Linda Mueller, right, director of religious education in St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, is presented with the 2020 "Chick" McGinty Award for Excellence in Catechetical Ministry during an Oct. 18 Mass in St. Joan of Arc Church, Marlton. The award was presented by Denise Contino, diocesan director of the Department of Catechesis, left, and Msgr. Richard LaVerghetta, pastor, pictured center. Courtesy photo
Linda Mueller, right, director of religious education in St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, is presented with the 2020 "Chick" McGinty Award for Excellence in Catechetical Ministry during an Oct. 18 Mass in St. Joan of Arc Church, Marlton. The award was presented by Denise Contino, diocesan director of the Department of Catechesis, left, and Msgr. Richard LaVerghetta, pastor, pictured center. Courtesy photo
In her 24 years as a catechetical leader in St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, Linda Mueller has developed a deep appreciation for what it means to form people of all ages in the Catholic faith.

“Catechesis is so important to show them that, through their Baptism, they can share the love of God with their children and all they encounter by their actions and words,” Mueller said.

“For our young, they need a starting point to know about God and how he wants us to live our lives. For our teens, especially in our world today, they need a moral compass to follow so that they learn the truth and how to make good moral decisions in their lives,” she said. “Catechesis is learning and living our Catholic faith so we can be the people God wants us to be.” 

Mueller reflected on her longtime work in catechetical ministry upon learning that she was named the recipient of the 2020 “Chick” McGinty Award for Excellence in Catechetical Ministry. Mueller was presented with an award Oct. 18 during a parish Mass in St. Joan of Arc Church by Denise Contino, diocesan director of the Department of Catechesis, and Msgr. Richard LaVerghetta, parish pastor.

Presented by the diocesan Department of Catechesis, the award is given in recognition of an outstanding parish catechetical leader who is designated by the ministry. The award is named after Rosemarie “Chick” McGinty, who was diocesan director of the Office of Catechesis from 1986 to 2003. McGinty holds the distinct honor of being the first laywoman to serve as a parish director of religious education and the first laywoman to be director of a diocesan office in the Diocese.

In her remarks, Contino read excerpts of a letter written by Dr. Linda Dix, retired director of religious education in Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown, who nominated Mueller for the award. Dr. Dix stated how Muller has served the St. Joan of Arc Parish community with dedication and devotion, then noted several of Mueller’s recent accomplishments, including using her technology skills to communicate virtually with parents during the pandemic and provide learning opportunities for students during the Lenten, Holy Week and Easter seasons and beyond. Dix also mentioned Mueller’s implementing a two-week online summer intensive religious education program, which proved to be successful.

“Linda is well-respected by the parish staff, parish parents and catechists,” Dr. Dix said. “She has boundless energy for ministry, and this spirit is reflected in the outstanding religious education program in the parish.

In St. Joan of Arc Parish, Mueller oversees a ministry that has 1,000 students enrolled and, prior to the pandemic, had 110 catechists and 30 aides. Along with religious education, the ministry includes a Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process for teens, as well as for children in grades three through seven and a “Special Disciples” program for students with special needs.

During the pandemic, Mueller revamped the program to allow for in-person sessions as well as home studies for about 100 families, which involved parents following a syllabus and returning their child’s completed work to her on a monthly basis. Mueller appreciated the support from the several stay-at-home catechists who assisted families with email and phone call concerns.

“I enjoy sharing the Catholic faith with all I encounter, the staff, the catechists, our school teachers, parents, both in our religious education program and in our school,” said Mueller, whose experience in catechesis goes back to when she was 18 years old and teaching in St. Benedict Parish in the Bronx, N.Y.

When she and her husband moved to Marlton, they joined St. Joan of Arc Parish and enrolled their four children in the religious education program, during which time she became a catechist, teaching second grade catechesis for several years. Eventually she began working for the religious education office in the parish.

Her background includes completing the diocesan Certificate Program for Administrators of Religious Education, which was where she encountered McGinty. She also spent a year working in St. Isaac Jogues helping to develop a religious education program in the newly-establish Marlton parish. After a year, she returned to St. Joan of Arc Parish as the head of the religious education program and proceeded to further her education by earning a master’s degree in theology from La Salle University, Philadelphia, and completing the Diocese’s former Institute for Lay Ecclesial Ministry program.

“I was so humbled and honored to receive the award,” Mueller said, noting that she was surprised to have been named this year’s recipient and was also delighted to have received it on the same day she and her husband, Deacon Bill Mueller, celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary.

“There are so many deserving DREs in our Diocese [and] this award is an affirmation of all that we DREs do to bring Jesus’ message to many families in our parishes,” Mueller said. “I want to share this with my peers.

Mueller spoke of her admiration for McGinty, saying that she is “a person with a strong faith and one that showed us that we can assume a professional role in the Church. She is a blessing to all DREs."