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Laity who help spread Gospel message recognized at ceremony

July 13, 2017

PISCATAWAY — “You are on the front line of ministry,” said Father Brian J. Nolan, executive director, diocesan Department of Formation and Leadership, as he addressed the honorees of the annual certification ceremony and prayer service for catechists and ministry leaders at the St. John Neumann Pastoral Center chapel June 6.

Father Nolan’s statement emphasized the fact that it is often the diocesan catechists and religious formation leaders who are the first to become aware of the struggles a child faces at home or at school. “It is in these conversations that turn to encounters with Christ that you give witness to and participate actively in the on-going mission of the Church. What an honored place we have in the life of those who come before us seeking to know Christ and provide an opportunity of encounter,” he said.

Welcoming the honorees and guests, Father Nolan said, “The Scriptures tell us that all gifts come from God who distributes them as he wills to build up the body of Christ.” Having recently ended the Easter season and reflecting on the Scripture reading (Romans 12: 3-8), Father Nolan said that one of the Easter statements he came across this year was the saying that, “Easter changes everything.”

“It sums up the Easter season perfectly. It invites us to think about the person of Jesus Christ. Having an encounter with Christ, a relationship with Christ, is always pulling us out of ourselves and as religious education leaders, you know the joys and struggles of encountering others with Christ,” he said.

This year, two diocesan offices collaborated on the evening ceremony, which acknowledges the important role that the laity plays in spreading the Gospel. The Office for Catechesis awarded certificates in Catechesis from Dayton University as well as the Norte Dame STEP Program Certificate for Catechists. Parish Catechetical Leader (PCL) re-certification certificates offered through the Pastoral Skills Practicum FOUNDATIONS program and Dayton University were also awarded. New PCLs who completed their initial certification through the FOUNDATIONS program or through Dayton University also received certificates. In addition, the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry awarded certificates in Youth Ministry.

Father Nolan and Carol Mascola, director, diocesan Office of Catechesis, together with Father Edmund A. Luciano III, director, diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, presented the awards.

When Norah Were received her Catechesis certificate during the ceremony, she beamed with happiness. Her journey to this moment actually began eight years ago and almost 8,000 miles away in Kenya, Africa.

“At that time, I was married to my husband, George Rasare, who is Catholic, but I was not a Catholic,” Were said.

“In my country, we would go to Mass every Sunday and after Mass we had a group called Juiai, where we would go to discuss what was going on in the church, read and discuss the day’s readings, say prayers and recite the rosary. The group helped strengthen the faith of its members, and, if you missed the Mass, you could go to Juiai and share your faith with the group.”

In 2009, Were completed the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process, and she and her husband remarried in the Catholic Church. They came to the United States in 2013 and then joined St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Three Bridges.

Were said a short time later, a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish approached her about assisting with the parish’s religious education program. Although she was a bit concerned about her level of knowledge of the English language, she completed the training program for aides.

"It gave me confidence to learn new things and it taught me how to assist with the children in the program,” Were said. “Being an aide is a good way to learn how to teach. I followed the way the teacher was teaching and I taught the class when the teacher was absent. It helps me to grow in my faith. It is a learning process that is so rewarding.”

Were has served her parish as an aide for the past three years on Tuesday evenings, each year working with youngsters of a different grade level.  So far, she has assisted pre-kindergarten, second-and fourth-grade students and also assists with her parish’s Children’s Liturgy of the Word program on Sundays. Having now completed the certification program, she hopes to be assigned to a class next year as a catechist.

"The certification program is all about learning about the faith, sharing the faith and teaching it to children. It helps me to grow in my faith as well,” Were said. “We are proud to publicly recognize those who have made the commitment to attaining certification," said Mascola, who also noted the importance of certification programs to the diocese.

“Certification attests to the dedication of those being certified and that they have met a standard of preparation and competency called for by the bishops of the United States. Those who are certified can take pride in this accomplishment and feel confident in their role as a parish catechetical leader, catechist or youth minister.” 

By Sue Getz Correspondent at The Catholic Spirit

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