A few weeks ago, at the beautiful chapel of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in Ossining, the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office honored its most faithful catechists and catechetical leaders, and recognized those who have completed the various formation programs designed to give every parish excellence in religious education for children, youth and adults.
Additionally, two pastors, Rev. Raymond Nobiletti, MM, of Transfiguration in Manhattan and Msgr. Hugh McManus of Our Lady of Fatima in Scarsdale, received the Terence Cardinal Cooke Award for their support of the catechetical ministry. Bishop Gerald Walsh, rector of the St. Joseph Seminary, presided and joined Sr. Joan Curtin, CND, director of the Catechetical Office in presenting the awards and certificates.
Where do coordinators and directors of parish religious education programs and their catechists come from? They come from very neighborhood, every ethnic and national group, every walk of life. Most are moms and dads and grandparents. Most have other jobs. And that’s tough because as any qualified catechetical leader or catechist will tell you, parish catechesis is not a part-time effort. It takes much more time than the 90 minutes a week that are mandated by the Archdiocese for each parish. Anyone who has not served this ministry doesn’t know all the hidden extra hours these worthy people devote to the ministry. It takes a qualified leader.
Ideally the leader of parish catechesis (which is a more appropriate name than religious ed) should be a full-time director, that is, a professional who has a master’s degree in theology, religious studies or religious education. But that’s not always possible. What is possible is that anyone engaged as coordinator (this person would not have the above graduate degree) completes our training process, which will qualify him or her to be a catechetical leader. And this person should be paid a just wage for his or her professional commitment.
There is more to leading or teaching in a parish catechetical program than opening the doors, spending an hour and a half a week with the students, and then organizing the reception of First Penance, First Eucharist and Confirmation. In fact, to call the catechetical formation of your children a mere program is to grossly understate its importance. Catechesis is an ongoing process of Christian development, one that begins in early childhood and goes on for the rest of one’s life.
Parents of Catholic School students wouldn’t tolerate an unqualified principal or teacher, or one who works only a one or two days a week, to deliver the education excellence they expect for their children. Why should religious education parents have to settle for this?
Well, you shouldn’t have to. And you don’t have to. Support your parish so that it will be able to engage and justly compensate a qualified catechetical leader…or someone who is willing and able to attend the training that will qualify him or her. It may be the biggest favor you have ever done for your parish because when people are able to discover more about their faith, they become more engaged in their parish and will help it to thrive.