By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
HILLTOWN – Catechist. Director of Parish Religious Education for the Philadelphia Archdiocese. President of the Archdiocesan DRE Association. Coordinator of Assessment in the Office of the Catechism of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award honoree.
Marie C. Scanlon, 71, has held many catechetical titles, but the one she cherishes most is the one bestowed on her nearly three decades ago by the children of St. Borromeo School in Bensalem – “religion lady.”
Because Scanlon was the parish director of religious education there from 1981 to 1989, she reported to the school daily to offer catechetical assistance to the principal and teachers wherever necessary. “The children saw me frequently in the halls of the school or I would work specifically with them in preparation to celebrate the sacraments. They didn’t remember my name, but they always referred to me as ‘the religion lady,'” she said.
“If a child looks at you and the frame of reference is the Church, you can’t get much better than that,” Scanlon said. “That’s an honor that I as a baptized Catholic really cherish. I’ve already told my family that I want that on my tombstone.”
The oldest of two daughters of the late Joseph and Cecilia Scanlon said the ultimate goal of all catechesis is to form disciples.
Catechesis, Scanlon insists, never stops. “The importance of continuing to learn and grow in our faith never ceases.”
A 1956 alumna of Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls in Philadelphia, Scanlon attended Our Mother of Sorrows School in Southwest Philadelphia and the Cathedral School in Center City before graduating from St. Ambrose School in the Olney section of the city in 1952.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Immaculata University in Immaculata and a master’s degree in religious studies with an emphasis in dogmatic theology from the Religious Studies spanision of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood.
For more than two decades, Scanlon served as a teacher in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades in Catholic schools in the Philadelphia Archdiocese and in the Diocese of Allentown.
She began her administrative duties as a parish director of religious education in 1977 at Sacred Heart Parish in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada.
Upon her return to the Philadelphia Archdiocese in 1979, she taught for two years at St. Charles Borromeo School in Bensalem before becoming its first DRE.
In 2003, Scanlon was appointed to her post at the USCCB. There, she assisted the bishops in the review of catechetical texts at the preschool, elementary and high school levels.
During her five years there, the bishops developed the National Directory for Catechesis and the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults.
“I will always be proud of the fact that I was a part of that because those two documents will serve the catechetical community in the United States for decades,” she said.
“I was always aware that whatever we did in the office to assist the bishops was going to ultimately assist parish catechists and principals and teachers and catechetical leaders throughout the United States,” she added. “It was an honor.”
Scanlon retired in 2008 and returned to the Archdiocese in 2009. She now belongs to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish in Hilltown, Bucks County.
On Jan. 10, Scanlon received an honorary St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award from the Archdiocese.
“The nominee for the Association’s highest award is a true daughter of the Church,” said Father John J. Ames, the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s Deputy Secretary of Catechetical Formation.
“(Scanlon) has devoted a lifetime to the Church’s mission of evangelization and catechesis.”