Success in the Spirit

June 5, 2003
Success in the Spirit
By Blessed Sacrament staff/ SUN contributing writers
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Lana Riley receives 2003 Bishop Harrison Award

Lana Riley’s title at St. Margaret’s Church in Homer is “spiritual life director.” But according to parishioners and the countless people whose lives she has touched, her work encompasses much more than her job description. “Lana is a model of faith formation as a lifelong journey and commitment,” said Sister Katie Eiffe, CSJ, director for the religious education office. “In so many different ways she has enriched people spiritually.”

Riley has served the catechetical ministry for 40 years, as a teacher, as a coordinator, as a director of religious education and now as a spiritual life director for St. Margaret’s –– mentoring both catechists and catechetical leaders along the way. For these efforts on behalf of the catechetical community, she will be honored with the annual Bishop Frank J. Harrison Award for Outstanding and Dedicated Service to the Catechetical Ministry.

Among the many fine candidates for the award Riley’s lifetime commitment to the ministry really stood out, said Sister Katie. According to Riley, though, she did not see the award coming. “This recognition came as a complete surprise. My team said that this was the first time they had ever seen me speechless,” joked Riley.

Riley, in ways large and small, has touched many through her interest in the diocesan catechetical community. Currently, as spiritual life director, she meets with individuals and groups, giving them spiritual direction. Riley also has formed marriage preparation classes, has started a Bible study program and has offered adult formation ministry. She believes that she is fortunate to have the opportunity to watch people grow stronger in their faith. “When I am working with individuals providing spiritual direction, or couples preparing for the sacrament of marriage, I see moments of evangelization,” explained Riley. “It is remarkable to watch people grow in union with Christ and the church.”

Three years ago, Riley was also one of the four founding members of the pastoral team at St. Margaret’s Church. Without a full time pastor, this group performs the non-sacramental ministry of the church, said Riley. She sees the pastoral team as a model for other parishes. “Involvement like this is such a great opportunity for lay ministry. For those who have prepared for lay ministry to have the chance to use that ministry is wonderful,” she said. Riley will officially be recognized at “Pathways to Ministry,” a dinner and celebration sponsored by the Religious Education Office beginning at 5:30 p.m., June 9 at the Holiday Inn, Liverpool. “I heard God calling me to get involved in helping His ministry grow,” Lana said. “This is a way for me to use my gifts and respond to his call.”

According to Father Dan De Lorme, sacramental minister at St. Margaret’s Church, while devoting herself to the spiritual formation and growth of others, Riley has found the time to improve her own personal, professional and spiritual formation. To that end, after putting four sons through college, she attended college herself earning her bachelor’s degree from Le Moyne College and went on to attain her master’s degree in theology and pastoral ministry from St. Bernard’s in Rochester. “All that Lana has accomplished is truly remarkable,” said Father De Lorme. “We are fortunate to have her as such a driving force in our parish.”

The Bishop Harrison Award, founded in 1999, is named in honor of retired Bishop Frank Harrison. He was the bishop of Syracuse from 1977 to 1987 and actively supported catechetical ministry. “I am honored and humbled to receive an award in the name of Bishop Harrison,” Riley said, adding that she works with absolutely wonderful people who, along with her, assist others in spirtual formation. Along with the presentation of the Harrison Award at Pathways to Ministry, catechists will receive their certification, catechetical leaders will receive certification as religious education associates and catechists will be certified or re-certified as Directors of Religious Education. Riley said that she is looking forward to the evening and the induction of new catechists. The new generation of catechists will help the diocese in what she believes is one of the church’s most significant ministries. Certification of catechists has been an important goal for the Religious Education Office, said Sister Katie. The Pathways event is a way to pay tribute to the dedicated people who allow the program to flourish. “Pathways to Ministry is one of the ways in which we celebrate the wonderful work that is done, through individuals like Lana in catechetical ministry throughout the diocese,” Sister Katie stated.

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