September 12, 2014

Religious Education Supplement

Catechetical professional organization broadens its outreach in archdiocese

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin shares his insights on promoting the Catholic faith on Feb. 9 at the Abe Martin Lodge in Brown County State Park during a retreat sponsored by the Association of Parish Catechetical Leaders. (Submitted photo)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin shares his insights on promoting the Catholic faith on Feb. 9 at the Abe Martin Lodge in Brown County State Park during a retreat sponsored by the Association of Parish Catechetical Leaders. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

Long before Lori Hamilton began ministry as director of faith formation at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany in 2006, she helped lead religious education efforts at an Air Force base in Texas.

It was a difficult experience, to say the least.

“I felt like I was an island in isolation,” said Hamilton. “I didn’t have a support system.”

There were few people in the area for her, a newcomer to catechetical ministry, to learn from.

That led her to be hesitant about taking up leadership in parish catechesis at Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Over the past eight years, however, Hamilton has found all the support she desired through the Association of Parish Catechetical Leaders (APCL), an organization of a wide array of religious education leaders in faith communities across central and southern Indiana.

“I absolutely love it now,” said Hamilton, APCL’s treasurer. “The support of my peers and being able to share ideas and talk to people and just to know that there are lots of other people doing what I’m doing is very helpful.”

APCL underwent a significant change two years ago to broaden the support it has offered catechetical leaders in the archdiocese since the late 1970s when it was founded as a professional organization independent of the archdiocese.

Until 2012, it was known as the Association of Parish Administrators of Religious Education and primarily served directors of religious education in archdiocesan parishes.

According to Stacy Hennessy, pastoral associate and director of religious education at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis, the widening of APCL’s vision was needed because of a change over time in how the parishes are staffed.

It also recognized the important catechetical leadership offered in many parishes by youth ministers and pastoral associates.

“We wanted to throw the net much wider,” said Hennessy, who served as APCL’s president from 2012 until earlier this year.

Youth ministers and pastoral associates can now join APCL and, as a result, its membership has doubled in the past two years.

More membership means more mutual support for parish catechetical leaders. This, in turn, said Hennessy, will enable parishioners to have better faith formation programs.

“It gives energy to catechetical leaders and puts new resources into their hands,” said Hennessy about APCL’s broadened outreach. “In turn, this would allow them to offer better quality classes, more programming in youth ministry, more service opportunities, more liturgical opportunities, more financial connections so that, for example, we can get more kids to the National Catholic Youth Conference.”

Kay Scoville, archdiocesan director of youth ministry, is glad to have an organization for youth ministers across central and southern Indiana that offers support.

“They can share resources and ideas,” she said. “It will motivate them to be the best that they can be. If you have other colleagues around you promoting professional development, then they’re more apt to jump on board.”

Scoville works closely with Ken Ogorek, archdiocesan director of catechesis. In speaking about the changes in APCL, he emphasized its focus on cooperation in catechesis among parish ministers who approach passing on the faith from a variety of perspectives.

“The breadth of APCL’s outreach reminds us that ministry is a collaborative effort,” Ogorek said. “Good parish catechesis involves parish administrators of religious education, pastoral associates and youth ministers.”

Benedictine Sister Pam Doyle, director of religious education at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis and APCL’s current president, said the change in the professional organization came at a good time for the local Church.

She noted how these changes can work hand in hand with the Connected in the Spirit pastoral planning process that has fostered collaboration among parishes across central and southern Indiana.

“The timing may have purely been the Holy Spirit’s intervention on this,” said Sister Pam. “But the timing is very good. There will be a learning curve for APCL because we need to see what this collaboration looks like. It will be different in many places.”

Even if the partnerships in catechetical leadership that APCL will foster will look different in various parts of the archdiocese, the organization will always be a support for people involved in this challenging but rewarding ministry, says Hennessy.

“They support me spiritually and emotionally,” she said of her fellow APCL members. “If I have a difficult time in my job, we’ll pray about that together. It’s very uplifting.”

(For more information about the Association of Parish Catechetical Leaders, log on to

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