Posts Tagged ‘Archdiocese of New York’

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.

30 years of ministry and filled with wisdom.

Friday, September 20th, 2013

In his unprecedented interview yesterday, Pope Francis likened the relationship between the ancient Catholic churches and the young churches to the relationship between young and elderly people in a society.  He said, “[The young] build the future with their strength and the others with their wisdom.”

When I read those words, I thought of 22 older women and men who were honored last Saturday at St. Joseph Seminary. Fifteen of them were directors and coordinators of parish religious education programs 30 years ago when Terence Cardinal Cooke established the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office. We call them the Founders.  Practically all of them still are catechetical leaders and are full of energy for their ministry. One of them, Sr. Mary Rose Mullervy, OP, recently was honored by her parish, St. Anastasia in Harriman, which named its religious education center after her. Seven founding members of the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office also were recognized at the seminary.

The occasion was the opening of a yearlong celebration of the Catechetical Office’s 30th anniversary. Edward Cardinal Egan, archbishop emeritus of New York, celebrated the Eucharistic Liturgy and then joined Sr. Joan Curtin, CND, director of the Catechetical Office, in presenting icons of Jesus and Mary to those 22 founders.

The Catechetical Office also established the Edward Michael Cardinal Egan Award for extraordinary leadership. Cardinal Egan served as the vicar for education in New York from 1985 to 1988. With his support and guidance, the Catechetical Office developed the training and protocols that were to become models of professionalism to the rest of the United States. It was only fitting, therefore, that the first recipient of the award be Cardinal Egan himself.

I invite you to read about this special group of people  and view the  photo album.   You might find your own parish catechetical leader there.

Just imagine all the wisdom that this group of people brings to the formation of Catholics in this archdiocese. I think Pope Francis would be delighted to know of them.



The Patron Saint of Plan B

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

One of the many reasons I love these days of the liturgical year is that we get to revisit the Acts of the Apostles, not just on Sundays, but throughout each week as well. Even if you are unable to go to Mass every day, look at the readings from the Acts. You can find them at the U.S. Bishops’ website.

Attributed to the author of the Gospel of Luke, this book is fascinating and should provide a measure of comfort to those who worry about today’s Church. Right from the beginning, the Church – the community of believers – faced and overcame many obstacles and challenges, both external and internal.

Today’s reading shows us how the disciples of Jesus found themselves making decisions after his ascension. This is the feast of the apostle Matthias who, according to Msgr. Robert Ritchie, rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, should be known as “the patron saint of Plan B.” If you read Acts 1-15-17, 20-26, you’ll see why.

Judas, who had been selected  by Jesus as one of the 12 apostles, betrayed the Lord and hanged himself.  Peter knew he had to find a replacement and brought this to the brothers and sisters.  Jesus wasn’t going to make this appointment directly, so they had to come up with an alternate plan. They nominated two candidates, all prayed, and then they cast lots. “The lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles.” Plan B.

Certainly Msgr. Ritchie is dealing with Plan B himself these days during the Cathedral’s restoration. He’s probably on Plan K. We in the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office certainly find ourselves having to change plans, too.  In fact, everybody has to go to Plan B or beyond at some point in his or her life.

The next time you find yourself in such a position, don’t forget to ask St. Matthias for help.

“What is faith?”

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Now, there’s a question to ponder…deeply. And what better time is there to do it than during Advent, the season of prayerful watching, waiting, and pondering the mystery of the Incarnation, God becoming human for us. This Year of Faith is an especially appropriate time to think about faith — not faith in the abstract, but faith as it affects our daily lives and the lives of those with whom we interact. Our faith should inform everything we say and do.

Advent begins this Sunday, Dec. 2, and with it comes a special seasonal blog, created by my colleague and friend here at the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, webmaster Jim Connell. You are invited to visit our website, to read and post to “What is Faith?” Each day this blog will feature a short Scripture passage from the daily Mass readings and an answer to the question, “What is faith?” based on that Scripture. We hope you will post your reflections and comments. You have much wisdom to share.

Your friends in the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office look forward to your participation.



St. Patrick was an Englishman

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Well, now that I have your attention…!

