Parish leaders of catechesis receive a special commissioning on Catechetical Sunday in 2017 during Mass in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Whiting. Craig Pittelli photo

Parish leaders of catechesis receive a special commissioning on Catechetical Sunday in 2017 during Mass in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Whiting. Craig Pittelli photo

By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent

As the hustle and bustle of a new school year gets underway, parish catechetical leaders are busy preparing for another year of nurturing witnesses for Jesus Christ in their parish communities.

In light of Catechetical Sunday, which will be celebrated Sept. 16, PCLs reflect on their roles of handing on the faith in their respective communities. The theme, “Enlisting Witnesses for Jesus Christ,” provides an opportunity to reflect on their mission as part of a community of faith.

Pat Hutchinson, who has served as parish catechetical leader in Sacred Heart Parish, Riverton for 41 years and 47 years as a catechist, is pleased to see how the program has grown during her tenure.

“My joy is welcoming families who wish to pass on this wonderful Catholic Faith to their children,” Hutchinson said, “Our program strives to carry out the adage, “Religious education adds joy to your life.”  Our special-needs program, “We Can” (We Enrich Children of All Needs) is now in its 18th year.  Both our annual first grade Christmas play and our sixth grade Seder are in their 39th year.”

Pat Colando, who has been in the position of PCL for St. Pius X Parish, Forked River, for 16 years, described the family that surrounds her in her ministry: “I enjoy the people I work with and the catechists who work with me who are all focused on a very important goal – to help families embrace their faith and grow in it.

“I’ve enjoyed meeting amazing people over the years, who give tirelessly each week to pass their faith onto the children in their class. I’ve enjoyed the support of a pastor who encourages me to be strong and true to the teachings of the Church, and I enjoyed watching group after group of kids go from little people who can’t bless themselves, to young adults who receive the Holy Spirit with anticipation.”

Fellow PCL, Eileen Lang, has been a catechist since 1996 and a former PCL in Fort Monmouth for 15 years. As the current PCL in Precious Blood Parish, Monmouth Beach, Lang also shared her satisfaction in seeing the “fruits of the labor” and how students are living their faith and the Gospel message in their lives.

“One of the things that I am most proud of is that some of our former Confirmation students are involved in Catholic Heart Work Camp,” said Lang. “They have gone on these mission trips and have come back to share their experiences with the new Confirmation students. They put together a video of all that they did and they present this information at our Confirmation parent/student meeting. It gives the parents and students the opportunity to see faith in action and what it is to show God’s love to total strangers,” she added.

Donna Ann Powers also expressed her fondest memories having acted as a PCL for more than 12 years in both St. Theresa Parish, Little Egg Harbor, and St. Mary Parish, Barnegat.

“My favorite cherished moments are when I walk in the halls and visit the students’ classes each week. I see the love and light of Jesus in each and every student’s face,” she said.

Ministering to the students and preparing them and their families to receive their sacraments is something that Barbara Sanna, PCL in Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Trenton, finds most rewarding.

“I love to see their faces after they have received their sacraments. They have the biggest smile and actually glow with the love of God,” she said.

While catechetical leaders in the Diocese take their responsibility for instructing youth in the faith quite seriously, they also stress the importance of the role that parents play in their children’s faith development.

“Parents are the primary catechists for their children and they need to be involved in their faith journey. Ask the children about class and reinforce their learning, and most of all pray with them and bring them to Mass. Make this the priority,” said Patricia Thein, PCL, St. Clement Parish, Matawan.

Dr. Linda Dix, who has served as director of religious education for 32 years in Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown, agrees. “My advice to parents would be to listen to their children about what they learn in class and then continue the discussion at home and build upon it. I ask them to engage with the children and be involved with the parish in all the activities we hold and to celebrate Mass with the parish weekly so the children become in this vibrant faith community and know they do not walk alone. Be an active part of your child’s faith formation. I tell my parents all the time that we can only do so much with the time allotted to us and that they are the ones who really form and nurture their child’s faith. Be the example. Make God important in your home and your child will make God important in his/her life,” she said.

Deacon Bill Palmisano, DRE, in the Parish of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton, shared similar sentiments, “Parent should be examples. Pray with your children. Go to Mass with them. Children look to parents and will do what their parents do. They will follow your example. In the end the thing we want most for our children is to get them to heaven.”