Supporting the pillars of the parish
FORT WORTH — Directors of religious education are pillars of the parish, according to Jason Whitehead, diocesan director of faith formation. They help support everyone in the parish, from the pastor to the smallest child.
Although they constitute the congregation’s “front lines of evangelization and catechesis,” Whitehead said, “they certainly don’t get as much thanks as they deserve.”
He continued, “Having spiritually sound catechists is absolutely fundamental to the health of diocese. Because through each and every one of our 91 parishes, the most fundamental role that the laity can play is to live out their baptismal call in the role of catechist — radiating Christ by way of evangelization and catechesis.”
Bishop Michael Olson and Whitehead, along with other diocesan faith formation staff, took an evening to thank parish directors of religious education. About 100 parish DREs, with varied responsibilities of children’s catechesis, adult formation, and RCIA instruction, met at St. Patrick Cathedral Parish in Fort Worth on Nov. 7 for Solemn Vespers followed by an appreciation dinner.
Bishop Olson began the dinner with words of gratitude for the catechists. “I want to thank you, first and foremost, for your generosity, for giving of yourselves in handing on faith through catechesis and education — two very important, necessary, and essential works of the Church.”
The bishop pointed out the distinction between teaching the faith and passing on the faith. Whereas teaching conveys concepts and ideas, passing on the faith transmits “by our example and by sharing not only what the Church believes, but how we, as the Church, believe it, and how and why we cherish it.”
A good DRE must first be a catechist, handing down Catholic faith, teaching, and morals. “Their role is to be a witness to Christ, to echo Christ, to radiate Christ,” said Whitehead.
Their second role is administrative: recruiting catechists and coordinating the faith formation for the parish. In this role, Whitehead joked, they carry not the keys to the Kingdom, but the keys to every classroom and supply closet.
These directors of faith formation, said Whitehead, are “inherently oriented toward self giving. . .. We’re particularly appreciative of those that have given year after year after year. They are certainly giving of themselves and not for what they get in return.”