Posts Tagged ‘catechists’

Friday, January 17th, 2014

There are so many ways to identify ourselves as Catholic Christians. Some people wear medals. Others make references to Catholic teaching among their friends and professional colleagues.  Just walking or driving to the parish church on Sundays and holy days is a way of demonstrating Catholic identity. Catechists and Catholic school teachers promote Catholic identity by their teaching ministry.

However, there is one group of Catholics who give powerful witness to their identity, but not by wearing religious symbols or discussing Catholic values and teachings in the workplace. They really can’t do either of these things.  I am referring to Catholics who teach in public schools.

Instead, they give witness to their Catholic identity in the way they conduct themselves in the school environment, by their kindness and commitment to their students and families, by the diligence with which they provide the best education of which they are capable, and by their willingness to go the extra distance for the students, the families, and their own colleagues.  Some of them also serve as catechists or youth ministers and in other ways at their parishes.

These Catholic teachers in our public schools are like Pope Francis. Even if he were to trade in his white cassock for a nondescript shirt and trousers, his concern for poor and marginalized people would still identify him as a follower of Jesus, Ignatius Loyola and Francis of Assisi.

For the last eight years, we in the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office have given special recognition to Catholic teachers in public schools by sponsoring a Liturgy and breakfast in the winter and a day of recollection just for them in the fall.  It is our hope that they leave these days spiritually and physically nourished, and that they know how much they are appreciated.

The Liturgy and Breakfast this year will take place on Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Riverview in Hastings-on-Hudson in Westchester. It is easily accessible by car or Metro North.  Bishop Gerald Walsh, vicar general of the Archdiocese, will celebrate Mass with us and author Gaynell Cronin will be the speaker.

If you are a Catholic teaching in a public school or you know someone who is, you will find all the details  and registration information for Feb. 22 here.  We look forward to being with you.

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 www.nyfaithformation.org   to check more on the keynoters and the workshop topics.  See you there.

Two opportunities to explore the Bible

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

This coming Saturday, June 1, the New York Catholic Bible School, which is sponsored by the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, will hold a graduation ceremony  at the Church of St. Margaret of Antioch in Pearl River, N.Y.  Thirty men and woman will each receive a Certificate of Basic Bible Study. This means that they have completed a two-year course of study in Sacred Scripture.  I am happy to report that most, if not all, are going on to complete the entire four-year cycle, during which they will read, pray on, and reflect on every book of the Bible. Hopefully, they will go back to their parishes to encourage and perhaps lead Bible study group themselves.

As you can imagine, preparing for class and meeting every week, usually at the end of a work day, requires a great deal of dedication.  People from every walk of life and educational background are enrolled What is it about Sacred Scripture that brings these men and women back week after week, year after year? They have found the Word of God and they are finding themselves, too.

Perhaps you might be interested in studying the Bible,  learning how to read it, reflect on it, and pray on it. Here’s a suggestion.  Spend a day with the Bible.

On Saturday, June 22, the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office and the American Bible Society will sponsor their fourth annual New York Catholic Bible Summit at Cathedral High School in the New York Catholic Center, 350 East 56th Street, Manhattan. This year’s theme, very appropriate for the Year of Faith, is “Preach the Gospel to the Whole of Creation.”

As always, the day will begin with the Sacred Liturgy in the Church of St. John the Evangelist, also in the Catholic Center on the 55th Street side.  Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan will be the principal celebrant.

There will be two complete tracks in English and Spanish. Rev. James Martin, SJ, author and editor-at-large for America Magazine, will give the English keynote. Father Martin’s new e-book, Together on Retreat — Meeting Jesus in Prayer, will help you to pray with Scripture. The Spanish language keynoter is Jesús Rubén Cardinal Salazar Gómez, Archbishop of Bogota, Colombia, and vice president of the Latin-American Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Check here for a full listing of our presenters, along with details on registration. Don’t wait until the last minute to register, however.

A day with the Bible. Who knows? Your next step might be the New York Catholic Bible School.

