Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Don’t settle for less than the best

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

A few weeks ago, at the beautiful chapel of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in Ossining, the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office honored its most faithful catechists and catechetical leaders, and recognized those who have completed the various formation programs designed to give every parish excellence in religious education for children, youth and adults.

Additionally, two pastors, Rev. Raymond Nobiletti, MM, of Transfiguration in Manhattan and Msgr. Hugh McManus of Our Lady of Fatima in Scarsdale, received the Terence Cardinal Cooke Award for their support of the catechetical ministry. Bishop Gerald Walsh, rector of the St. Joseph Seminary, presided and joined Sr. Joan Curtin, CND, director of the Catechetical Office in presenting the awards and certificates.

Where do coordinators and directors of parish religious education programs and their catechists come from? They come from very neighborhood, every ethnic and national group, every walk of life. Most are moms and dads and grandparents. Most have other jobs. And that’s tough because as any qualified catechetical leader or catechist will tell you, parish catechesis is not a part-time effort. It takes much more time than the 90 minutes a week that are mandated by the Archdiocese for each parish. Anyone who has not served this ministry doesn’t know all the hidden extra hours these worthy people devote to the ministry. It takes a qualified leader.

Ideally the leader of parish catechesis (which is a more appropriate name than religious ed) should be a full-time director, that is, a professional who has a master’s degree in theology, religious studies or religious education. But that’s not always possible. What is possible is that anyone engaged as coordinator (this person would not have the above graduate degree) completes our training process, which will qualify him or her to be a catechetical leader. And this person should be paid a just wage for his or her professional commitment.

There is more to leading or teaching in a parish catechetical program than opening the doors, spending an hour and a half a week with the students, and then organizing the reception of First Penance, First Eucharist and Confirmation. In fact, to call the catechetical formation of your children a mere program is to grossly understate its importance. Catechesis is an ongoing process of Christian development, one that begins in early childhood and goes on for the rest of one’s life.

Parents of Catholic School students wouldn’t tolerate an unqualified principal or teacher, or one who works only a one or two days a week, to deliver the education excellence they expect for their children. Why should religious education parents have to settle for this?

Well, you shouldn’t have to. And you don’t have to. Support your parish so that it will be able to engage and justly compensate a qualified catechetical leader…or someone who is willing and able to attend the training that will qualify him or her. It may be the biggest favor you have ever done for your parish because when people are able to discover more about their faith, they become more engaged in their parish and will help it to thrive.

The All-Star Saints of August

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Have you noticed that certain months of the year produce a particularly stellar selection of famous saints’ feasts? August is one of those months, beginning on the first day with St. Alphonsus Liguori, doctor of the church and founder of the Redemptorists. Actually, this celebration of saintly all-stars really begins on July 31 with the Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola. Ignatius’ day fell on a Sunday this year, which is why you didn’t hear much too about him in church. But the Jesuit blogs were busy.

Back to August.  The fourth day of the month celebrates St. John Vianney, patron of priests. Yesterday, Aug. 8th, was the Feast of St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers, and of recently canonized St. Mary McKillop, the pride of Australia. Today, the 9th, is for St. Edith Stein, who was executed during World War II in the Auschwitz gas chamber, and tomorrow commemorates St. Lawrence the Martyr, who may hold the record for the most gruesome death.  On Aug. 11th, the Church celebrates three famous females: the saints Susanna, Clare and Philomena. Another famous female saint is venerated on August 12, St. Jane Frances de Chantal. Two days later comes the feast of s second 20th century martyr, St. Maximilian Kolbe, who took the place of a doomed young husband at Auschwitz. His feast falls on Sunday this year. Of course, on Aug. 15, the church will observe the Feast of the Assumption.

For those of you who are of Hungarian descent, the feast of your national patron, St. Stephen the Great. is on Aug. 16.  Aug. 18 is the feast of St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who ended the persecutions against Christians in the year 312. Helena is credited with the discovery of the cross of Christ. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, monastic reformer, is honored on Aug. 20, while the feast of Pope St. Pius X is the next day. Aug. 22 is the feast of St. Andrew the Scot, who actually was an Irishman. The feast of St. Rose of Lima, patroness of the Americas, is on Aug. 23, followed the next day by the feasts of St. Bartholomew and St. Nathanial, who were the same man! Don’t ask me how that happened.