Please let me share with you with an absolutely fascinating article about St. Patrick by Sr. Patricia McCarthy, CND, who writes regularly for The Rhode Island Catholic. Sr. Patricia has peeled away the myths about Patrick, patron saint of Ireland and patron of our own Archdiocese of New York. The man she reveals was far more interesting than the image we have of the bishop in the electric green chasuble, clutching a shamrock.

Here is the real Patrick, who was born in Britain and lived along the coast of what is now England before being captured by Irish raiders, taken to Ireland and sold into slavery. That capture changed his life and Ireland’s forever. It also altered the history of New York and everywhere else the Irish people carried the faith.

By the time you finish reading Sr. Patricia’s article about her namesake, you won’t care where he was born. You’ll be so impressed by his faith, his fervor and his courage. This man was one of Christianity’s greatest and bravest evangelizers.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!


Sept. 11, 2011. We’re still here.

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Some believe that those who perpetrated the events of September 11, 2001, have succeeded in their purpose of making us people of fear, turning on one another and using religion as a weapon. I don’t think so. Like that wonderful woman in the Stephen Sondheim “Follies” song, we New Yorkers are still here. And we are not easily intimidated.

In the best tradition of this town, which a friend of mine named Donald Reilly, OSA, described 10 years ago as “a resilient city of God,” we are determined that we will not be cowed into becoming people of fear and selfishness. We will heed, in our New York fashion, the better angels of our nature.

In the meantime, allow me to offer this prayer from Sr. Kathleen Deignan of the Congregation of Notre Dame. She speaks for many of us.

Sofia Cavaletti 1917-2011

Friday, August 26th, 2011

These are sad days for Catechists of the Good Shepherd here in New York, across the country, and around the world. Prof. Sofia Cavalletti, who pioneered a remarkable and highly effective catechetical method called the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and based it on the principles of education developed by Maria Montessori, died this week in Rome at the great age of 94 years. Dr. Cavalletti and her colleague, Gianna Gobbi, spent more than 50 years listening to and observing children in a special environment, which they called an atrium. What they discovered was that even the youngest children already have a relationship with God and that whatever their physical and developmental capabilities might be, the children can and do respond to the relationship.

Here in the New York archdiocese, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is the preferred methodology for early childhood and pre-school children. Anyone who has visited a parish atrium and observed the children will walk away with a profound sense of wonder and deepening of his or her own faith.

Read about Sofia Cavalletti and the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd here or visit the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office website. Our director of early childhood religious education, Linda Sgammato, is a qualified catechist of the Good Shepherd and will be happy to tell you more about Sofia and the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd if you e-mail her at

Evangelization apprentices

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

A weekend in mid July. The perfect time for a getaway to the beach, the mountains or a sparkling lake, right? Well, not if you are one of  122 dedicated parishioners from around the archdiocese, who will spend this coming weekend in Poughkeepsie at  Holy Trinity Parish. Holy Trinity is hosting two days of training on a parish evangelization course called Discovering Christ. This is one of three courses designed by ChristLife, an apostolate in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The other two courses are Following Christ and Sharing Christ.

The Archdiocesan Catechetical Office is sponsoring this as a facet of adult faith formation leadership training and 21 parishes are sending representatives.

At the end of the training, these representatives should have the tools they need to  evangelize their fellow Catholics, to enable them to better know or perhaps become reacquainted with Jesus Christ.

Discovering Christ consists of seven weekly sessions and a one-day retreat. Each session begins with a dinner, followed by prayer, presentation of the evening’s topic, and discussion. The topics include the meaning of life, why Jesus Christ matters, what Jesus wants us to know, why each of us need a Savior, why the Resurrection is so important, the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s relation to us, becoming a Catholic disciple and, finally, why we all need the Church.

The process of Discovering Christ gives people a chance to see, grow in trust and respond to what they are experiencing in the session. The process is designed to engage not the just the mind but the heart as well.

Perhaps your parish is sending people for training. If so, look for Discovering Christ at your church in the near future.

