Posts Tagged ‘Archdiocesan Catechetical Office’

Our children deserve the best religious education we can provide

Monday, August 31st, 2015

With all the changes that parishes are experiencing in the process of “Making All Things New,” this remains constant: the obligation to provide our children and youth who do not attend Catholic school with the best education in the spirituality, teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. They have as much right to this as the children in Catholic schools. They are not second-class citizens of this archdiocese. Neither are their families.

The key to providing this is, of course, is a high-quality religious education program, led by a professionally prepared director or coordinator of religious education. The program is only as good as its leader. That is why the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office offers training to men and women who have accepted the invitation to serve in this ministry. If you are one of those people, you are not just responding to your pastor; you are responding to the Holy Spirit. To help you respond, I urge you to take advantage of the Catechetical Leadership Program.

Being a director (someone with a master’s in theology, religious studies or a related field) or coordinator is not a one or two or three-day a week job. There’s more to this than opening the doors and turning on the lights. You have to build a team of qualified, faith-filled, reliable catechists. Remember, they will most likely be volunteers, not paid employees. You have to develop relationships with families. You have to see to the safety of the children while they are attending the program. And more. You are, in effect, the principal.

The Catechetical Leadership Program is divided into two parts. Basic Leadership Training is designed to provide the administrative and leadership skills. Advanced Catechetical Leadership will provide the theological formation needed by every religious education leader who doesn’t have an advanced degree in the field.

By the way, the Catechetical Leadership Program also has a track for parish directors and coordinators of the RCIA, the process by adults and children who achieved the age of reason become fully initiated members of the Catholic Church.

The Basic Leadership Training Program starts September 19. Visit the website to find out more, as well as whom to contact regarding enrollment. If you are a new director or coordinator, you’ll be glad you did.

Multi-tasking. How to break the habit with prayer

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

This week, my colleagues and I are doing what might be called extreme multi-tasking. We are getting ready to bring you the New York Catholic Bible Summit this coming Saturday. Among other things, that means filling close to 500 souvenir bags with relevant materials.

We also are packing up to move our offices to a new floor in the Catholic Center. The Archdiocesan Catechetical Office has been at its present site for at least 30 years. Can you imagine how much we have accumulated, how much has to be discarded, and how much has to be packed? Of course, the day-to-day ministry of our office continues at the same time. I mention this in case somebody at the Bible Summit opens a souvenir bag and finds a shoe or an old office directory.

Our times demand multi-tasking. Should they? Will the world come to an end if we don’t drop what we are doing and respond instantly to the beeps from our mobile devices? It’s hard to resist at work, at home or in transit (hopefully not the car) because others expect instant answers.

However, multi-tasking is not what it’s cracked up to be. It doesn’t make us more proficient. In fact, it slows us. The time it takes for us to switch ourselves mentally and physically from one to task to another is time lost. Multi-tasking doesn’t do wonders for our concentration either. And it takes a toll on our relationships. Read at this article from Santa Clara University, which is “the Jesuit University in Silicon Valley.” The author suggests as an antidote a 20-minute rule. Concentrate on one task for 20 minutes without interruption.

Now it may not be possible entirely to eliminate multi-tasking at work. However, there are other possibilities. These include prayer. Daily Mass is a perfect way to follow the 20-minute rule. Take your Bible (not the digital version) to a place away from your desk and meditate on one phrase or short passage. Or go out at lunchtime to some nearby green space, look around you, and then read this wonderful poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ. I promise you that any of these activities will provide a wonderful antidote to multi-tasking and it will enrich your faith, too. Just remember to switch off the device.

Celebrate the Word of God at the New York Catholic Bible Summit, June 20th

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

June 20th is growing closer and closer and I don’t want you to miss out on a day of great enlightenment and community.

For the past six years, my friends and I at the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office join with our colleagues at the American Bible Society to sponsor the New York Catholic Bible Summit at the New York Catholic Center on 56th Street and First Avenue. You can register right here.

Our intent is to bring together for our fellow New Yorkers and residents of the metropolitan area some of America’s and the world’s most interesting and accomplished scripture scholars to demonstrate how enriched all our lives could be if only we took our Bibles off the book shelves to read, to meditate on, to pray on, and of course, to act on.

2015 is an important anniversary year of our Church because just 50 years ago, the Second Vatican Council issued in the name of Pope Paul VI landmark documents that affect the church today and will continue to do so for generations to come. Among these documents is Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. This constitution called for lay people to have more opportunities to study the Bible with competent authorities.