Aug. 25 brings the feast of King St. Louis of France, credited with discovering Jesus’ crown of thorns, then building the exquisite St. Chapelle in Paris to house the crown and other precious relics. That church is the inspiration for the Lady Chapel in our own St. Patrick’s Cathedral and for St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hartford, Conn. St. Louis shares Aug. 25 with St. Genesius, patron of actors, who was converted while satirizing the role of a catechumen about to be baptized. God touched him right in the middle of the performance.  On Aug. 27, one of the great women of the church is honored – St. Monica, mater to St. Augustine of Hippo, whose feast is the very next day.

Who’s your patron saint? Google your name and find its origin. Maybe you carry the name of one of these or the hundreds of August saints I haven’t mentioned. Maybe some facet of your personality or life resembles that of your namesake.  Or, if you have an August birthday, find out whose feast it is. Celebrate your connection.

I’ll be on vacation for the next few weeks but if I see something interesting, I’ll post. Enjoy the rest of this saint-rich month.

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,

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.

The Easter Women

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

In church on Palm Sunday, as I was listening to Luke’s version of the Passion, it was difficult not to notice the irony of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and how he heard the Hosannas from the people. Just a few days later, he was abandoned by most of them.  But not all.

As Jesus carried his cross to his place of execution, Luke notes that he stopped to speak to some weeping Jerusalem women. This reminded me that women played key roles in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus…and that they were loyal when many others disappeared. There are so many examples in the four gospels.

Later in his account of Jesus’ death and resurrection, Luke mentions women observing the centurion saying, “Certainly this man was innocent.” Women followed Joseph of Arimathea, who removed Jesus’ body from the cross and laid it in the tomb. They made plans to return and anoint the body.  When they did come back, “on the first day of the week,” they discovered that he had risen, as he said he would. These women, who included Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James, told Jesus’ followers, including the remaining eleven apostles, but no one believed them. Only Peter got up and ran to the tomb.

Mark’s Gospel mentions the presence of Jesus’ mother, and of Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and Joses, and an additional woman, Salome. “There were also many other woman who had come up with him from Jerusalem,” this gospel writer reports.  Mark also mentions that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection, but that when she tried to tell the others, nobody believed her.

Matthew tells an even more exciting story. He puts Mary Magdalene and another Mary at the tomb when the angel of the Lord rolled the stone away from the mouth of Jesus’ tomb.

Finally, the gospel of John tells of Mary Magdalene’s discovery of the empty tomb and how she ran to get Peter and “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” The men rushed to the tomb and discovered that indeed Jesus was no longer there. Then they returned to their homes.

But not Mary Magdalene. She stood there weeping, then peered into the empty tomb and saw the angels. When they asked why she was crying, she said. “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.” Then she turned to see Jesus, whom she did not initially recognize. But when she did understand, this great woman rushed to tell the other disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”

Just imagine how that little band of Jesus’ female friends felt watching almost everyone abandoning him. And yet something in them kept them nearby. Even after his death, they went about caring for his body. Maybe they held a tiny flame of faith that he would rise as he had promised. In any event, they stayed close. That flame of faith may have burned high and it may have burned low, but the flame never went out. And their faith was rewarded.

The women did not abandon the Lord. The women held on. The women were the first to learn and spread the good news of the Resurrection.  That’s something to think about these days.

A Blessed Easter!

A Catechetical Valentine

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Michael Molinaro, coordinator of religious education at St. Mary’s in Poughkeepsie for the past 19 years, gets my catechetical Valentine this year. Here’s why.

If you were to survey the religious education programs in the parish of the Archdiocese of New York, the chances are very good that the most successful are also the friendliest.

So many times, hospitality on the part of the parish and the director or coordinator of religious education can make the difference between a program where children are just dropped off and picked with little parent involvement AND a vibrant program where everyone is participating enthusiastically – children, parents, siblings, grandparents and all.

At St. Mary’s, the wonderful pastor, Msgr. John Brinn, and Michael Molinaro always have the “Welcome” mat out. As a result, this old city parish has been able to develop and nurture a multi-cultural catechetical program that begins with hospitality and goes on to share the faith. The family catechesis experiences Michael offers twice a year are not just multicultural, but multi-generational, too. Read about Michael’s methods here.

By the way, there are more parish directors and coordinators of religious education like Michael Molinaro. Each brings a special reverence for the ministry of catechesis, along with graciousness, knowledge, and many leadership gifts to the parish catechetical program. I’ll tell you about more of these people as the year progresses.

Another Valentine’s note: this Tuesday, Feb. 9, Sr. Marie Pappas, CR, host of the Catholic Channel’s “Pathways of Learning” will be talking about this feast and its origins with the Girl Guides to Catholicism (better known as Anne Malloy, director of the New York Catholic Bible School, and yours truly). Tune at 1:00 pm to Sirius XM satellite radio: Channel 159 on Sirius, 117 on XM.