Catechists who teach as Jesus did are celebrated at awards dinner
By Claudia Mathis
SUN staff writer
Over 200 people gathered at the Holiday Inn in Liverpool for the annual Pathways to Ministry Dinner on June 2. The dinner was held to recognize the men and women who have responded to the call to catechetical ministry, particularly those who have completed the requirements for diocesan certification as catechetical leaders and catechists.
As the celebration began, Sister Katie Eiffe, CSJ, Diocesan Director of Religious Education, welcomed those in attendance and expressed her gratitude, on behalf of the religious education staff, for their service.
Sister Katie said that throughout the current catechetical year, the theme has been “Encountering the Living Christ.”
“That phrase, perhaps more than any other, provides the raison d’etre for our ministry, for as we have heard over and over again, the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch, but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ,” said Sister Katie.
Following the buffet dinner, Bishop Thomas Costello conferred certificates on those individuals from throughout the diocese who had completed the necessary coursework for basic catechetical certification and advanced catechetical certification. Those who received the basic catechetical certificate had completed three catechist formation courses, totaling 30 contact hours of formation. And those who received the advanced catechetical certificate had continued to complete an additional 30 contact hours.
Also recognized that evening were individuals who were commissioned last September through the Formation for Ministry Program in the area of catechetical ministry. Alhough they had already received their certificates, they were honored with a small gift.
Afterwards, the recent graduates of the Loyola Institute for Ministry Extension Program (LIMEX) were honored. Beginning in the fall of 1990, the Diocese of Syracuse, in collaboration with Loyola University in New Orleans, has offered a graduate-level, university based certificate program in religious education or pastoral ministry through LIMEX. The process consists of attending 10 graduate level courses in theology, plus two additional courses in one’s focus area of ministry, over a three-to-five year time period. Since 1994, over 120 people have completed requirements for the certificate.
Those individuals who had completed the requirements to be certified and recertified as Religious Education Associates (REA) and as Directors of Religious Education (DRE) were also recognized. To be certified as a REA, an individual must complete the Formation for Ministry Program in the area of catechetical ministry, must have at least two years experience administering a catechetical program and be recommended by his or her pastor or ministerial supervisor.
To be certified as a DRE, one must complete at least a bachelor’s degree in theology or religious studies or its equivalent, or complete the LIMEX Program in religious education, have at least two years’ experience administering a catechetical program and be recommended by his or her pastor or ministerial supervisor.
The night of celebration continued with an acknowledgment of parish catechetical leaders who had served a significant length of time.
Sister Katie then acknowledged four parish catechetical leaders who will be retiring this year from their positions. “We wish, first of all, to thank them for their years of faithful service in catechetical ministry,” said Sister Katie. “Secondly, we offer them our prayers for a long and healthy retirement, filled with the blessings of family and friends. Third, we wish to offer a token of our love and gratitude.”
Mary Stanley, DRE at St. Ann’s in Syracuse, is one of those slated to retire this year. She also received the Bishop Frank J. Harrison Award that evening. “I was honored and privileged to receive the award,” said Stanley.
In 2000, the Diocese Religious Education Office established the Bishop Frank J. Harrison Award to honor both Bishop Harrison for his visionary leadership and steadfast support of catechetical ministry, and to honor someone from within the catechetical community who has exhibited outstanding dedication to this ministry.
“The woman we honor tonight, Mary Stanley, has been involved in ministry for over 40 years, and has served as a catechetical leader on the parish and diocesan level for over 20 years,” said Sister Katie. “The breadth and depth of the impact her ministry has made becomes evident when one realizes that she was nominated by her current and former pastors, by the entire catechetical staff of catechists, aides and volunteers at St. Ann’s, her current ministerial location, by other parishioners at St. Ann’s, by a number of her professional colleagues — catechetical leaders in other parishes, and by others who have experienced her as a colleague in ministry.”
Sister Katie said that it gave her the deepest pride and the greatest joy to ask Bishop Costello to present the award to Stanley.
Stanley and her husband Chuck have been married 43 years and have three children and eight grandchildren.
Stanley’s ministry began when she and her husband were involved with the Christian Family Movement in the late 1960s. In the late 1970s, she and her husband served as a presenting team for Parish Renewal Weekends. From 1977 to the early 1990s, the couple served as a weekend presenting team for Worldwide Marriage Encounter. “In the journey, my husband Chuck has had a significant role — he’s been a partner in my ministry,” said Stanley. “Our three children were also a tremendous help.”
From 1987 to 1993, Stanley served as the DRE at St. Ann’s in Syracuse. From 1993 to 2000, Stanley was the Western Region DRE. In addition, Stanley was pastoral associate at St. Mary’s of the Lake in Skaneateles from 2002 to September 2003. From October 2003 to the present, Stanley has served as DRE at St. Ann’s in Syracuse.
“Working at St. Ann’s has been phenomenal,” remarked Stanley. “They are the most remarkable people to work with and share your faith with. Anytime you can share your faith with other people, it’s rewarding.”
When Stanley started out in the ministry field 44 years ago, during the time of the Second Vatican Council, the role of the laity was changing drastically — they were assuming considerably more responsibility. “We were deepening and sharing our faith at the same time,” said Stanley. “We were able to touch peoples’ lives. Catechetical ministry is a ministry that has touched and enlivened the church.”