The Bible Summit is one of our responses to that call and is brought to you in English and Spanish. One of our keynoters is the rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, which is administered by the Society of Jesus. His name is Father Michael Kolarcik, SJ. The other is the distinguished scholar and vicar-general of the Archdiocese of Santiago de Chile, Bishop Fernando Ramos Pérez. Father Matt Malone, SJ, the dynamic president and editor-in-chief of America Media also will be coming to talk spreading the Word of God in our digital age. Here is the entire line-up of speakers and topics.

Of course, no Bible Summit would be complete without the presence of our archbishop, Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan. Although he has a very tight schedule on June 20th, he is coming to be with us for the Angelus at Noon.

I hope you will be with us, too.

In thanksgiving for Cardinal Egan

Saturday, March 7th, 2015

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.

A new year’s prescription from the doctor

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

This isn’t a flu cure but some sage advice from an ancient doctor of the church, whose words are as relevant now as they were 1,600 years ago. St. Augustine of Hippo lived in the North African breadbasket of the Roman Empire, just as the barbarians (at least that’s how the Romans regarded the invaders) were at the city gates and the empire itself was beginning to implode. Hippo-Regius, the city over which he presided as bishop, was a place in turmoil.

We in New York, especially those of us who live in the City of New York, find ourselves in troubled times. What can we do about this?

Augustine has the prescription and it still works. It might not be what we want take and it won’t be easy for some to stomach but it does address the issues and the voices that are tearing at the fabric of New York. Augustine calls us to accept responsibility, every single one of us, for helping to make New York the city we want it to be – a place for all people to live in peace.

From Augustine’s Sermon 30:

“The times are bad! The times are troublesome!’ This is what humans say. But we are our times. Let us live well and our times will be good. Such as we are, such are our times.”

A blessed and happier new year than the one we leave behind tonight.

Discover Scripture. Encounter your faith

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Have you ever found yourself trying to answer a Bible question posed by one of your children? Have you heard something in the Sunday readings and wanted to know more about it? Maybe you are a lector and think your ministry might be enriched by a deeper understanding of the passages you are reading.

Here’s your answer: The New York Catholic Bible School program, sponsored by the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office. Depending on your availability, the school offers a two-year course leading to a Certificate in Basic Scripture Study OR a four-year course, at the end of which you will receive a Certificate of Advanced Scripture Study. Actually, if you study for the full four years, you will meet every book in the Bible.

The New York Catholic Bible School was started to provide catechists and catechetical leaders with the knowledge and confidence to offer Scripture study courses in their parishes. But we have always made it available to lectors, other ministers and anyone interested in Bible study.

Make no mistake. This is not a social gathering. There’s plenty of reading, discussion and homework. But there also is prayer. This leads to fellowship. Many of our 592 (so far) graduates have found lasting friendships with their fellow students.

The Bible School schedule calls for three trimesters a year, each 10 weeks long. The tuition is $150 per trimester along with an annual registration fee of $35. The tuition pays for the instructor, who must have an advanced degree in Scripture. We keep the number of students to about 15-18 per program in order to facilitate communication in the class.

We currently have nine schools throughout the Archdiocese. Our newest location is at St. John’s on Kingsbridge Avenue in the Bronx. The instructor, Father Michael Kerrigan, has a full class, but if you sign up in the next week, he’ll find room for you. Another New York Catholic Bible School will open in January 2015 at St. Augustine’s in Larchmont. We’re also scouting a new mid-Manhattan site for January.

If you want to know more, just visit our NYCBS website.

Augustine on waging war and making peace

Monday, August 25th, 2014

I am on vacation but want to share some important information. With all the unrest and terror in the world these days, the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo on war and peace are being talked about with increasing urgency. The leaders of our church are making frequent reference to Augustine’s so-called just war theory. All of us, especially those who hand on the faith through the catechetical ministry, should be familiar with this.

The Rev. Donald X. Burt, OSA, PhD, emeritus professor of philosophy at Villanova University, spent most of his life examining, teaching and writing about Augustine. He died just a few months ago after a long and fruitful priesthood. Father Burt had the great gift of making Augustine accessible to people who were not students of this late fourth and early fifth century doctor of the church. During my 12 years at Villanova, I turned to him many times for aid in conveying Augustine’s philosophy to the university’s graduates, most of whom were not professional philosophers.

