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St. John Bosco Conference for Catechists and Religious Educators

Twenty-three Vermonters representing 15 different parishes traveled by bus to participate in The St. John Bosco Conference for Catechists and Religious Educators that took place July 17-20 at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.
 
“Working in ministry can be challenging on many levels. When times are challenging, we are called to hope and trust even more deeply,” commented Teresa Hawes, director of religious education at St. Monica Parish in Barre who coordinated the trip for the Vermont group. “This was a time of strong fellowship and renewal, with nourishment for the head, heart and soul. It was amazing to see how our group, many of whom did not know each other at the start, returned home strengthened and transformed.”
 
The conference theme was "Jesus, Our Hope."
 
“The conference left me with at least a dozen practical suggestions on how to improve catechesis in our parishes, which is exactly what you would expect from a conference for catechists and religious educators,” commented Michael J. Hagan, coordinator of religious education and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington and a conference participant. “However, the conference also provided a deeply spiritual, retreat-like atmosphere – through daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, praise and worship music and many opportunities for private prayer – that brought me closer to Christ and left me with a sense of spiritual renewal.”
 
There were 520 conference participants, some from as far away as Nigeria and Australia.
 
Featured speakers were Bishop David L. Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisc.; Jim Beckman, a scholar in residence and professor of leadership and evangelization for the Augustine Institute in Denver; Scott Hahn, author or editor of more than 40 books; and Amy Roberts, a member of the catechetics faculty of Franciscan University.
 
Among the Vermonters in attendance at the conference was Kelly Lagasse, director of religious education, catechist and marriage preparation coordinator for All Saints Church in Richford, St. Isidore Church in Montgomery Center and Our Lady of Lourdes Church in East Berkshire. “I was overwhelmed how the leaders on campus were so docile to the Holy Spirit, not holding back in sharing their knowledge, experiences and love with us,” she said. “Throughout the conference as information was taught, there were overwhelming themes and lessons of surrender, vulnerability, relationship, abiding in Him, encounter and communion in an incarnational ministry.”
 
She was reminded that her parish boundaries go beyond the four walls of a church to everyone in the towns and that parents are the first and foremost educators of their children. “I hope to bring this information back to our catechists and pray about how to refocus our education on not just the giving of information, but also the forming of disciples within and outside of our church walls,” she said. “One specific change I would like to make is to implement a family faith program for catechism that is more focused on accompanying our families in the education of their own children in their lifelong pilgrimage to Christ.”
 
This was the 21st year of the Bosco Conference, one of several adult conferences that are offered on the campus of Franciscan University of Steubenville each summer.
 
“Now it’s our job to take what we’ve learned and implement it in our various roles in Vermont,” Hagan said. “We were given handouts at most workshops, many of us took notes, and we were given the opportunity to network with others who could support our efforts. Coming back home to Vermont with these resources makes it possible for us to put our new knowledge into practice.”
 
The Vermont trip was funded in part by Our Sunday Visitor.
 
 
 

Coordinator of religious education and catechesis

Michael J. Hagan became coordinator of religious education and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington in June, and he will be working to strengthen religious education within the Church by working with directors of religious education in Vermont parishes.
 
“Catechesis is important because our faith is not something that anyone can immediately -- or once-and-for-all – grasp,” he said. “Being a Christian is a lifelong process of unfolding the mystery of our faith, which is exactly what catechesis (the teaching of our faith) helps us to do. This journey is just as important, if not more so, for adults as it is for children.”
 
He plans to introduce more catechetical programs that include the whole family, both children and parents. “How that applies specifically, however, will depend on each parish and its particular strengths,” he said, adding that he will continue to offer catechists educational opportunities throughout Vermont.
 
One of his goals is to better understand how Vermont parishes function and then use that knowledge to be a strong support to assist and encourage them in their individual religious education goals. “The only way to truly achieve this is to pick up the phone, get in the car and build relationships with DREs around the state,” he said.
 
Hagan, 26, was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Grove City College and a master’s in theology from Villanova University.
 
He worked as a theology teacher and campus minister at a Catholic high school in Toledo, Ohio.
 
“In my experience as a high school teacher, I quickly discovered that books alone don't cut it. Outside of the classroom, students naturally consume information digitally, whether it be YouTube videos, online articles or apps on their phones,” he said. “Just as Jesus used familiar objects to make His parables relatable, we need to make technology a part of our religious education curriculum. This will help our students to be engaged in our material. Books are certainly important, but it is best to weave in the latest technology when possible.”
 
Hagan is married and now a resident of South Burlington and a parishioner at Christ the King/St. Anthony Parish in Burlington.
 
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