Faith development is key, education leaders told

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Sr. McCormack

Helping parents in their role as the first teacher of their children's faith is one focus for Sister Patricia McCormack, IHM, who recently addressed Catholic education leaders in St. Louis.

Sister Patricia was the featured speaker at the Leadership Convocation 2018 on June 6 at Chaminade Preparatory School in Creve Coeur. The archdiocese's Office of Catholic Education and Formation sponsored the conference for school administrators, parish pastors and religious education directors. The office recently added formation to its name to stress the importance of that role.

The purpose of the program was to help Catholic education leaders to work together as an effective, cohesive evangelizing team to draw in the families of the children who are being educated. Sister Nathalie Meyer, OP, interim director of Catholic education, said the day was meant to express thanks for "the tremendous ministry you do each day, living out the baptismal call to use your gifts to build up the kingdom of God. Each day you help each staff person, parent and child to understand that they are made in God's image."

Sister Patricia offered several ways for educators to involve parents. Presenting faith to children with the parents present lets the parent absorb the teaching as well. Game nights, Eucharistic evenings, missionary facilitators and other events are ways to achieve that goal.

Energize the parents and lead them to a personal relationship with Jesus, said Sister Patricia, director of the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Office of Formative Support for Parents and Teachers in Philadelphia.

If the parent isn't reached, the faith may not take hold, she said. "Jesus wants us to reach that parent, not just the child," Sister Patricia said. "To know, love and serve God — that's what we want to give to our families. If we can introduce them to Jesus, He'll do the rest."

Scripture and the Eucharist feed that desire, she added: "There is not a saint in the Church whose foundation wasn't the Eucharist."

Sister Patricia earlier spoke on "Being an Evangelizer vs. Working as an Evangelizer." She noted that effective teachers of the faith need to primarily be a witness to Jesus and the joy of His Gospel. She urged a personal faith-relationship that is dynamic and continually growing to allow the Holy Spirit to touch souls.

An author, speaker and consultant, Sister Patricia describes a teacher as someone who walks with people and tries to pass on the faith. "When faith is alive and well within us, it shows," she said. 

>> Office of Education and Formation

Several changes are being made in the Office of Catholic Education and Formation — besides the addition of formation to its name.

Maureen DePriest, superintendent for elementary schools, and Robert Oliveri, superintendent for high schools, detailed the changes — many of which are not complete yet — at a meeting of school principals, directors of religious education and parish pastors.

DePriest called the changes "a shift in the way we function" to provide more direct service.

Previously, four staff members had the responsibility as region contacts for elementary schools. Now there are six regional directors who are in the field helping schools and parishes. The office plans to add two more directors to work in partnership with schools and parishes in the children's faith formation and education.

Regional directors will consult with pastors, directors of religious education and principals, make regular site visits and help with accreditation, school and religious education improvement initiatives and more.

Efforts also aim to help the pastor, principal and director of religious education to be a "solid team" for parishes in religious education.

Oliveri explained that the changes "allow us to plan for the future to sustain schools and help us grow and strengthen the religious education programs."

He cited efforts planned to better connect elementary schools with Catholic high schools. As an example, he pointed to St. Francis Borgia High School and its close ties with the elementary schools in that region.

A change to assist with the religious formation of students and their families is the hiring of Father Richard Wosman as director of faith formation for secondary schools. Among other efforts, Father Wosman will help provide a presence of priests on the high school campuses. Each archdiocesan school will have a chaplain for liturgies and student activities except the two schools already with priests on staff, St. Francis Borgia and Bishop DuBourg. 

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