Posts Tagged ‘religious education’

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.

Tolle lege! Tolle lege! Then come find out more about Scripture.

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

“Tolle lege! Tolle lege!” “Pick it up and read it. Pick it up and read it.” That’s what children’s voices said to St. Augustine of Hippo when he was in despair ’way back in the late fourth century. The “it” was the Bible. He took the advice, picked up the Sacred Scripture,  and started to read Romans 13, 13-14. It changed his life…and ours, too, for that matter. That’s because Augustine went on to become one of the most influential philosophers of Christianity and of western civilization.

As Father Anthony Ciorra, a great friend of the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, reminded our staff the other day, this is good advice for all us. The Bible is not simply that book that we pull off the shelf to record family births, weddings and deaths. It’s not just a wedding or religious jubilee gift. It’s the living Word of God, emphasis on living.

Sacred Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak to all generations until the end of time. You could read the same passage on three different days or three different years, and discover each time that your understanding of that passage and of yourself is deepening.

Pope Benedict XVI, an admirer and scholar of St. Augustine of Hippo, released a wonderful exhortation recently, one that reminds us of the importance of picking up and reading our copies of the Bible. It’s called Verbum Domini and you might enjoy reading it.

Then do yourself a favor. Discover the liveliness, influence and relevance of the Word of God by coming to the Second Annual New York Catholic Bible Summit on Saturday, June 25, here at the Catholic Center and sponsored by the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, the American Bible Society and Fordham University. It’s your chance to meet, hear and talk with some of today’s best scholars, historians, artists and musicians – a host of experts who will make Scripture a livelier experience than you ever dreamed. There will be workshops in both English and Spanish. Keynoters are the Rev. Donald Senior, CP, who edited the New American Bible and who is now president of the Catholic Theological Union; and the Rev. Gabriel Naranjo, CM, Secretario General de la Confederación Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Religiosas/os (CLAR) Bogotá, Colombia.  Among the many experts is New York’s’ own  Msgr. Robert Stern, president of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, who will speak about the Holy Land, ancient and modern. That’s a timely topic and will give added context to our reading of the Word of God.   Find out about the rest of our speakers and register today, so we can get you into the workshop of your choice. If you prefer registering by mail, you have that option, too.

Hope to see you there.

Thank you, Archbishop Dolan

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Did you see Archbishop Dolan’s column in the most recent Catholic New York? It’s a strong reminder for all Catholics that our formal faith formation doesn’t end the day we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Actually, ongoing discovery of the Catholic faith and how to live as true disciples is our baptismal right and our duty. The Church is bound to make faith formation available to all of us. Canon Law codifies this in articles 773 through 780. The Catechism of the Catholic Church also affirms this in articles number 4 through 7, right at the very beginning of the catechism.

Every parish is the place where catechesis (faith formation’s formal name) should be offered locally.  Just last Saturday, more than 1,000 parish catechetical leaders and catechists came together at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx for the “CatSkills Forum.” This gathering offered courses  in theology, liturgy, and methodology for teaching Catholics of all ages.

Just as importantly, the Forum enabled catechists to consult with one another on the best ways of providing religious education to adults, youth, children and people of all ages with special needs in their parishes. Happily, the Archbishop was with us for the Eucharistic Liturgy, thanking everyone and reflecting on the passage from Matthew 28: 16-20, which concludes with those wonderful words “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

On Saturday, Oct. 23, there will be another chance to brush up on one’s catechetical skills (that’s where the word CatSkills came from) at the next CatSkills Forum at Sacred Heart Parish in Monroe, N.Y.  Here are all the details. Msgr. Edward Weber, vicar of Rockland County and pastor of St. Francis of Assisi in West Nyack, will preside at the Liturgy and we hope that many pastors from our upper counties will be there, too.

Are you interested in learning more about the faith and sharing it with other adults? Would you like to be part of your parish’s ministry to youth? Would you like to become a catechist for children? If you are thinking about this, talk to your pastor and your parish director or coordinator of religious education. Chances are they will be happy to know of your interest in helping them.

After all, more than 100,000 children and youth, plus countless adults, are being formed in the faith through our parish catechetical programs. There’s always a need for more catechists.

And be sure to visit our Archdiocesan Catechetical Office website for all the formation opportunities and events taking place for those who are called to hand on the Faith.  That’s you!

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.