Posts Tagged ‘catechists’

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 She’ll be happy to take your reservations and answer your questions.

See you there.

The Catechetical Forums: not just for catechists

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Each autumn, the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office sponsors two wonderful events that enable catechists and parish religious education leaders to sharpen their teaching skills, increase their knowledge of the faith, and pick up invaluable tips on turning a good parish religious ed program into an excellent one.

This events are called “The Forums” and they take place this month in two convenient sites: this coming Saturday, Saturday, Oct. 8, at Sacred Heart Parish in Monroe and Saturday, Oct. 22, at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx. Archbishop Dolan will celebrate the opening Mass in Monroe and Cardinal Egan will be the principal celebrant in the Bronx. Pastors and other clergy are cordially invited and encouraged to join them.

In addition to specialized workshops given by veteran religious educators for parish catechists and catechetical leaders, the Forums will offer presentations of interest to all Catholic adults interested in knowing more about the Faith. In this Year of the Mass, Msgr. William Belford, vicar for clergy and an expert on liturgy, will address the new Roman Missal. Another great liturgist, Sr. Janet Baxendale, SC, will lead a workshop titled “I Didn’t Know That!” Other workshop topics include Scripture, justice, media, guided meditation, Christian marriage annulments, vocations and more.

Find out more about the Forums and you wish to attend, you may pay at the door. See you there!


Sept. 29: A day for Catholics who teach in public schools

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Teaching is a noble vocation but it can be physically and spiritually draining, whether the teacher is in a Catholic or public school. Teachers in the Catholic schools have opportunities for spiritual renewal, but what about the Catholics who teach in the public schools? Many of those public school teachers are dedicated men and woman who also spend their weekends and evenings volunteering in our parish religious education programs. That is remarkable generosity.

To recognize and spiritually renew Catholics who give witness to their faith, not by proselytizing but, rather, by being a presence and example in the public schools where they teach, the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office annually offers events just for them.

One of those events is coming up at the end of the month. A one-day retreat experience for Catholics who teach in public schools will take place on Thursday, Sept. 29 (a public school holiday), at Maryknoll in Ossining, N.Y. It will be led by a priest who certainly has the credentials to speak to teachers. Msgr. Dermot Brennan, retired pastor of St. Patrick’s in Yorktown Heights, has on his resumé ten years of teaching high school students. His theme is “Becoming a Saint in a Secular Age.” We all have it in us to be saints; teachers may be closer to that than most people.

The fee for the retreat is just $25.oo per person.

If you are a Catholic teaching in a public school and would like to come, learn more here. Or, if you know someone who is, please pass on the invitation.

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.

Advent for overwrought, overworked, over-pressured believers

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

It has long struck me that the season of Advent doesn’t always get our full attention. But that’s no anyone’s fault. Here in the Mid-Atlantic States, the leaves are just falling and the weather is still fairly balmy. Even though the clocks have gone back, we haven’t yet reached the days when it’s pitch dark at 5:00 p.m. So it’s hard to get into the Advent mood and ponder phrases like “In the bleak midwinter” and “Silent Night.” (In Manhattan, where I live, there’s no such thing as a silent night any time of year.)

Then there is the fact that we Americans have to jump the hurdle that is the national Thanksgiving Day, followed by Black Friday and the  shopping season. For catechists and parish directors or coordinators of religious education, Advent also means preparing not only their own families, but yours and mine as well, for Christmas. And then there’s the Christmas pageant with all the drama onstage and back stage.

I for one will never be co that Catholics and other Christians don’t want to prepare spiritually for the celebration of the Nativity of Our Savior. It’s just that life is always hectic and time slips away.

So here is my contribution toward making Advent a little easier to keep for over-worked, over-wrought, over-pressured believers. These resources are all online.  Some are multi-lingual, others multi-generational. Try them and let me know what you think of them.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Here is an online Advent calendar plus prayer and information about the season, the meaning of its name, and more.

Creighton University Online Ministries. Among the many resources are online retreats in several languages.

ETWN’s Holy Season of Advent. Another informative Advent Calendar

Loyola Press’ Interactive Advent Retreats. Actually, this site is great all year around. Family Advent. Here you will find family resources plus a rather intriguing feature titled “Got a Faith Question? Ask St. Peter.” I didn’t know he had an e-mail account.  See? You learn something new every day.

Sacred Space. Daily prayer in 21 languages.  Another year ’round treasure.

Have you some favorite online resources for the season? Do send them to me.

Blessed Advent!

Is someone calling you?

Monday, August 30th, 2010

If you have been baptized, yes. As I was reminded about a week ago in a homily, the lay faithful  are called to be priests, prophets and kings (or queens). Surprised? Check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

All of us are expected to be evangelists; spreading the Gospel is the reason the Church exists. The trick is to be alert for and open to our call from the Holy Spirit, to listen to it, and to act on it.

Perhaps that call is inviting you to become a parish catechist. Oh, you might say, you don’t want to teach little kids. That’s fine. There are are adults and adolescents who want you to pass on the Faith to them in a lively and engaging way. In fact, there is a huge need for catechists of adults and adolescents.

That sounds interesting, you might also say, but you are not a teacher. You never took an education course in your life. If this is your concern, stop worrying. The Archdiocesan Catechetical Office has a variety of resources and a training program for catechists that you can take either in live classroom settings or on line.

The Catechist Formation Program is divided into two parts. The first level of formation for a catechist provides you with opportunities for growth as a person of faith; you also learn effective teaching/facilitating skills and develop a plan for your ongoing training and developing spiritual life. The second level of formation deepens your training by focusing on essential areas of theological training, such as Scripture, the Creed, and morality. Your program will focus on the audience you wish to serve: children, adolescents or adults.

On Sunday, Sept. 12, Archbishop Dolan will preside over the annual certification ceremony for catechists at Maryknoll Seminary in Ossining, N.Y. He will also award the Catechetical Medal of Honor to those who have given 25 or more years to the ministry of catechesis in the archdiocese. Twenty-five years may seem a very long time but the recipients always say that the years simply flew by.

Perhaps there is a certification ceremony in your future or even a Medal of Honor. If you want to know more about being a catechist and all the wonderful resources available to you, visit our website. Most important of all,  talk to your pastor or to your parish director/coordinator of religious education. Even you are not currently a catechist, take the courses anyway so that when your call comes, you’ll be ready to answer it.