“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, www.nyfaithformation.org 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.

 

 

Joy in the sight of tragedy

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

This past weekend, I attended a wedding. Many of the guests were from Long Beach, the Rockaways, and Breezy Point. These beachfront communities were damaged beyond description by Hurricane Sandy two weeks ago. Yet, there were these people celebrating the joining for life of a marvelous young man and woman at an exquisite Nuptial Mass in the lovely Church of St. Catherine of Siena in Manhattan, presided over by the Rev. Jordan Kelly, O.P., pastor. This wonderful Dominican friar did not overlook a single detail. What a beautiful occasion of evangelization! The reception that followed…well, it certainly rocked west Manhattan.

To my knowledge, none of the guests had lost family members, but they lost belongings and their homes were damaged or destroyed. One lost the family business. However, one would have had no inkling that a hurricane had disrupted their lives.

Of course, this was a predominantly Irish American group and some of the mood can be attributed to an Irish way of responding to tragedy — to spit in its eye, as it were, by partying on. However, something deeper was happening here. There was an unspoken recognition that sadness makes one appreciate more deeply the joy of life.

I noticed this same attitude at the Adult Faith Formation and Evangelization Forum, which took place on Saturday at Cathedral High School in the Catholic Center. Representatives  from the Catechetical Office, the Office of Adult Faith Formation, the Office of Special and Pastoral Ministries, the Office of Communications, and the Adult Faith Formation Council had worked for months to create a day of enrichment for adult faith formation leaders and teams.

Then Hurricane Sandy struck. The lights and power went off for many people, including me. I wondered how many would turn up. To my absolute delight, more than 350 appeared. As I looked out into the congregation at the opening Mass in the Church of St. John the Evangelist, I spotted people from Staten Island. This borough saw waves so great that houses a mile from shore were damaged and SUVs were tossed about like Matchbox cars. Many people drowned. Children were blown from their parents’ arms. Yet, somehow, many parish representatives got to Manhattan for the forum.

On Sunday, the Catechetical Office held its annual Certification and Recognition Ceremony for those who had reached milestones in their formation as catechetical leaders and catechists for Catholics of all ages. The ceremony also honored special people who have rendered extraordinary service to the catechetical ministry. I couldn’t attend so I don’t know how many Staten Islanders made it to Maryknoll in Ossining for the ceremony, but my colleagues tell me the borough was well represented. Many others also expended precious gasoline to drive from the far reaches of this huge archdiocese to receive their certification, to be honored or simply to cheer on their colleagues. Special thanks to Bishop Gerald Walsh for presiding before rushing off the the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Baltimore, and to our director, Sr. Joan Curtin, C.N.D.

Maybe history will record that the Year of Faith in the Archdiocese of New York began with tragedy, but I will remember this as a time when faith, hope and love conquered all.

 

Catechist formation with sunscreen

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

I was going to title this post “Summer School for Catechists.” However, sanity returned and I came up with something else.

How many people have grim memories of summer school? You flunked a big course, one you needed to graduate. You were mad at yourself, mad at the teacher who gave you the failing grade, and mad at your family and friends, who were at the beach having fun while you had to be stuck in a classroom.

You didn’t want to be there. The teacher wasn’t too thrilled about it either. The air-conditioning didn’t work and the soda machine in the cafeteria hadn’t been restocked since mid-June. Summer school was the closest thing to Purgatory this side of the Great Beyond and it was always hot as…well, you know.

That’s not the way the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office does summer formation classes for our parish catechists. For one thing, if you have a tablet, you can take catechist formation to the beach. Or, you can sit at your p.c. in a blissfully cool room of your choice and have your favorite beverage on hand.  Many of our formation classes can go where you go because they are on line. You can work on taking some of the courses you need for certification at Level One or Level II…or you can just refresh your knowledge. There’s always a new insight to discover.

The courses are free. Check out the schedule and follow the sign-up directions that are provided along with the course descriptions. Maybe you and I will meet in the course I am moderating, starting this weekend.

