October 14, 2011

Christ Our Hope campaign

Schools, religious education programs proclaim the word of God

Two boys hold up hula hoops during a physical education class on Sept. 26 for third-grade students at St. Patrick School in Terre Haute. Standing behind the hula hoops are, from left, Andrew Wilson, Matthew Graham, Dylan Major, Nate Givan and Jorjia Hancock. (Submitted photo)

Two boys hold up hula hoops during a physical education class on Sept. 26 for third-grade students at St. Patrick School in Terre Haute. Standing behind the hula hoops are, from left, Andrew Wilson, Matthew Graham, Dylan Major, Nate Givan and Jorjia Hancock. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

The teachers at St. Patrick School in Terre Haute work hard to help their students grow in their knowledge of the academic subjects taught throughout the school year.

But for Amy McClain, who is in her third year as St. Patrick’s principal after having taught at public schools for 12 years, there’s a “higher purpose” to her work.

“It isn’t just about the education,” said McClain. “Granted, I understand that that’s important. But to see a child have an ‘ah ha’ moment in faith just makes me feel like I’m in the right place at the right time.”

In these moments, McClain experiences how Catholic schools across central and southern Indiana play an integral role in one of the Church’s most fundamental ministries—proclaiming the word of God.

“Our motto here is that we’re not raising kids, we’re raising adults,” she said. “And if we want faith-filled adults, then we have to instill Catholic values and the habit of going to Mass and being a part of the sacraments in our students.”

Through their participation in the “Christ Our Hope: Compassion in Community” annual appeal, Catholics across central and southern Indiana assist McClain, the faculty and staff of other Catholic schools across the archdiocese as well as parish administrators of religious education and their volunteer catechists to proclaim the word of God in their schools and religious education programs.

This assistance is given in a significant way through the appeal’s support of the ministry of the staff members of the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Education (OCE).

(Related story: Christ Our Hope annual appeal supports local ministries across archdiocese)

“There’s so much that we would miss if they weren’t there for professional development and updates from the state government,” McClain said of the OCE staff members that she works with. “We’re pretty far away. I’m 57 miles away from Indianapolis. But their arms stretch that far.”

They stretch far in many cases through phone calls. Rob Rash, the archdiocese’s assistant school superintendent, prides himself on his availability to principals throughout central and southern Indiana.

“I was [once] at a Ball State football game, and I was talking to a principal outside of the stadium,” Rash said.

Rash and other OCE staff members also offer online seminars, called “webinars,” to faculty and staff across the archdiocese that help them develop their curriculum and prepare for accreditation visits.

And about half the time during his work days, Rash is out in the archdiocese visiting schools.

The same goes for Ken Ogorek, the archdiocese’s director of catechesis, in the assistance he gives to parish administrators of religious education across the archdiocese.

“In any given month, I’m in several deaneries one way or another,” Ogorek said.

One of the catechetical leaders in the archdiocese that he has visited and talked with frequently on the phone is Linda Robertson, director of religious education at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Shelby County.

“We call them at any time,” Robertson said. “They’re not nine-to-five type of people. It makes me feel so much better.”

Ogorek and other OCE staff members who work in faith formation are also involved in helping parish leaders seek out new administrators of religious education and training catechists.

“I often say to parish administrators of religious education that I’m only a phone call or e-mail away,” Ogorek said. “I’m intently focused on getting back to people when they’re trying to get hold of me.

“It’s very fulfilling for me to know that, by being available to folks within reason, I am by God’s grace helping them to serve God’s people where they live and breathe and work.”

McClain is glad that Catholics who might live several hours away from her school in Terre Haute still share and support the Gospel values that she, her faculty and the OCE staff members that she collaborates with share through their participation in Christ Our Hope.

“The same experience that we have here is really supported by a universal people, a group of folks and families that have the same concerns and same interests,” McClain said. “At a time when there are so many uncertain things, it is so nice to be certain that there is someone out there and that you’re not alone, and that they have the same interests in mind and at heart as you.”

Robertson is impressed by how members of her own Batesville Deanery parish and other people across the archdiocese support her ministry and that of the OCE staff members through their participation in the Christ Our Hope annual appeal.

“It does show that connectedness, that we’re a part of the universal Church,” she said. “We do have that mission to support everybody, every Catholic in this archdiocese.

“It’s kind of awesome if you think about it.”

(For more information about “Christ Our Hope: Compassion in Community,” log on to www.archindy.org/ChristOurHope.)

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