Anne Masters, director, pastoral ministry of persons with disabilities at the Archdiocese of New York, led the discussion, “A Catechist’s Task: Accompanying Individuals with Disabilities”.
Anne Masters, director, pastoral ministry of persons with disabilities at the Archdiocese of New York, led the discussion, “A Catechist’s Task: Accompanying Individuals with Disabilities”.

As a first-time catechist, I came eager for insight, instruction, communion, and inspiration from these incredible speakers,” said Joanne O’Donnell, an instructor of religious education in St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville. “I was not disappointed.”

O’Donnell was among the more than 350 parish catechetical leaders who attended, “Say the Word / Una Palabra Tuya,” Southeast Catechist Conference held virtually Oct. 21-24.  The Diocese of Trenton joined the other dioceses in New Jersey to offer this conference at no-cost for 1,314 participants who were registered in the Garden State.

The conference featured both pre-recorded and live events in English and Spanish on topics such as prayer, creating engaging lessons, the RCIA process and the Directory for Catechesis. Among those included in the roster of speakers were Josue Arriola, diocesan director of evangelization and family life, who led the presentation, “Experience the Good News – The Importance of the Kerygma” in Spanish, and Dan Waddington, diocesan director of youth and young adult ministries, who led a discussion on community service, describing it as a “gateway to help young people put their faith into practice.”

Featured speakers also included Julianne Stanz, director of the new evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisc.; Anne Masters, director, pastoral ministry of persons with disabilities for the Archdiocese of New York; Mark Hart, executive vice president for Life Teen International; Joe Paprocki, national consultant for faith formation at Loyola Press; Father Mike Schmitz, director, youth and young adult ministries in the Diocese of Duluth, Minn., speaker and author; Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer, president, Magis Center for Reason and Faith; Dr. Hosffman Ospino, professor of theology and religious studies, Boston College, and Jose “Pepe” Alonso, host, “Nuestra Fe En Vivo,” Spanish EWTN network.

Lori McCahill, director of school religious education and marriage ministry in St. Benedict Parish and School, Holmdel, was particularly interested in hearing the presentation by Dr. Joseph White, consultant for Our Sunday Visitor, clinical child psychologist and former parish catechetical leader who spoke on the new Directory for Catechesis.

“I feel the Directory of Catechesis will be extremely helpful, not only for catechists and teachers, but for parents as well. It covers a myriad of topics that are relevant in expanding our teachings of the Catholic faith. I am looking forward to reading the section that covers the Catholic faith and science working harmoniously,” she shared.

Similarly, John McGuire, director of religious education in St. Paul Parish, Princeton, appreciated the livestream presentations by Waddington and Dr. White as well as Julianne Stanz, who hosted “An Evening of Q &A.”

“They were able to speak to the hope of Jesus Christ with the perspective of the events that shape our faith experience at this time, particularly the release of the Directory for Catechesis and ministry in light of the pandemic,” he explained.

Margaret Zola, coordinator of religious education in Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown, is looking forward to implementing ideas from Sadlier publishing representative Laurel Marchesini who led a session on “Making the faith lesson come alive – engaging students in the classroom.”

“I enjoyed the different hands-on activities where the children are able to move out of their seats and take an active role in the lesson,” said Zola.

Regina Toe, an assistant catechist in Corpus Christi Parish, Willingboro, found the presentations to be helpful, not only for the Religious Education students, but for her own children, as well.

“I have to first start applying same in my household with my family and expand it to my parish and community. Above all I have learned to plant seeds in a special way by stepping back and listen more to my kids. All these sessions were worth the time.”

In addition to the live presentations, registrants were able to view pre-recorded, on-demand seminars.

Denise Contino, diocesan director of catechesis, was pleased to offer these presentations to parish catechetical leaders, catechists and others serving in parish ministry around the Diocese.

“The hope for the conference was to offer a place for anyone serving in a parish or Catholic school that is passing on the faith to grow in their pastoral skills and to gain practical information to bring to their ministry. The live presentations over the three days gave participants a time to listen and ask questions.  These spaces of dialogue around methods, theology, and evangelization are all essential as we pass on the faith to those in our care.”