Honoring educators

June 22, 2006
Honoring educators
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
Commitment by those in catechatical ministry honored at celebration

On June 5, the catechetical community of the Syracuse Diocese gathered with Bishop James Moynihan and Bishop Thomas Costello for the annual Pathways to Ministry celebration at the Holiday Inn in Liverpool. They came together to honor those who had completed requirements for diocesan certification as catechists or catechetical leaders, and to recognize as well those who had recently completed the Formation for Ministry program in the field of catechetics and the Loyola Institute for Ministry (LIMEX) program. In addition, the Seventh Annual Bishop J. Harrison Award for Outstanding Service in Catechetical Ministry was presented to Charlene Mitchell, who serves as catechetical leader at St Paul’s Parish in Oswego.

Sister Katie Eiffe, CSJ, diocesan Director of Religious Education, welcomed those in attendance and expressed her gratitude to the diocesan religious education staff for their “ministry to the ministers.” Sister Katie said that throughout the catechetical year, parishes as well as regional and diocesan offices had focused on the theme “Christ is Life!” This year, the catechetical community studied and implemented the National Directory for Catechesis, which was published in May 2005. “We have, as a catechetical community, witnessed to ‘the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth’ — and ‘the heart of catechesis,’ and we have invited people into relationship, into communion, into intimacy with Him,” commented Sister Katie.

On that evening, 47 catechists were granted diocesan certification as catechists — 46 completed requirements for Basic Catechetical Certification and one completed requirements for Advanced Catechetical Certification. Sister Katie said that by completing the requirements for certification, the candidates have responded to the call issued by the Bishops of New York State in their 1997 pastoral letter The Catechist in the Third Millennium: Call, Mission and Formation, that catechists in New York State be certified according to the processes within their diocese. Bishop Moynihan and Bishop Costello awarded the certificates. Six catechetical leaders received diocesan certification as Religious Education Associates, which is one of two levels of certification for parish catechetical leaders in the diocese. Five catechetical leaders received certification as a Director of Religious Education. In addition, five commissioned lay ministers who had been commissioned last September through the Formation for Ministry program in the field of catechetics were recognized.

Six graduates of the LIMEX program in New Orleans, La., were also honored. Sister Katie noted, “Even Hurricane Katrina could not prevent Loyola University from continuing to serve them, nor could it deter them from completing their studies toward a master’s level certification in theology or pastoral studies. These six people have spent the last four years studying theology, sharing faith and growing in discipleship.”

Nine catechetical leaders were recognized for their length of service, celebrating five, 10, 20, 25 or 30 years. Also acknowledged were Deacon Ed Doyle of St. Paul’s Parish in Rome, Bonnie Cacchione of St. Michael’s Parish in Syracuse and Lucy Montanaro of Our Lady of Pompei Parish in Syracuse upon their retirement as catechetical leaders. Sister Katie announced that Bishop Costello was also celebrating his 52nd anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Seventh Annual Bishop Frank J. Harrison Award for Outstanding Service in Catechetical Ministry to Charlene Mitchell.

Sister Katie asked Bishops Moynihan and Costello to present the award to Mitchell. “Tonight it gives me great joy to honor one whose life and ministry is centered in Jesus Christ, one who is herself first and foremost a disciple, one who journeys with others on the road to discipleship, leading by her own witness to the Risen Lord Jesus,” said Sister Katie. She then quoted one of her favorite statements from the National Directory for Catechesis: “The single most critical factor in an effective parish catechetical program is the leadership of a professionally trained parish catechetical leader.” Sister Katie added, “The vitality of the parish catechetical program at St. Paul’s is due in no small part to Charlene’s leadership.”

Mitchell has served in catechetical ministry for over 20 years, serving as a catechist, administrative assistant, religious education associate and now as Director of Religious Education at St. Paul’s. She was nominated for the award by a wide range of persons, including her pastor, Father Eric Harer, catechists, parents and children from St Paul’s, as well as her colleagues from other parishes. Sister Katie said that as she read the letters from the people who had nominated Mitchell, several recurring phrases appeared: responsible, caring, hardworking, tireless, knowledgeable and steadfast. Reflecting on her 20 years of service, Mitchell said the years have gone by quickly and she has met some wonderful people. “It’s been a challenging, fascinating and enlightening experience,” said Mitchell. “Words cannot describe how honored I am to receive this award,” she said. “When I learned that I had received the award, I was so surprised — it was a complete shock. There are so many others that deserved it. It means so much to me to be identified by my peers.”

Mitchell’s humility was evidenced by the fact that, when Sister Germaine Hilston, CSJ, Sister Katie, Teresa May and Cathy Cornue visited the rectory at St. Paul’s to inform her that she had been chosen as the 2006 honoree — with two bouquets of roses — Mitchell assumed that they were there to visit Father Harer after his recent illness. It never occurred to her that they were there to see her. The Bishop Harrison Award was instituted in the Jubilee Year 2000 as a way to honor him, and annually to honor one who has exhibited outstanding leadership in catechetical ministry.

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