Celebrating the Retirement of Dr. Jerry Baumbach,
Founding Director of Echo &
Current Senior Catechetical Advisor in the Institute for Church Life
On Thursday, June 27th, members of the University’s Institute for Church Life staff and the Department of Theology gathered at the Eck Visitors’ Center on campus to extend gratitude and congratulations to our colleague and friend, Dr. Jerry Baumbach, as he prepares to retire after ten years of service to the Institute, eight of them as founding Director of Echo and two as Senior Catechetical Advisor for the Institute.
The Visitors’ Center, with Fr. Anthony Lauck’s statue of Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth keeping vigil just outside the door, is an ideal setting for a gathering such as this. The openness of Mary and Elizabeth, the joy and reverence they demonstrate for the new life emerging within each of them and for the Church, the empathy, comfort, and hope they offer to each other, all capture something of the decade long “visitation” that Jerry has made to us here at Notre Dame.
One of the many gifts that Jerry has brought to the Institute for Church Life and to Echo has been his love for and scholarship in the area of mystagogy, from the Greek meaning “to lead through the mysteries.” It is the fourth stage of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and an ongoing reality for all of the faithful. “…[M]ystagogy,” Jerry writes, “is less about ‘doing’ as time-consuming activity than it is about ‘transforming’ as life event.”
Jerry’s “visitation” to the Institute for Church Life has been a transformative life event for all of us in Echo. “[M]ystagogy…stirs things up, unsettling static impressions of the life, meaning, and mission of the Church for all who have accepted the risk of entering into life-altering mysteries of faith.” And Jerry walks his talk. His decision to leave the post of Executive Vice President and Publisher at William H. Sadlier, Inc. to be the Founding Director of Echo, not only unsettled his own personal and professional life, but also stirred up the future of catechetical leadership in the Church and the lives of the nearly 100 Echo graduates to date.
In 2008, Jerry’s stirring earned him the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership’s highest recognition, the NCCL Catechetical Award. His simultaneous embrace of the wisdom of current and previous generations of catechetical leaders and of a new generation of young leaders has built countless bridges among diocesan leaders, parish mentors, young apprentices, pastors, professors, and formators who, without his leadership, would never have met, learned from, or been transformed by one another.
The Echo staff presented Jerry with a glimpse into the extent of his transformative presence in the form of a memory book, filled with gratitude and well-wishes from eight years of Echo apprentices, and lovingly designed and assembled by Aimee Shelide Mayer, Echo 3 graduate and the program’s current Assistant Director of Recruitment & Outreach. Thank you to Aimee and to all of the alumni and apprentices who contributed to this wonderful litany of gratitude to Jerry.
We will continue to offer praise to God in the months and years to come for the gift that Dr. Jerry Baumbach has been and continues to be for those blessed to know him. The Echo community thanks Jerry and his wife Elaine, for their profound “visitation” to Notre Dame, to Echo, and to each of our lives, and wishes them courage and joy as they take their next steps, yet again, into the life-altering mysteries of faith.
Jerry and Elaine will officially begin their transition on Tuesday, July 9th and are excited for the opportunity to spend more time with their growing family, including four grandchildren and another on the way! As his own next chapter takes shape, Jerry looks forward to providing ongoing doctoral student support and to considering potential consulting, writing, and teaching opportunities from institutions and organizations that serve the church’s catechetical and educational ministries. He now joins the ranks of Emeritus Faculty at the University of Notre Dame and will be remembered by us as Director Emeritus of Echo, leaving an indelible mark on the Institute for Church Life.
Thank you, Jerry.
If you would like to contact Jerry, his email will remain firstname.lastname@example.org.