By Patricia O’Connell
WORCESTER – Some diocesan departments are fully funded by Partners in Charity. One of them is the Office of Religious Education, which oversees the religious formation of children and adults.
All parish-based religious education programs fall under the umbrella of this department, which also certifies the religion teachers in the Catholic schools.
Located in the Chancery, this office is a resource for the religious education directors and religious education coordinators, as well as for the 2,366 volunteer catechists who teach in the parishes.
“Partners in Charity is frankly our only source of support,” explained Elizabeth A. Marcil, director of the Office of Religious Education, who added that, without this funding, “this office probably would not exist.
Currently, about 20,674 young people are enrolled in various religious education programs. Ms. Marcil’s office also coordinates training for various parish-based RCIA programs, for adults who wish to become Catholic, or who were baptized earlier in life, but have not completed the sacramental preparation for first Communion or confirmation.
Baptism preparation for parents is another form of instruction that falls under the direction of the religious education office.
“It really is from infant baptism to adults,” said Ms. Marcil. “We do this mostly through the catechetical leaders as a support to them.”
Part of her responsibilities is certifying the catechists, as well as the religious education directors and coordinators. Someone who is a parish DRE holds a master’s-level degree in religious education, while a CRE requires a bachelor’s degree. There is another category of leader known as an Administrator of Religious Education, or ARE. These are people who may or may not have a degree, in another field, but have completed a certification process of more than 100 hours of instruction.
Oftentimes, AREs are appointed by their pastor to run the religious education program. Sometimes, said Ms. Marcil, they go on to receive bachelor’s or master’s level training.
Ms. Marcil explained that it’s necessary to offer continual programs for the certification process. That’s because new teachers must be trained for the parish religious education programs as well as for the Catholic schools.
“That’s an ongoing thing, trying to help the volunteers get the knowledge and the skills they need,” she noted. “We’re here to support all of the parish catechetical leaders and to help them network with one another.”
“It connects them with us and with each other, rather than being out there alone in their parish, just doing this work,” she added.
A large part of Ms. Marcil’s job involves traveling to various parts of the diocese. She is supported by a small staff that includes Associate Director Barbara Ramian and some administrative personnel.
Her office also contains a Resource Center and Catholic Bookstore. The office also supports SPRED, catechesis for students with disabilities, in addition to curriculum development and helping individual directors, coordinators and administrators plan programs.
Ms. Marcil said the ultimate purpose of her office is “forming disciples, whether they’re children or adults.”
New leadership circles established by Partners
Seven leadership circles and societies have been established “to recognize and celebrate those individuals who sustain the ministries and programs of the Diocese of Worcester through significant gifts to the annual Partners in Charity Appeal,” according to Michael P. Gillespie, diocesan director of Stewardship and Development.
Mr. Gillespie said the Partners in Charity advisory committee discussed and approved the names of the societies and circles to honor patron saints and evangelizers who were true and loyal servants of the Church.
“Donors are recognized as members of giving circles based on their annual pledges,” he said.
In recent years donors who gave $5,000 or more were eligible for the St. Paul Society. This year the St. Paul Society still exists, but its top donation is capped at $7,499. So far there are 67 members of the St. Paul Society who have given or pledged a total of $351,760.
Those who give or pledge $7,500 or more become members of the new Holy Name Society. There is no top donation for that giving circle. So far this year, 35 members have pledged or given $426,000.
Members of the St. John Paul II Circle give from $2,500 to $4,999. So far the JPII Circle has 92 members who have given or pledged a total of $256,885.
Those who give or pledge from $1,500 to $1,999 become members of the St. John XXIII Circle. So far, 192 members of that group have given or pledged a total of $314,290.
Members of the St. Francis of Assisi Circle give or pledge from $1,000 to $1,499. There are 442 members of that group so far. They have given or pledged a total of $458,920.
Blessed Mother Teresa Circle members give or pledge from $500 to $999. There are 1,042 members so far. They have given or pledged a total of $579,530.
The final group, the Dorothy Day, Servant of God Circle, give or pledge from $300 to $499. So far, the group has 1,364 members who have given or donated a total of $447,525.
Priests in the diocese who give or pledge $1,000 or more are members of the newly established St. John Vianney Society. There are 75 members so far. They have given or pledged a total of $174,700. There are an additional 45 priests who have donated a total of $16,460.
By Wednesday, the annual Partners in Charity Appeal had received gifts and pledges totaling $4,062,232 or 81 percent of the $5 million goal, Mr. Gillespie said.
The Appeal “is the principal means of support for all that we do in common as the diocese. Giving to the Appeal is one of the most powerful ways that we can live our faith in action every day, grateful for the many blessings God has given us,united as a family of God,” Mr. Gillespie said.
The annual Partners in Charity Appeal helps to support charitable, educational and ministerial organizations in the diocese. They include:
Charity: Catholic Charities, Clergy Retirement, Retired Priests Health Ministry, Haitian Apostolate, McAuley Nazareth Home for Boys, Pernet Family Health Services, Seminarian Health Insurance, St. John’s Cemetery System, Diocesan Development, Stewardship
Education: Catholic Campus Ministry, Catholic Schools Office, Office of Religious Education, Ongoing Priestly Formation, Youth & Young Adult Ministry, Seminarian Education, Grants-in-Aid for Catholic School Students, Central Catholic Schools Subsidy, Advanced Studies for Clergy and Laity, Communications Office
Ministry: African Ministry, Hispanic Ministry, Office of Marriage and Family, Minister to Priests, Office of the Diaconate, Respect Life Office, Cathedral of St. Paul, Vocations, Office for Divine Worship, Wells Street House.