WARWICK—Fifty-five catechetical leaders from across the diocese were spiritually rejuvenated after meeting last Friday at Aldrich Mansion for their annual orientation day.
The program began with a prayer service led by Deacon Stephen R. Cote, diocesan coordinator of Marriage Preparation & Enrichment, who thanked all those who serve in the religious education ministry for coming together at the beginning of the new school year and for sharing their faith with all those who they serve.
“You are co-workers with the bishop, priests and deacons in echoing the faith in your parish,” said Deacon Cote. “Continue to teach the good news of Christ with holy zeal and love.?Bring with you the light and faith of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus.?Make known to everyone the reason for your hope.?Be the salt of the earth in your parish and beyond.”
During the prayer service, the catechetical leaders renewed their baptismal promises and recommitted themselves to serve God faithfully in His holy church. Dr. David Beaudoin, diocesan secretary for Catholic Education and Evangelization, also offered a reflection.
“This is a wonderful ministry,” said Beaudoin. “The people you share this ministry with are wonderful and fill us up with the love of God.”
The event was an orientation for directors and coordinators of religious education and youth ministers. An evening orientation was held the night before to reach out to people involved in part-time religious education. Forty people attended the orientation held at Julio’s Restaurant in North Providence.
Lisa Gulino, director of the Office of Religious Education and Veronica Plante, coordinator of Catechetical Resources presented the proposed changes to the catechist’s formation and certification.
“The new program will be more accessible by allowing catechists to choose between the option of classroom or on-line learning,” said Gulino. “The courses will be taught through two levels of learning. First, the catechists will explore the richness of the Catholic faith and deepen their own love and commitment of Jesus and the Church. Second, the catechists will work with a group facilitator and with other catechists in the same grade level and share lessons plans and activities.”
Gulino explained that the new format will be affordable, accessible, attainable, and relevant.
“There has been a call to rework the catechist formation program to help standardize and simplify,” said Gulino. “Catechists will leave with skills and actual lesson plans to use in your parish religious ed. programs. The formation will also help the catechists be strengthened in their own adult knowledge and experience of a living, loving relationship with Jesus and the Church.”
The accessibility of the new format will offer both live and online options. For example, catechists in the program will be asked to take two webinars or seminars on?Christian living and prayer. Both seminars or webinars are two hours each. Plante explained that catechists will be able to accomplish this formation in little over a year for the first level but there is no mandate to complete it within a certain amount of time.
“Catechists will be able to obtain a certificate and ability to hand on the faith in concrete ways,” Plante said.
The theme of the day of orientation was chosen as Evangelizing Catechesis.
“We recognize that evangelization has as its aim of bringing the good news to all,” said Gulino “Catechesis, echoing the teachings of Christ, is a key moment in the process of evangelization.
The specific aim of catechesis is to help foster an initial faith and help nurture faithful Christian disciples engaged in parish life.”
Many participants said that they were rejuvenated by the day of orientation.
“It gives me a focus for the year,” said Cross and Passion Sister Lillian Dempsey, director of religious education at Holy Name of Jesus Church, Providence. “You get to meet and share ideas with people in the same ministry and it gives me the materials to share with my teachers.”
The guest speaker for the event was Dr. Harry Dudley, director of religious education for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. and a catechist for more than 40 years.
“I always feel revived when?I meet with?DREs,” said Dudley. “For me, it’s a gift and honor to be with them.”
During his discussion, Dudley explored some of the parallels between catechists and icons.
“In describing icons, among other things it is said that they share in the mystery of the Incarnation as they remind us of our call to holiness, instruct us in the true faith, show us examples of holy life, and urge us to live a holy life,” said Dudley. “Catechists ought to be seen as being more than teachers.?Like icons, they share in the mystery of the incarnation as windows to heaven.”
Gulino explained that she hopes to provide support for the catechetical leaders in the diocese and is enthusiastic about welcoming new ideas.
“I want to help build relationships in the Lord,” said Gulino.“We are on a journey together. Our office acknowledges and honors the good work that parishes do and I want to be sure we are tapping their wisdom in order to provide practical service to parishes."
Cathy Schmitz of St. Ann Church, Cranston, said, “I am always revived and refreshed because they start in the beginning of the year. It helps me to focus and the support from other people is a very strong support. To know you are not alone is major. It’s an energizer, you really need something like this.”
Sandra Pavlow of St. Thomas Church, in Providence, said that she was happy to participate in the day of reflection.
“This is a day to just take some time and think about what my purpose is as a DRE,” said Pavlow. “Thinking about what I want to bring to my classes gives me a spiritual boost and inspiration so I can give that same inspiration back to my teachers and the children.”
Gulino took the opportunity to express her gratitude to Plante, Michelle Laliberte, Coordinator of Faith Formation, and Paul Merola who manages the communications and business aspect of the Office.
“We have a really blessed team here,” Gulino said. “They all bring unique gifts to their ministry and a deep commitment to those whom this Office serves.”
Dr. Dudley thanked the catechetical leaders for their important ministry.
“We can give no greater esteem than by supporting their work and partnering in spreading the kingdom,” said Dudley. “We hold catechists in esteem for being icons of Christ for us and for calling and inspiring us to also be icons for a world very much in need of him.”
Gulino concluded by thanking everyone for their strong faith and efforts to bring religious education students closer to God.
"Thank you for being an extension of Christ's message of Good News,” said Gulino. “I am so impressed with you. Thank you for inspiring us.”