Mary Knows Best • Immaculate Heart Sister Mary Agnes Ryan teaches catechetical leaders in the Diocese about life lessons they can learn from Mother Mary during an annual convocation Oct. 16 in St. Vincent de Paul Church, Yardville. Joe Moore photos

Mary Knows Best • Immaculate Heart Sister Mary Agnes Ryan teaches catechetical leaders in the Diocese about life lessons they can learn from Mother Mary during an annual convocation Oct. 16 in St. Vincent de Paul Church, Yardville. Joe Moore photos


By David Kilby | Correspondent

The leaders of parish catechetical programs across the Diocese enjoyed comraderie, received encouragement and learned important leadership skills at the annual convocation for catechetical leaders Oct. 16 in St. Vincent de Paul Church, Yardville. 


nvocation featured presentations by Immaculate Heart Sister Mary Agnes Ryan, diocesan director of the Diocesan Ministry of Catechesis and Evangelization; and Matt Pinto, president of Ascension Press. John Toman, general manager of Domestic Church Media WFJS 1260 AM and 89.3 FM also shared information about the local Catholic radio station.

In her morning presentation, called “Life Lessons from Mary,” Sister Mary Agnes asked the approximately 60 catechetical leaders, “When do you have quality prayer time with God during the day?”

After reflecting on the Gospel story in Luke chapter 10 involving Martha and Mary, she reflected,“We are great about being workers.... This can be a trap for us. We are busy at many things, and on the one thing necessary we lose focus. We need to have prayer time every day so that focus can be given to our work.”

“There are many different forms and styles of prayer... to learn to encounter Christ,” she continued. “Learn to talk (to God) to share what you need.”

The catechetical leaders broke into small groups to discuss being present for one another during sufferings. Toward the end of the morning, Sister Mary Agnes asked them to share one life lesson they learned from Mother Mary that day.

She invited the group into a contemplative prayer experience where they closed their eyes and pictured meeting and walking with Mother Mary.

Dominican Sister Catherine Morgan from St. David the King Parish, West Windsor, said she appreciated Sister Mary Agnes’ method of teaching the development of contemplative prayer, saying “The ability to use your imagination in prayer is critical. I’m thankful that she used that form of prayer to meditate.”

Sister Catherine said she uses imaginative meditative forms of prayer at the beginning of her classes for first through eighth-graders.

In his brief talk, Toman spoke about the WFJS 1260 AM and 89.3 FM Catholic radio stations based in Ewing and Freehold, and asked the catechetical leaders what the station can do to help them in their ministry.

“I really enjoy being in Catholic radio,” he said. “I feel so blessed to be Catholic and I want to share that blessing with others.”

He went on to say, “(Catholic radio) is an important, effective way to evangelize. It’ll help your teachers to be able to express their faith.”

Another significant occasion at the convocation was the presentation of the Chick McGinty Award. Named after Rosemarie “Chick” McGinty, former director of the diocesan Office of Religious Education, the award was established in 2008 to affirm and honor an outstanding catechetical leader.

This year’s award went to Dr. Linda Dix, the director of religious education in Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown, where she has served for 25 years. She is also an adjunct professor in La Salle University, Philadelphia, and past president of Trenton Religious Education Directors. 

The new TRED board was also installed during the convocation.

“One of our main tasks is to reach out and serve those who may be needy, either in our local community or beyond,  such as the work we do in Haiti and Jamaica, and to include those who may be marginalized,  alone, isolated, or alienated,” Dix said. “It seems that the DRE is one of the first people, next to the pastor,  that people reach out to in a parish.”

She added that the convocation was “a great camaraderie among DREs.”

“Sister Mary Agnes is such a beautiful servant leader,” said Theresa Cassata, coordinator of religious education in St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Brant Beach, “This was just what we needed.”

 “The message came at a time when everything was busy,” said Tami Seidle, catechetical leader of Mother of Mercy Parish, Asbury Park. “She gave us a good perspective to show us where we need to be. She has the same philosophy as the Pope, spreading the Gospel with humility and joy.”

“I am coming from a different perspective,” said Emily Kruse, religious education director for the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Community on Fort Dix in the Archdiocese for Military Service. “I just want to express my gratitude that the Diocese is so open to sharing its resources with the joint base. It’s great to be with fellow DR’s since I don’t have that in our own community.”

 In the afternoon, Pinto presented the Ascension Press’ catechetical program “Chosen,” and gave an interactive presentation about the youth culture and how to meet some of its challenges.

He asked the audience some things that define the youth culture, and they replied “instant gratification,” “lack of respect,” and “raised in a culture that doesn’t accept the faith.”

Pinto added, “Teens are bored, busy, distracted, disconnected,” and much of that is because of the relativism prevalent in the culture.  He said due to relativism, “Our young people aren’t experiencing the fullness of life they could be experiencing.

“Pose questions to (the students) in love, to begin to stir up something in their hearts.”

He noted that 80 percent of the approximately 500,000 children who are confirmed each year are not at Mass by the Christmas after their senior year.

He said the program, “Chosen,” seeks to address that problem by appealing to young people’s natural attraction to truth, goodness and beauty, which are “powerful evangelical tools.