For more information, visit the website,

Catechist to the catechists

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

Sr. Mary Elizabeth Kelleher, OP, former director of catechist formation for the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, died on April 25 after a brief illness. She was 82 years old and was in the 64th year of her religious life as a Sister of St. Dominic of the Holy Cross. Amityville, N.Y.  She had retired as full time director in 2003 but continued to work with her colleagues on a part-time basis as a director of special projects. Special doesn’t begin to describe her projects

For example, while our office’s responsibilities and needs have expanded, our space hasn’t. Sr. Mary Elizabeth took on a huge task, that of finding a way to re-work the space so that everything and everyone fit. Somehow she did it. As recently as this past February, she was preparing liturgical celebrations with her faultless knowledge and superb taste.

However, her greatest legacy lies in the catechist formation process she built beginning in 1986, when she left the regional catechetical office she had founded in Sullivan County and came to the Catholic Center to direct catechist formation for all of the archdiocese.

If you are a certified catechist or have been one during the last 25 years, Sr. Mary Elizabeth helped you achieve your qualification with her Level One and Level Two courses. Any parish catechist who completes those levels will be better equipped theologically, spiritually and pedagogically to hand on the faith to children, youth and adults.  In fact, Sr. Mary Elizabeth created such a great and timeless curriculum that it is still being followed.

When she first began the catechist formation program, there was just one way to run the classes – “live” and in sites all over the 10 counties and 4,400 square miles of the archdiocese. She not only developed the curriculum outlines with a team of experts, she also recruited excellent teachers for the classes and set up the schedules year after year. These classes have been a godsend for our parish catechists because they are available all year ’round and are offered free.

Sr. Mary Elizabeth also was a key member of the team who worked with vicar of education Bishop (later Cardinal) Edward Egan in the late 1980s to produce the Guidelines for Catechesis for children in kindergarten to sixth grade, and for those in grades seven and eight. Just before the millennium, she updated the Guidelines to reflect input from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. At Sr. Mary Elizabeth’s funeral last Friday, Cardinal Egan recalled working with her and left the distinct impression she had managed him very nicely.

However, among the greatest of Sr. Mary Elizabeth’s many gifts was her ability to understand that the programs, the guidelines, the beautiful ceremonies and certificates were not hers alone. When she retired and turned her responsibilities over to Mrs. Nancy Doran, she never looked back or questioned her successor’s actions. Instead, she applauded when Nancy made catechist formation available on line.

That is the sign of a truly great woman of the Church. All that brilliance and all those achievements were never about her. They were about the catechetical mission.

Generations from now, Catholics of New York will still benefit from Sr. Mary Elizabeth’s dedication. Maybe they will never know their benefactor’s name – it seems to happen that way with religious sisters – but with God’s help the formation programs, the guidelines and the sense of mission that marked her life will go on providing the spiritual, theological and pedagogical knowledge so vital to handing on the faith with excellence.

Pray for us, Sr. Mary Elizabeth, until we meet you, pray with you and laugh with you again.

Parish Youth Minister? April 9 could be a big day for your students…and you, too.

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

On Saturday, April 9, high-school age youth from around the archdiocese will gather at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains for their very own day of celebration, fun, and workshops on the issues and challenges that face their specific age group.

Depending on your youth group’s plans, it’s either a preliminary for this summer’s World Youth Day in Madrid or a special celebration for New York teens who are not traveling to Spain. The theme reflects the hope of us all for our youth, that they be “Rooted in Christ, Firm in the Faith (Colossians 2:7).” Archbishop Dolan will join in and celebrate Mass.

Organizer Cynthia Martinez, assistant director for Catholic Youth Ministry for the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, and her very energetic (you need to be when you are organizing events for high-school youth) committee are billing the day as “Madrid in New York.”

If you are a high school religious education director and/or youth minister, then this is the opportunity for your youth to join hundreds of other Catholic youth.  The teens get to celebrate who they are – today’s vibrant young Catholic voices – and you, the youth minister, get to network with catechists and youth ministers from across the archdiocese. Awesome music, interesting workshops, lunch and a cool t-shirt are included. Yes, you get a tee shirt, too.

More information, including registration, is here. Questions? Ask Cynthia at

Just remember one thing. The students cannot register individually. You, as the youth minister, have to register them.  See you at Stepinac!