By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor
Having been engaged in catechetical ministry at various levels for more than 30 years, Dr. Jim Bridges brings not only a wealth of knowledge to his new role as pastoral coordinator for faith formation and director of religious education in St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck, but a pragmatic perspective as well.
“Each parish is unique,” he said, “and each time one begins working in a new parish or educational setting, there is a learning curve involved. It is important to take the time to learn about what is already in place and identify the strengths and weaknesses.”
For Bridges, catechetical ministry began well before he moved to New Jersey more than 20 years ago. In his native California, he attended the University of San Francisco, where he was awarded bachelor and master of arts degrees in theology, and the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, Calif., from where he earned his doctorate in Biblical studies.
Upon arriving in New Jersey, he worked as assistant director of catechesis for the Diocese of Camden. In the Trenton Diocese, he has served as director of religious education in St. Gabriel Parish, Marlboro; taught theology in Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, Princeton, and served as an adjunct professor in Georgian Court University, Lakewood. He was also actively involved with the diocesan catechist certification process and adult faith formation processes.
“Working in catechetical ministry requires administrative skills, theological understanding and Christian witness,” said Bridges, who noted that his wife, Theresa Willox, also holds a master’s degree in theology and taught for many years in Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River. Bridges, of St. Luke Parish, Toms River, and his wife are the parents of two children, Dale and Samantha, and have three grandchildren.
As Bridges gears up for a new catechetical year, he reflects on one of his favorite Church documents, Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, “Evangelii Nuntiandi” (On Evangelization in the Modern World).
“In the document, the Holy Father wrote that one of the most powerful forms of evangelization is to be found in the silent witness of our lives,” Bridges said. “So my ministry ultimately calls me to find better ways to be the kind of witness that changes lives.”