Of course, if you prefer a traditional classroom format, we also are offering our Catechist Formation Summer Institute at different sites throughout the archdiocese. We work hard to pick the most convenient and comfortable venues.

Take advantage of the slower pace of summer and sign up for these courses. If you are one of our catechists, it’s likely you are a volunteer and are doing it out of love for the faith, the ministry and the children. You want to be the best catechist you can be. We, your colleagues in the Catechetical Office, applaud you and want to help you achieve that. We want you to have happy memories of the experience, too.

So charge up the tablet, slather on the sunscreen, and sign on to the course of  your choice. If you run out of ice, however, we don’t deliver.

Pledging for those who nurtured our faith

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Every year, when the Stewardship Appeal comes around, in whatever name, I am reminded of my old friend, Msgr. Francis Costello, who was for many years a pastor here in the archdiocese.

Back in the 1980s, some smart person had the notion of combining the collection for retired religious men and women with the Cardinal’s Appeal, as it was called then, highlighting the work these people had done. Well, the appeal was a great success.

Msgr. Costello understood why. “You know,” he said to me, “I couldn’t for the life of me tell you the name of the priest who gave me my first Holy Communion. I am not sure which bishop confirmed me. However, I can tell you the names of the sisters who prepared me for those sacraments and, in fact, the name of every sister who ever taught me.” He then proceeded to demonstrate that he did indeed remember them all and the grade year they taught.

I was happy to hear on Sunday in the Cathedral that our gifts to this year’s appeal will help support  religious sisters and brothers who have worked long beyond the time when most people retire and now need care themselves.

By the way, when you give to  the Stewardship Appeal, you also support the mission of the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, which trains the parish catechetical leaders and catechists who carry in the great tradition of those selfless religious sisters and brothers, who worked for little or no remuneration.

When you make your pledge this year, see if you can remember who prepared you for the sacraments and enriched your understanding of your God-given faith. I have a feeling that like my old friend, Msgr. Costello, you will be able to reel off all their names.

 

A special day for Catholics who teach in public schools

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Those of us involved with handing on the Faith in parishes or in the Catholic schools have many opportunities for the spiritual renewal that is so important to the success of our ministry.

However, there are other Catholic educators, teachers and administrators in public schools, who are equally deserving of a day to recharge their spiritual batteries and be recognized for the witness they bear day after day, week after week. They preach the Gospel, not by words, but by their example, by their diligence, and by their care for their students.

So on Saturday, Jan. 28, the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office will sponsor a Liturgy and Breakfast especially for Catholics who teach in public schools. It will take place at the Riverview, which overlooks the Hudson River in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. The doors will open at 9:30 a.m. Bishop Dominick Lagonegro will celebrate Mass at 10 o’clock.  Our guest speaker this is Sr. Peggy Murphy, O.P. a member of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville, N.Y.

Sr. Peggy, who holds a doctor of ministry degree in pastoral theology from Drew University School of Theology, currently is a professor of religious studies at Mt. St. Mary College in Newburgh, N.Y., where she also has served as a division chair. An educator and counselor, she is additionally a gifted musician, and expert on Celtic spirituality. She has appeared on television with Regis Philbin and in the Broadway production of “Nunsense.” Sr. Peggy is the recipient of countless awards, including several as a woman of achievement, which she certainly is. At heart, however, she is an educator.

The suggested fee is $20 per person. Many of our guests at this annual event tell us we should charge more but we want to keep it within the reach of everyone.

If you are a Catholic teaching in the public schools, you are cordially invited to join us. Or perhaps you have a friend or relative who is. Why not come and invite that teacher to join you?  You’ll meet lots of other like-minded men and women with whom you can share experiences, dreams and even your professional frustrations.

Just contact Helen Doon at the Catechetical Office by Wednesday, Jan. 25, at the latest. You can reach her at 212-371-1011, Ext. 2822 or e-mail Helen.doon@archny.org. She’ll be happy to take your reservations and answer your questions.

See you there.