place where people are doing the jobs … with an attitude that reflects who they are and who we are.” That’s really what we hope happens in our schools.”

De Angelo credits the dedication of teachers and administrators and in his secretariat, the Catholic Education Department, for inculcating those values in youth and young adults in diocesan schools and ministries.

While some of Appeal funds go directly to schools, De Angelo said the campaign allows the Office of Catholic Education to do its work with a “four-person office.” That staff is down from six people in the recent past.

“It’s tight,” De Angelo admitted. “I would honestly say we haven’t compromised on any of the programs or services we offered when the staff was larger. I’m just so blessed to work with great people here.”

Beyond his schools’ superintendent job, De Angelo, as secretary of the Catholic Education Department, also oversees the Office for Religious Education and the Marriage and Family Life Office, both directed by Colleen Lindsey; and the offices for Catholic Youth and Young Adult Ministry, CYM Sports, and Campus Ministry, all directed by Dan Pin.

The Diocese’s Youth Ministry programs begin in parishes after students receive confirmation, so they are typically designed for 7th and 8th graders through high school, Pin said.

Considering his multiple titles, Pin traced them through the natural progression of elementary and high schools to “college kids, who are about to become young adults who get married and begin family life.”

Two of the ministry’s biggest programs beyond the parish level are the annual Cross Pilgrimage, when young people process with Bishop Malooly through the streets of Wilmington on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, and the Recognition Dinner.

The pilgrimage “gives young people a chance to walk together, pray together, experience and celebrate their faith together” in a public way,” Pin said. “It’s something Bishop Malooly brought to the diocese and he loves it. I love it.” The annual Recognition Dinner honors youth and youth ministry volunteers. This year, Pin said, his office is planning a diocesan conference for middle school and high school-aged youth; that’s set for Nov. 8.

In help for young adults in their faith, Pin said the Catholic Youth Ministry advisory board now has four young adult members who are adding their voices on the challenges they and their friends are facing.

“The largest problem that young adults face is often isolation,” Pin said. When they graduate college and start a career, often away from home, “they end up on their own in a new job. Then they go to a parish where there are few peers their age… So we try to gather them together.”

That gathering, Pin said, is WilCYA, for Wilmington Catholic Young Adults, a young adult ministry group that meets once a month for spiritual and social activities. WilCYA members plan the group’s activities, Pin said. For example, “They have a ‘Drinking with the Saints’ event. One of the members will host a dinner and a priest. They invite the priest to talk on a saint and the priest gets to pick the food, the drink and the saint.” WilCYA has a Facebook page and can also be contacted at wilcya.info@gmail.com
This year, Pin said the diocese’s youth and young adults programs are modeling their missions on Pope Francis’s 2019 exhortation to young people, “Christus Vivit” (“Christ is Alive), which was the pope’s response to the discussion held by the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, faith and vocational discernment.
The papal document is “a great resource for us to have as a starting point” for youth programs, Pin said, adding he hopes all youth and young adult leaders will learn the messages of “Christus Vivit” to help their mission to see the face of Christ in the young.

For more information on the all the Diocese of Wilmington ministries helped by the Annual Catholic Appeal, contact Deborah Fols, director of the Development Office at 302-573-3120 or dfols@cdow.org