In his book, Friendship & Society, An Introduction to Augustine’s Practical Philosophy (Wm. P. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), Father Burt devoted a chapter to Augustine’s very strong views on peace. Here it is, for your information, courtesy of Villanova University’s website. I am also linking you to Book 19 of Augustine’s City of God. Read chapter 7.

By the way, St. Augustine’s feast day is this Thursday, Aug, 28. Pray to him and to his mother Monica, whose feast is Aug. 27, to intercede on behalf of us all, especially political, military and religious leaders, to bring a just peace.

Celebrating our Catechists and Catechetical Leaders

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

On Sunday, Nov. 17, the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office will honor men and women who devote so much of their lives to the catechetical or religious education ministry. I am referring, of course, to our parish catechists and catechetical leaders. The annual Certification and Recognition Ceremony will take place at Maryknoll in Ossining. Msgr. Edward Weber, director of priest personnel, will preside. Catechists and catechetical leaders who have completed training and supervision will be officially certified by our office. Certified catechists who have given 25 or more years to the ministry will receive the Catechetical Medal Honor.

The ceremony will also feature the presentation of the Terence Cardinal Cooke Award to pastors, recently retired, whose parish catechetical programs demonstrated their outstanding support for the catechetical ministry; the Good Shepherd Award, presented to catechetical leaders and colleagues of the ministry whose lives and actions reflect  Jesus the Good Shepherd; and the John Cardinal O’Connor Award, given to catechetical leaders whose ministry to persons with disabilities and their families is exceptional.

It takes a great deal of dedication, selflessness, time and preparation to become a proficient catechist or catechetical leader. It takes great energy and creativity to maintain excellence in a parish program, whether there are 200 or 1,000 students. Everyone deserves the best.  It also takes a true missionary spirit because catechesis is at the heart of the Church’s mission to evangelize. Amazingly, almost no parish catechists receive financial remuneration and the catechetical leader is definitely not the highest paid person on the parish payroll.

However, if you stop and think about it, the catechists and catechetical leaders are some of the best evangelizers in the archdiocese. They reach out to parents, grandparents, siblings and family friends. They work hard to celebrate cultural diversity. They support the rights of persons with disabilities and their families to faith formation and make it happen for them. More times than you know, it’s their missionary spirit that brings people back to the church.

So, on Sunday, the 17th, perhaps you will whisper a thank-you to God for these selfless men and women, who give so much of their lives to the ministry of catechesis, helping their students and families to develop a closer relationship with the person of Jesus Christ.

Help for Harried Catechists: The Catechetical Forums are coming your way

Friday, September 27th, 2013

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a man who just started teaching in his parish religious education program.  He told me that nothing in his life (including being a dad himself) had prepared him for the ordeal of facing a room full of third-graders.  “I was terrified,” he said.

Catechizing youngsters has always been a daunting task but today more than ever, a catechist has to bring a veritable teacher’s tool kit, filled with age-appropriate faith formation, pedagogical know-how and plenty of psychology to the program.  Knowledge of technology also is becoming a “must.”

It’s not about getting the children’s attention but rather keeping it. Today, even the youngest children are more adept with technology than most adults and are far more easily distracted than children 10 years ago.  For a variety of reasons, many of them beyond their control, parents are not always able to reinforce at home what the children are learning about the faith.  More and more, a catechist has to act as the primary catechist of a child when this is really a parent’s responsibility.

But how in the world can a catechist keep up with the rapidly changing learning environment of a parish program?  Well, this is why the Catechetical Office will offer its annual Catechetical Forums on Oct. 5 at Sacred Heart Parish in Monroe and on Oct. 19 at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx.  Both keynoters, Joe Paprocki  (English language) from Chicago and Marta McGlade (Spanish)  from the Atlanta archdiocese are national consultants, well known in the catechetical ministry. But – and this is even more important – they are active catechists in their parishes. They know exactly what today’s catechist confronts.

In addition to the keynoters, there will be dozens of helpful workshops offering enrichment for religious educators themselves, along with the kind of hands-on, practical advice that only trained experts and veterans of the catechetical ministry can provide.

So, if you are a catechist, or you are thinking of becoming one, don’t miss the Catechetical Forums. Visit   to check more on the keynoters and the workshop topics.  See you there.