Religion teachers reflect on vocation to hand on the faith to children
Catechists and Parish Religious Education Program (P.R.E.P.) teachers from across the Archdiocese came together on March 10 at Archbishop John Carroll High School in Radnor for the 23rd annual Catechist Convocation.
The yearly faith formation event was cosponsored by the Office for Catechetical Formation and the Archdiocesan Association of Parish Directors, Coordinators and Administrators of Religious Education (P.D.C.A.R.E.).
It was a day for teachers to share, reflect and grow in their vocation of passing along the Catholic faith to children in their classrooms through the celebration of the Eucharist, followed by a variety of keynote addresses and workshops.
The principal celebrant and homilist of the Mass was Father John J. Ames, Deputy Secretary of the Office for Catechetical Formation.
In the face of unrest in the Archdiocese due to continued fallout of the priest sexual abuse crisis, as well as response to the Blue Ribbon Commission’s recommendations on school mergers and closures, Father Ames used the Gospel reading of the parable of the prodigal son to emphasize that despite human failure, there is mercy to be found in a loving Father.
“We, like the older son in the parable, may be angry at the thought of forgiving those who have caused pain and strife, but the loving example of the father ultimately shows us how we are to respond,” he said in his homily.
Keynote speakers presented various topics related to the celebration of the Mass and the connection between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Dr. Carmina Magnusen-Chapp, coordinator of adult faith formation in the Diocese of Allentown, spoke on the magnificent power of sacramental grace.
She explained that God’s grace flows to us through the sacraments, and as Christ’s disciples, we are called to bring His love to the world and we are dependent on the sacraments to do so.
Father Matthew W. Guckin, school minister at Bishop Shanahan High School in Downingtown, spoke on the power of the Real Presence in the Eucharist.
“Many Catholics don’t consciously realize that there are actually two consecrations at every Mass — the consecration of bread into Christ’s Body, and the consecration of wine into His Blood,” Father Guckin said.
Father Dennis Gill, director of the archdiocesan Office for Divine Worship, presented the liturgical role of the Creed as part of the announcement of God’s Word and backdrop to the eucharistic mystery.
Many subjects were covered in the workshops that teachers attended. Sister William Catherine, I.H.M., second-grade teacher at Pope John Paul II Regional Elementary School in West Brandywine, gave a workshop on presenting Scripture to young elementary school students that will assist catechists in making the Scriptures come alive, thus enabling their students to apply them to everyday life after being nourished by the Eucharist.
“When children actually understand Scripture stories and their characters, they are very excited to recognize them at Mass and then discuss them within their own families,” she said.
Anne Marie Reilly, a catechist at St. Agnes Parish in West Chester, presented a workshop on teaching the elements of the Catholic faith through arts, crafts, games and songs, while Laura Weatherly, a faculty member of Gesu School in Philadelphia, shared practical ways to teach young Catholics that “being sent forth” from Mass means to serve the Lord and others.
“I really enjoyed the whole day, and especially Father Guckin and the other keynote speakers,” said Marlene Lobb, first-grade teacher at St. Francis of Assisi School in Norristown.
George Gregory is a parishioner of St. Cecilia Parish in Coatesville.