by Moira Cullings
GARDNER — You might mistake them for the Energizer Bunny.
Directors of religious education and youth ministers in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas haven’t stopped running since COVID-19 began.
From creating online curricula to crafting socially distant activities, these men and women deserve a day to re-energize, said Pam Riordan, consultant for children’s catechesis for the archdiocese.
“They don’t need professional development. They’re [tired from] trying to figure out ways to engage people online,” said Riordan. “They need something to refresh, to renew [them].”
The “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will” Lenten retreat is meant to do just that.
The daylong retreat will take place on March 25 on the solemnity of the Annunciation.
Held at Divine Mercy Parish in Gardner, it will include opportunities for eucharistic adoration, confession, Mass and talks.
Father Adam Wilczak, the parish’s pastor, will provide the sacraments and Steve Angrisano — singer, songwriter and storyteller — will be the keynote speaker.
The day is designed for DREs, youth ministers, catechists and anyone who works in ministry at parishes around the archdiocese.
The retreat will follow all COVID-19 guidelines, but those who are uncomfortable meeting in person or are unable to travel can participate from home on Zoom.
Riordan hopes it’s a stress-free day for all who attend.
“They’re so used to planning and being so concerned with all of the details,” she said. “We just want them to come.
“Let us wait on you for once, and let us give back to you, because you have done so much this year.”
Parish ministers have faced ample challenges since last March.
Shelly Bole, director of faith formation at St. John the Evangelist in Lawrence, has overcome them as a brand-new employee serving in a brand-new role at the parish.
She started at the parish last August, and her responsibilities include overseeing any ministry related to evangelization and catechesis.
It’s been daunting with all the restrictions in place.
“Even at Mass, you can’t get a feel for the parish,” said Bole. “I have no sense of what the parish is like as a community.”
Bole is eager for a chance to meet others in her field who understand.
“I’m a single woman committed to working for the church,” she said. “I’m used to being alone. But that human contact — I’m starving [for it].”
Karla Melgar, DRE at St. Paul Parish in Olathe, is also enthusiastically awaiting the retreat.
From the moment she read the title on the retreat invitation, she was filled with inspiration.
“For me, it’s a way to reaffirm to God, to let him know that ‘Yes, here I am again and again, to come do whatever you want me to with my personal life [and] with the ministry,’” she said.
Melgar hopes to use the experience as a time to “pray for God to fill me with his love so that I’m able to keep going and share his love [with] others.”
Some of her biggest struggles this past year have been moving religious education online and reaching families from a distance.
But she’s hopeful this year will bring brighter days, and the retreat has given her something to look forward to.
“God is going to provide many graces on the retreat, especially faith, [and] help us to trust in him and keep going in our ministry the best we can for our communities,” she said.
Riordan is gratified by the chance to provide a day of reflection and renewal for those who work hard to make parish life fruitful and vibrant.
“It’s really important that we take time to grow our own spirituality,” she said, “because we can’t give what we don’t have.
“As hard as it is to clear the calendar and be out of the office, the benefits of doing that far outweigh any of the hassles.”
If you are a DRE, youth minister or are involved in ministry at your parish and are interested in attending the retreat, register online at: archkck.org/catechetical-leaders.
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