The instruction mentioned in the prayer is not a magical enlightenment in which we suddenly know everything. (Some people think that magically knowing everything comes automatically around one’s thirteenth birthday, but that’s another story.) Learning our faith is a life-long task. Most of the time, though, when we think of Religious Education, we think of the children and adolescents. Today I would like to look particularly at our Faith Formation program.
I recently received the sad news that our Catechetical Administrator, Joanne Swank, is retiring in order to spend time with her husband, children and grandchildren. Our annual Vacation Bible School will be her final event in that position. We didn’t want the announcement to take away from the end of CCD, the Confirmation or all the First Communion celebrations, so I am only making my public statement about Joanne’s retirement now.
When I was pastor of Guardian Angels Parish, I held the now-defunct role of “Deanery Director of Religious Education.” My job was to meet with all of the Catechetical Administrators in this area. It was mostly a role of support, and it gave me a chance to get to know some of the people in that ministry. I got to know Joanne through those meetings and because she and her Guardian Angels’ counterpart used to ride together to classes for their degree in Catechesis. Thus I have known Joanne for some years now, and I have always respected her as being very capable and, more importantly, as a person of deep faith and trust in God. My time working with her at St. Malachy has confirmed that understanding and deepened my respect for her.
As much as I will miss Joanne, she and I agreed that the important point is that we continue to teach the faith. It is a sign of her effectiveness that the catechists who teach our CCD classes have expressed a confidence that we will continue to provide an excellent program after she leaves. In fact, by the time you read this note, I will have met with a search committee (including CCD catechists and parents) and interviewed a candidate for the position. I am confident that we will continue to provide an excellent faith formation program. But one reason why I am so confident is that Joanne has done such a fine job. So the hopeful note is for a future bulletin, when we introduce the new Catechetical Administrator. For now, we thank Joanne Swank for her wonderful contribution and wish her Godspeed.