Julia Cullen
Julia Cullen
When it comes to teaching young children about the Catholic faith, Julia Cullen’s main mission is to help them recognize God’s presence in their lives.

“I believe through catechesis, we are shaping how faith will play a role in the rest of their lives. It should be our mission [as catechists] to show them how important it is to practice their faith, to believe in The Word and be the best person they can be, treating others as they would want to be treated,” she said.

Cullen has been an active member of St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck, for the past eight years, serving as a reader for Mass, as a first- and second-grade catechist, and by helping with the Summer Intensive Religious Education program.

In July, she became the new pastoral coordinator of faith formation/elementary education, overseeing the parish religious education program for students in grades one through six. Her responsibilities include preparing students for the Sacraments of Penance and First Holy Communion, coordinating the Children’s Liturgy of the Word and helping with the intergenerational program for students and their families.

Cullen’s journey in catechesis began about four years ago, when she enrolled her eldest daughter, Madeline, a first-grader at the time, in religious education. In addition to Madeline, Cullen and her husband, Jason, are parents to second-grader Chloe.

“I checked the box that I would be willing to teach, and I received a phone call that same day,” she recalled.

In her conversation with the program director, she proceeded to tell about her parish involvement while growing up, experience with presenting youth group retreats and how she loved taking elective religion classes as a student in DeSales University, Center Valley, Pa., even though she was a theater major. Her work experience has included performing with various children’s theater companies throughout the country, dabbling in both television and film and operating a small business where she put on shows for children’s birthday parties.

“I have always said that children are the hardest audience. They will see right through you if you don’t deliver. Keeping their attention and being authentic is key,” said Cullen, who holds a certificate of completion in Introduction to the Catholic Faith and Introduction to the New Testament from the McGrath Institute for Church Life. She is currently enrolled in the Diocese’s two-year Catechetical Leadership Program.

Reflecting on how her life experiences and faith journey led her to become a catechist, she said, “It has been wonderful to share my faith with the children. It has certainly helped me to grow in my own faith, and I pray that I have helped the children to grow in theirs.”