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Parish catechists’ awesome job: Bringing children to faith in Jesus

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Dialog Editor

“You bring children to Jesus,” John Collins told about 140 catechists from the Diocese of Wilmington at Catechetical Day, March 11 at St. Thomas More Academy in Magnolia.

“It’s not all about facts and memorizing; it’s about getting to the heart and then the action of living our faith,” Collins, a national speaker for W.H. Sadlier, told the religious educators and parish directors of religious education at the day’s afternoon assembly.

He called on parish catechists to have joy and enthusiasm in their work.

“You are the ones that have the hospitality” to make students and their parents feel welcome at religious ed programs, Collins added. “What an awesome job.”

Christopher Miller (left) and Jill Rauch, catechists at St. John the Apostle Parish in Milford, were honored by Bishop Malooly for their five years of teaching religious education. Catechists in the diocese were honored for their anniversaries of teaching at Catechetical Day, March 11, at St. Thomas More Academy in Magnolia. (Photo courtesy of St. Thomas More Academy)

Christopher Miller (left) and Jill Rauch, catechists at St. John the Apostle Parish in Milford, were honored by Bishop Malooly for their five years of teaching religious education. Catechists in the diocese were honored for their anniversaries of teaching at Catechetical Day, March 11, at St. Thomas More Academy in Magnolia. (Photo courtesy of St. Thomas More Academy)

Collins’ talk followed a morning presentation to the catechists by Father Joseph W. McQuaide, vice chancellor and coordinator of the Office of Worship, on “Rooting What We Do in Who We Are and What He Did.”

Colleen L. Lindsey, director of the Office for Religious Education, welcomed the religious educators to the program, and Bishop Malooly, after leading an opening prayer, honored parish catechists who are celebrating significant anniversaries, working in parish programs this year. (See list on page 6.)

Collins, while highlighting the crucial role each catechist plays in embodying the faith and passing it on to children, outlined the pillars, tasks and mission of religious education.

That mission, he said, is the same as Christ’s commissioning of his disciples, found in St. Matthew: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

The pillars supporting that catechist mission, Collins said, are the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Creed, the sacraments and prayer.

Those pillars support religious education, which Collins noted is about teaching the faith, celebrating liturgy and sacraments, praying with the students, moral instruction that helps them make good choices, teaching how to live the faith and how to apply the faith.

Collins urged the educators to think of catechesis as a ministry.

“Catechesis is what God calls us to do,” said Collins, who is a former director of religious education and taught second-graders for 10 years.

He urged the religion class teachers to make their classes welcoming places for the students and their parents.

Welcome the parents into a partnership, which is sometimes difficult to do, Collins said.

“Parents are the primary educators but many of them don’t know what Catholic identity is all about,” he said. “They can’t give to their kids what they don’t know. We want parents to do it, but they can’t without our help.”

Among the many catechists who said they enjoyed the day’s program was Sandra Kedera, who teaches in the inquiry program for RCIA at St. Francis de Sales in Salisbury, Md. She’s a convert who went through the program about 12 years ago and was asked to help run it after she joined the church.

“Just let me be Catholic for a little while,” she recalls saying at the time. “So I waited a couple of years and then I became part of the inquiry team. … We meet on Wednesday nights and we usually have three or four people at a time. Some of them start and go for a few months and the next one it may be in for a whole year.

“We have some lessons that we follow,” Kedera said. “In the inquiry we kind of hit the basics. We don’t go too deep. Then they go into the RCIA program.”

Kedera said that often the people interested in becoming Catholics “are looking for a deeper faith, not just into Bible study but the traditions. I love the reverence of our church. I like the solemnness.”

Debbie Petka teaches a second-grade class of six in religious ed at Holy Cross Parish in Dover. She got involved with the parish program when her daughter Tara was in “the CCD program” there.

“I thought I really like this,” Debbie said. “I think I can do this.”

Teaching religious ed for 14 years now, Petka said, “I really like when the kids make their Communion, their expressions. I can see the Holy Spirit comes down on them. They have a glow to them.”

Now, Petka’s daughter Tara, also teaches at Holy Cross. She has sixth-graders in the parish program directed by Cindy Krebs that has 325 students.

