By Kenny Keane, Globe staff reporter
September 18, 2003
Being a director of religious education (DRE) is a huge job, according to
Linda Anderson, director of catechesis for the Sioux City Diocese.
She said the role varies with the size of the program, but the scope of what
it is or what it really should be is too often little understood.
"DRE turns out to be kind of a catch-all role," Anderson said.
"In many parishes they find themselves dealing with many things. They
started out agreeing to be in charge of the Wednesday night religious education
program, and then that also involves sacramental preparation.
"They might find themselves doing children's Liturgy of the Word. Some
of them do vacation Bible school in the summer. Very few places have a
designated youth minister so if they want to do anything with youth ministry
separate from the religious ed program, then a lot of times that's the DRE."
Anderson said there are also many of them who are serving in the capacity of
pastoral minister. For example, Julie Walding of Sacred Heart Parish in Sioux
City has the title of pastoral minister, but she is also the DRE. On the flip
side, Sue Hrasky is the DRE for Nativity Parish in Sioux City, but she does a
lot of pastoral ministry work.
Hrasky began her position as Nativity's DRE in 1997, and she said it has
always been a challenge to teach and mentor children in their faith. However, it
is one that she continues to welcome.
"I think that God wants us to feel this challenge in order for us to
persevere and to continually pray to him for his graces," she said.
"It is a challenge recruiting and retaining dedicated volunteers, as well
as meeting the expectations of parents and personal expectations.
"Challenges are always present in connection with the ongoing training
and support available to our catechists. They are the ones who attempt to draw
our young people to their journey of faith."
According to Marie Washburn, DRE for St. Michael Parish in Kingsley, the
biggest challenge for her was when she moved to the community from Missouri and
didn't know anyone.
"I had to find 20 teachers, and that was a major challenge because
people wouldn't say yes to me because they didn't know who I was either,"
she said. "I felt like a one-man band, but I guess as I've developed a
rapport with the parents - with the lay people - I've figured out how to empower
them to get them to help me out so I don't feel like I'm the only one doing it.
I think for me that's the big key - empowering the parents and convincing them
that they can help.
"There are jobs for them throughout the year that they can do to help
our religious education program - whether it's a retreat, a lock-in, a fun thing
like a hayride or if we have a kids' Mass and I need them in the pews with the
kids. It's just getting the parental help to make the program a success. So each
year I've figured out a little more how to get the parents involved."
The DRE at St. Louis Church in Royal, Lois McCarty, said that in looking back
at her youth and recalling all the faith her parents, her extended family and
her home parish blessed her with, she gets renewed energy and reminds herself
that it is her generation's turn.
"God has challenged us to pass on this faith," she said. "We
cannot drop the ball. It just doesn't make sense to say, 'I am too busy to be a
catechist.' What could be more important in your child's life? Do you really
want someone else doing that for you?
"Year after year catechists will say they learned along with the
students. We consider it religious education for our young people, but there's
no doubt it is a form of continuing education for the adult catechists as
Tying in with the concept of intergenerational ministry, Anderson said
they're trying to emphasize more that it's not just children in school who need
the faith formation, but rather that faith formation is a lifelong process.
"We try to get more family involvement and do thing intergenerationally,"
she said. "Up until now, the main opportunity for doing that has been
during sacramental preparation times. You can always get the parents involved if
their children are preparing for Eucharist, reconciliation and, to slightly a
lesser extent, confirmation.
"You can get them to come to parent meetings. They gain some faith
formation then, but we would like to see that extended beyond that where there's
more family and intergenerational involvement in faith formation."
Nativity's DRE said she looks forward to a gradual implementation of
including entire families in religious education.
"It is not 'dropping your children off' for an hour and 15 minutes on
Wednesday night anymore," Hrasky said. "Religious education needs to
be family centered. Including parents in seasonal activities will hopefully make
them more aware of the fact that we can only attempt to do our best in assisting
them in their child's faith formation. The parents are the real teachers through
prayer, example and Christian living."