Program #0416 for Wednesday, November 14, 2012: Religious Education Month

November 14, 2012

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November is Religious Education Month

November is Religious Education Month

Summary of today’s show: November is Religious Education Month in the Catholic Church in the US and Scot Landry invites Susan Abbott, Susan Kay, and Pilar Latorre from the Archdiocese of Boston’s religious education office to reflect on their own years of service to the Church and how adults and children can really become engaged in learning more about their faith. Scot also asks Pilar about the contribution of Spanish-speaking catechists; Susan Kay about the importance of catechist formation; and Susan Abbott about how her office encourages recognition of the work of parish catechetical leaders.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Susan Abbott

Today’s guest(s): Susan Kay, Pilar Latorre

Links from today’s show:

Today’s topics: Religious Education Month

1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed everyone to the show. He said he thinks of everything that happens during November, including Thanksgiving, Election Day, andso much more, but only recently learned that November is Religious Education Month. He said he would have thought it would be September or May. Susan Abbott said November seemed like a good idea at the time.

Scot said tomorrow at 2pm on WQOM or at Cardinal Sean will host a press conference on his decision regarding the pastoral plan for the Archdiocese of Boston. On Friday, Cardinal Seán, as part of the rollout, will be taking questions live on a chat on at 1pm. He hopes that very faithful Catholics will be part of the questions for Cardinal Seán and ask sincere, hard questions about how as a community can move forward while strengthening faith formation and all other aspects of our Catholic faith.

2nd segment: Scot welcomed Susan Kay back to the show and Pilar Latorre for the first time. Susan, Susan, and Pilar all work in the religious education office. Scot asked them what they do in the office helping parishes. Susan Kay said they met with the leadership advisory board this morning, two catechetical leaders from each region of the archdiocese, to discuss how they can address issues in the parishes. They often answer many phone calls regarding parish certifications, answering questions about various practices. Scot clarified that they serve 288 parishes, 435 catechetical leaders, and 11,000 volunteers and their office serves them all.

Susan Kay said she’s going an interreligious dialogue meeting and a cluster meeting. Each month they have meetings for catechetical leaders on various topics and on December 5, they will meet with Bishop Hennessey. Scot asked Pilar about her work in religious education for Hispanic ministry. Pilar said in 2000 they started a program on Saturdays that includes prayer and then different topics on theology, sacraments, and every kind of subject to help them serve parishes for a total of 40 hours of study. The program takes 2 years to complete.

Pilar said she came to Boston from Colombia where she had been working in an elite school. But she came to Boston to teach at Emmanuel College 45 years ago. She had trouble finding a priest to go to confession to in Spanish so she met with a priest at the cathedral to talk about programs for Spanish-speaking people. When she experienced the need among the people, she decided to stay in Boston and has been here since 1972.

Susan Abbott described how Pilar would manually translate materials on typewriters and mimeographs and then hand-deliver them as she drove around the archdiocese to parishes so they could teach the children for First Communion.

Susan Kay said she’s been in the office since 2000. Previously she was an assistant to the regional bishop in the Merrimack Region. When the position in the office opened, she was asked if she’d be interested in applying. Before that she’d been a director of religious education at Immaculate Conception Church in Lowell. Susan said until recently Lowell was one of the most Catholic cities in the United States. She described the history of Lowell and the poor Catholics who came to work in the mills. She noted that at the time the Church was allowed to send religion teachers into the public schools to teach the Catholic children.

Susan Abbott said she came to the office in 1999 and previously was director of religious education at her parish of St. Theresa’s in West Roxbury for 19 years. she’s still involved in her parish as a volunteer because it keeps her grounded. In 1999, she said there was a larger staff so as an assistant director she didn’t have a region she consulted with, but as the staff dwindled, they had to drop that specialization. In 2008, Susan Abbott became the first lay person to become director of that office.

Susan Kay said they also have a new administrative assistant, Cathy Foley, who just started with them a few weeks ago. Susan Abbott said they are like the scene from Shakespeare: “We few, we happy few, we band of sisters.”

Scot noted how each of them have experience in parish settings, which gives them the ability to understand the needs of parish leaders.

3rd segment: This week’s benefactor card raffle winner is Mark Riopelle from Methuen

He wins the book The Leadership of Jesus by Master Sargent Michael M. Cutone

If you would like to be eligible to win in an upcoming week, please visit For a one-time $30 donation, you’ll receive the Station of the Cross benefactor card and key tag, making you eligible for WQOM’s weekly raffle of books, DVDs, CDs and religious items. We’ll be announcing the winner each Wednesday during “The Good Catholic Life” program.

4th segment: Susan Abbott talked about Religious Education month and how the work of her office is to lift up the yeoman work of parish leaders. Susan Kay said they send out ideas to parishes to celebrate religious education month, such as prayers of the faithful to gives thanks to God for the opportunity to gather to learn about him; or to list a brief history of religious education in the parish; or list those who have been DREs; or have someone get up at Mass to talk about why being a catechist means so much to them; or host a coffee in the religious education center; or to recognize catechists at Mass.

Susan said she’s heard stories from parishes on how these ideas turned out. Many people tell the parish religious education leaders who they never knew how big the program is, what they do, or even where they work. Scot said religious education month helps people to understand what religious education.

Pilar said for the Spanish-speaking communities, each year they have a big celebration on Catechetical Sunday in September. They invite all the communities to come. This year, they’ve had a day of reflection on the topic of the Year of Faith. She added that they also work on finding bilingual teachers who can speak to the parents in Spanish and teach the children in English.

Scot asked what programs they encourage to help parents grow in their faith as they enroll their kids in religious education. Susan Abbott said the scariest words for some parents is that they are to be the primary educator of the child in the faith. She said in parish religious education programs, they gather the parents when they can—especially for mandatory meetings for sacraments—and those become opportunities for formation of the parents. What they should be getting at the meetings is an understanding of, say, the sacrament of penance as adults. She said there are also many programs that parishes can use, such as showing the Catholicism series by Fr. Robert Barron or the archdiocesan Why Catholic?

Scot said his sense is that parishes put most of their resources, vast resources, into education of children and so many adults think that’s all there is. Scot highlighted as having many resources to help people to learn their faith. He asked about parishes that successfully engage adults in faith formation.

Susan Kay said Holy Family in Concord has a lot of opportunities to hear topics on current issues and let them discuss. She said they treat people as adults and let them form their questions as adults. Scot said a lot of people would like to be able to hear and talk out their understanding of issues. Susan Kay also named St. John in Chelmsford and Corpus Christi-St. Bernard in Newton. She added that the best adult formation is catechist formation.

Scot asked Pilar what English speakers can learn from Spanish-speaking communities. Pilar said the faith of the Spanish families is so deep that all they need is someone to convince them that they have this potential and can transmit it to the children and to each other. She sees many communities that have meetings for parents while the children in their classes. They just need to have a leader to get things started, even if they just discuss the Mass readings for the day. She said she also recommends two or three sacramental preparation meeting and they ask both mother and father to come.

Susan Abbott said she often hears from catechists at the end of programs that they have learned things they never knew before and that they wish the programs were longer.

Susan Kay said formation of catechists is so important because she’s seen the change in the people who’ve taken advantage of the opportunities presented them. It feeds people’s hearts and mind and they are often surprised by the unexpected vocation of catechist.

Speaking of preparation, Susan Abbott said they recommend an hour of preparation for each hour of teaching and that they treat their teacher’s manual as their best friend. Although it’s not mandatory that the catechists be certified, but the expectation is that they will.

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