Annual diocesan meeting at Jamaica parish
JAMAICA — Lisa Sampson, the director of religious education at Our Lady of Light Parish, St. Albans, doesn’t want religious education to be a rote exercise.
She said catechesis is not just about having young people go through the sacraments; it’s also about teaching children to become active participants in the church.
“Kids need to see that they have a voice, and that there’s something relatable to them, that the church is reaching out to them now and they are a part of what’s happening, where they are now,” Sampson said on the sidelines of the Brooklyn Diocese’s 11th annual Catechetical Gathering, which was held on Feb. 25 at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Parish, Jamaica. The event was presented by the diocese’s Office of the Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis.
“As catechists, we have to give them that foundation to make proper decisions as future leaders of the church, to accept people for who they are, where they are. It’s not about forcing our faith, but [teaching how] to live it — to go out and be the Gospel,” Sampson said.
As an example of how her religious education program does that, she pointed to a toy drive and outreach students participate in to help needy children.
At St. Nicholas of Tolentine’s, at least 200 educators, from parish religious education directors to Catholic school teachers, gathered for a literal and spiritual feeding in the parish hall. They engaged in dinner conversation about their religious education programs, while listening to a discussion about how to better lead their classes as catechists.
More than 6,300 catechists are serving in parish programs in the diocese, according to Ted Musco, the Secretary for Evangelization and Catechesis. They are required to participate in at least 10 hours of faith-formation programs and to take courses on teaching religion offered through the diocese.
“We have the opportunity to bring together the people who are serving the parishes, schools and academies throughout our diocese, to learn and pray together, to share fellowship with one another,” Musco said. “The goal is for people to leave here renewed and enthused about the mission of the church, to go out and make disciples … [so that they are] able to share the catechism of the Catholic Church for everyone young and old. As catechists, they have a regular opportunity to convey the faith to young people and their families.”
Angela Dinger, Anna Ferraiuolo and Timothy Regan, three employees of William H. Sadlier, a publisher that supplies religious education material to the diocese,
received the newly established Missionary Disciple Award for their work in evangelizing youth.
Sadlier — which is known for its “We Believe” program for religious education students who are in elementary school — is now offering a partly digital program called “Christ In Us” for students in kindergarten through the sixth grade.
“We are using technology-rich, integrated text resources, new materials that pair with your smartphone and tablet, with wonderful video and audio components,” Deacon Matt Halbach, executive director of catechesis at Sadlier, said. “But it’s also making sure we have engaging content … a catechesis that inspires.
“We customize everything as a culture,” he said. “In some sense, we try to customize our faith, and we don’t try to water down or relativize anything. We want to feed the customization desire by allowing people to access the content in many different ways.”