Preaching to an “army” of catechists and youth ministers, some 560 strong, assembled last weekend at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx, Cardinal Dolan said he loves them and is grateful and proud they are by his side.
“What an excellent and sacred vocation you all have,” said the cardinal in his homily at the Mass he offered to begin the daylong forum for catechesis and youth ministry Oct. 15.
Noting the forum’s theme, Signs and Wonders: Witnessing to the Mystery of Faith, Cardinal Dolan said the best catechists combine a strong interior prayer life with utter practicality in teaching their students.
To emphasize his point about practical measures, the cardinal outlined four simple lessons catechists can easily pass along to their students:
1) Teach them, even the small ones, how to make the Sign of the Cross. “You can’t get a loftier doctrine of the Blessed Trinity,” the cardinal said.
2) How and why to genuflect before the Blessed Sacrament.
3) Use the Stations of the Cross to trace the steps of Our Lord’s Passion.
4) How to pray the Rosary, including the 20 mysteries, which the cardinal eagerly recited. “If they know that, we got them,” he said.
The forum was the first of two to be offered this month by the Department of Youth Faith Formation. In her welcome, executive director Ela Milewska said, “We’re all here to preach the Word of God to those around us.”
As catechists and youth ministers carry out their endeavors, they should ponder “how can we draw people closer to the heart of Jesus and the Church,” Ms. Milewska said.
Lourdes Rodriguez of Holy Cross parish in the Bronx is a catechist in her first full year leading a class of third-graders. “I fell in love with it” last year while serving as a substitute, she told CNY.
As a first-timer at the forum, which she attended with a group from Holy Cross, she said, “I feel full of the Spirit. It’s an honor to be here.”
She said she has long been present around the church, beginning with her participation in the Daughters of Mary as a girl. When Deacon James Bello issued a call for catechists at Holy Cross, she knew she had to respond.
“I felt a calling in my heart, in my gut,” she said.
The second forum will be offered Saturday, Oct. 22, at St. Francis of Assisi Church, West Nyack. Auxiliary Bishop John Bonnici will be the principal celebrant and homilist of the opening Mass, and Deacon Bob Rice of the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio, will deliver the keynote address.
At Cardinal Spellman, Father Rafael Capó delivered the keynote addresses in Spanish and English. Many presentations for catechists and youth ministers as well as other leaders were presented in English and Spanish.
A Recognition and Awards ceremony was offered after the morning Mass.
Sister Joan Curtin, C.N.D., the former longtime director of the Catechetical Office who is now vicar for religious, was honored as the first recipient of the Sister Joan Curtin, C.N.D., Magnificat Award named in her honor to recognize “the exemplary leadership, dedication, perseverance and servanthood of a faith formation leader.”
The award also recognized the charism of Sister Joan’s religious order, the Congregation of Notre Dame, in “calling all to be Christ bearers and announce the Good News.”
Sister Joan shared praise with the parish directors and coordinators of religious education and catechists whom she led for more than three decades. “You are the heart of catechesis and evangelization in the archdiocese,” she said.
Also recognized was Sister Marie Pappas, C.R., who served as director of religious education at St. Columba’s parish in Hopewell Junction for the past 12 years. The award is given to “an outstanding person in the faith formation ministry whose life and service demonstrate outstanding leadership, compassion and wholehearted dedication to Jesus the Good Shepherd.”
The Timothy Cardinal Dolan Certificate of Appreciation was presented for milestone years of service in faith formation ministry to Joseph Salerno, St. Charles Borromeo and Resurrection parish, Manhattan, 40 years; Virgilia Castro, St. Jude, Manhattan, 35 years; Angelica Ferreras, St. Jude, Manhattan, and Good Shepherd, Manhattan, 30 years; Jose Rosario, St. Jude, Manhattan, 30 years; Jeni Rosario, St. Jude, Manhattan, 30 years; and Mia Hubbert, St. Joseph, Wurtsboro, 30 years.
Medals of Honor awarded to catechists who have “supported, promoted and offered dedicated service to the catechetical ministry” in the archdiocese for more than 25 years were earned by James Fox of St. Ignatius Loyola parish, Manhattan, 42 years, and Susan Minozzi-Guzzardi of St. Paul the Apostle, Yonkers, 25 years.
Other honors and training certifications also were announced.