Olga Matias is the new director of Religious Education at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Bear. She said the parish has 67 catechetical couples who teach in the program for 312 students.

This year the religious ed program at SEAS has 25 percent more Hispanic students, she said. It could be because “word got out” that Matias, who was born in Puerto Rico, speaks Spanish, and the parish is very receptive to Hispanic immigrants.

 

Honored catechists

 

The following catechists were among those recognized by Bishop Malooly and the diocesan Office for Religious Education at Catechetical Day:

 

40 years

Rosemarie DeLong, St. Matthew.

35 years

Sister Grace Andrew Jeffery, OSF, Immaculate Conception, Elkton, Md.; Jeannette Minner, St. Bernadette, Harrington.

30 years

Tammy Korosec, Holy Cross, Dover; Michael McGroerty, Our Lady of Lourdes, Seaford, Shirley Morenas, St. Catherine of Siena; Hummy Pennell, St. Helena.

25 years

Judy Aungst, St. John the Beloved; Dolores Ballintyn, St. John the Beloved; Patricia Freedman, St. Polycarp; Mary M. Kirk, St. Joseph, Middletown; Sheila Meara, St. Mary Magdalen; John A. Nowak, St. Michael the Archangel, Georgetown; Susan Parker, St. Francis de Sales, Salisbury, Md.; Toni Quindlen, St. John the Beloved; Theresa Shaffer, Mary Mother of Peace/St. Michael the Archangel, Georgetown.

20 years

Robert S. Apito, St. Bernadette, Harrington; Deborah A. Ciafre, Corpus Christi, Elsmere; Dawn M. Curtiss, St. Bernadette, Harrington; Ellen M. Losse, St. Joseph, Middletown; Debra Ann Meinhardt, St. Luke, Ocean City, Md.; Robert O. Parker, St. Francis de Sales, Salisbury, Md.; Judy Purcell, St. John the Apostle, Milford.

15 years

Natalie A. Blakely, St. Michael the Archangel, Georgetown; Sharon Burg, Corpus Christi, Elsmere; William F. Carduff, St. Luke/St. Andrew, Ocean City, Md.; Lynn Everhart, St. Francis de Sales, Salisbury, Md.; Steve Everhart, St. Francis de Sales, Salisbury, Md.; Margo Mangiamele-Orlando, St. Polycarp, Smyrna; Helen M. Norton, Mary Mother of Peace, Millsboro; Elizabeth Orr, Immaculate Conception, Elkton, Md.; Tracy Zlock, St. Polycarp, Smyrna.

10 years

Patricia Baisley, St. John Neumann, Berlin, Md.; Estella Carrigan, St. Matthew; Stacy Clavette, St. Michael the Archangel, Georgetown, Md.; Jan Faust, St. Joseph, Middletown; Nancy F. Groves, St. John Neumann, Berlin, Md.; Kathleen Haass, Immaculate Conception, Marydel, Md.; Kimberly Maher, St. Bernadette, Harrington; Kathleen M. Majewski, St. Joseph, Middletown; Deborah Petka, Holy Cross, Dover; Dot Rullo, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Bear; Christine Shields, St. Mary Magdalen; Elizabeth Teixeira, St. Joseph, Middletown.

Five years

Lynn Amaty, Our Lady of Lourdes, Seaford; Elizabeth Dougherty, St. John the Beloved; Lee R. Esham Jr., St. Francis de Sales, Salisbury; Laura Fennell-Trimble, Our Lady of Lourdes, Seaford; Meg Haass, Immaculate Conception, Marydel, Md.; Karen D. Headley, St. Joseph, Middleton; Brenda Herr, St. Mary of the Assumption, Hockessin; Patricia Kohler, St. Bernadette, Harrington; Summer Lewis, St. Bernadette, Harrington; Kathy List, St. John the Apostle, Milford; Nancy Maloney, Resurrection; Christoper Miller, St. John the Apostle, Milford; Mary Beth Monigle, St. Edmond, Rehoboth Beach; James Morvick, St. John Neumann, Berlin, Md.; Martha Anne Provins, St. Jude the Apostle, Lewes; Jill Rauch, St. John the Apostle, Milford; Veronica Vilegas, Our Lady of Lourdes, Seaford.

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