One of the hallmarks of Edward Cardinal Egan’s time in the Archdiocese of New York, first as Vicar for Education and later as Archbishop, was his devotion to the ministry of catechesis. He collaborated closely with Sr. Joan Curtin, CND, director of the Catechetical Office and her staff, many of whom are still actively engaged in the ministry. Even in his retirement, he made time to be with the archdiocesan, regional and parish catechetical leaders, and with their catechists. Sr. Joan wrote to the parish catechetical leaders about Cardinal Egan yesterday. She has consented to share her letter.
Dear Catechetical Leaders,
By now, most of you have heard the news reports on the television, Internet, radio or in the newspapers of Cardinal Egan’s going home to God whom he loved and served so well.
Some of you remember him when he first came as Bishop Egan to the Archdiocese of New York in 1985 and served as Cardinal John O’Connor’s Vicar for Education. From day one, he worked collaboratively with all of us in the Catechetical Office. It was during these years that several of us — Sr. Anne Connelly, Sr. Mary Ann Daly, Francis DeFrange, Kathleen Harrington, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Kelleher, Sr. Teresita Morse, Sr. Eileen Reilly, Sr. Kevin John Shields, myself and representatives from the Office of the Superintendent of Schools — sat down with him four hours a day, three days a week for two years, writing the first edition of the Guidelines for Catechesis. The Catechist Formation Program was also developed at this time, as well as the first Handbook for Directors/Coordinators of Religious Education. The Fall Catechetical Congresses were expanded to two sites and additional Regional Catechetical Offices were opened.
Cardinal Egan worked tirelessly with us to strengthen catechesis in the Archdiocese and to give you, the parish Catechetical Leaders and your Catechists, the recognition you deserved. He had a strong belief that the better prepared you were, the better the parish Religious Education programs would be. Ultimately, the aim of catechesis, to bring the person of whatever age closer to Jesus, would be fulfilled.
When he returned to us in 2000 as Archbishop and later was named Cardinal Egan, he continued to challenge and support us in our efforts to hand on the faith with excellence. You were always in his mind and prayer as he struggled to balance budgets and, at the same time, enhance our efforts in catechesis.
Many of you will recall his outstanding homilies at our annual Liturgy and Communion Breakfast each June. Those of you who attended the Catechetical Forum in the Bronx last October will remember his superb homily. His wisdom, prayerfulness and love for the catechetical community certainly was evident as he sat to preach, unable to stand because of weak legs. He was almost grandfatherly as he gave the homily in a style reminiscent of the Fireside Chats of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Recently I invited him to join us in an upcoming event. I received his response yesterday morning, a few hours before he died. He wrote that he was very sorry that he could not accept my invitation because of a prior commitment. His last two sentences to me were: “Keep me in mind for future such celebrations. DRE’s and CRE’s are among my favorite people in the world.”
I know you will join me and the staff of the Catechetical Office in prayer for a great priest and dedicated man of God, who worked tirelessly to pass on the faith with integrity, with excellence, with joy. He was a good and cherished friend of all of us in the catechetical community. May Cardinal Egan now rest in peace, knowing he did his best to serve God and God’s people.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.