Director of the Office of Evangelization & Lifelong Faith Formation • Diocese of St. PetersburgPlease share something about yourself and your service to catechesis. How long have you been a diocesan leader for catechesis and where have you served?
I was initially prepared for ministry by the example of my parents and our parish clergy, consecrated religious and active lay people. I was more formally prepared for the work of Catholic education and catechesis through eight years of religious formation and mission as a member of the Congregation of Christian Brothers. The charism that I received as a member of the community founded by Blessed Edmund Rice, combined with formal education at the undergraduate and graduate level has been the foundation for my 25 years in Formation and Education. No longer a Christian Brother, I am ever grateful for the gift that those eight years were for me, personally and professionally. In particular, my most influential mentors and teachers, both formal and informal, were all people who were reflective practitioners—gracing me with an appreciation for both the “art” and the “science” of Catholic formation and education. I have always exercised ministry contemporaneously in both Catholic schools as well as in parish and diocesan level ministries—teaching/administering in Catholic schools, working in religious education or RCIA in parishes. Of course, my most important credential for ministry is my Baptismal Certificate!
I have been in my current position for 15 years in the Diocese of St. Petersburg.How do you go about recruiting parishes and mentors to partner with the diocese for Echo?
Nothing succeeds like success as the adage goes! I have not had to work too hard at recruiting parishes—in fact, because of the enthusiastic support of our Bishop and Vicar-General and the obvious benefits to parishes that have been involved, I am more often than not hard pressed to “meet the demand” for an apprentice from our pastors and faith formation leaders—everyone wants an Echo Apprentice for their parish!How do you support Echo apprentices and mentors in your diocese?
My support has been expressed in attention to their needs at their community home, providing them welcome and the ability to acclimate themselves to our diocese, to their assigned parishes and to our local community. I have found that structured opportunities to meet quarterly with the apprentices and mentors have been very helpful. Providing a retreat day at the end of year 1 and year 2 seems to be a good way of processing the experience. Most importantly, my insistence that the apprentices be included in all professional growth opportunities provided by my office and other offices in the diocese, local in-service and growth opportunities and regional and national ministry conferences and workshops is an important part of my role in this process.From your perspective, how do apprentices benefit from working with mentors and in parishes?
Most importantly, the Mentors bring practical perspective to the somewhat idealistic expectations of the apprentices, they provide what I call “reality therapy” to what is otherwise “ivory tower” perspective of what ministry should or will be like. They are guides and companions on the growth journey of these young people and they model and help the apprentices in learning to balance family life, personal growth and ministerial responsibility in ways that enrich themselves and the people to whom and with whom they minister.From your experience, how does Echo offer renewed hope for the future of catechetical leadership?
Clearly, we see in these young people hope for the future, continuation of the work and ministry of Jesus and affirmation that someone will continue the mission when our days are at an end.