June 28, 2017

Sister Paula Robillard feted as she retires from role as faith formation director

By Sharon Roulier

Sister of St. Joseph Paula Robillard addresses well-wishers at the diocesan pastoral center as Bishop Mitchell Rozanski looks on. (IObserve photos/Rebecca Drake)

SPRINGFIELD – At the age of 13, she took a class to learn how to be a CCD teacher. It was in her blood.

And now, more than 60 years later, the Sister of St. Joseph, who has devoted much of her years of ministry to religious education, has announced her retirement.

Sister Paula Robillard will officially step down as director of the Office of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Springfield next month. She has served in this capacity since her appointment by Springfield Bishop John Marshall in 1994.

Diocesan staff members pause for prayer at a special reception for Sister Paula Robillard, who will retire at the end of this month as director of the Office of Faith Formation.

Diocesan staff members, along with Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, marked Sister Robillard’s retirement with a June 28 reception at the diocese’s pastoral center on Elliot Street, here.

“Sister Paula has been involved in the catechetical ministry for four decades and here in the Diocese of Springfield for almost 37 years and so it’s been a wonderful, wonderful ministry for her,” Bishop Rozanski told iObserve. “I know it’s her real love; in sharing catechetics she’s been a great support to our catechetical leaders and teachers and out parishes – full of enthusiasm to keep them informed and updated and always doing different workshops and different updates for them.”

In an interview with iObserve, Sister Robillard said that although she knows she is making the right decision, it was nonetheless difficult.

“I’m very sad. It’s been my life,” she said. “I know it’s time to move on, and I’m not sorry that I’m moving on, because it’s better for the diocese. I’ve spent a long time trying to build up the religious education and I think I’ve done a great job.”

Sister Robillard grew up in Holy Cross Parish in Springfield. She has six siblings, 14 nieces and nephews and 11 grand nieces and nephews. She attended public grammar school at Frederick Harris Elementary and Forest Park Junior High School and graduated from Cathedral High School in Springfield, after which she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1962. She graduated from Elms College in Chicopee with a degree in education and served as a teacher for six years. She then received a master’s degree in religious education from Emmanuel College in Boston.

She was the director of religious education at St. Mary Parish in Milford, Mass., St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Springfield, and Our Lady of Good Counsel in West Boylston, Mass.

“I always felt that that was the gift I brought to the diocese because I had been a director of religious education in a parish and I knew what it was like to work in a parish,” she said.

Sister Robillard began her work in the religious education department for the diocese as director of school age catechesis in 1990 and four years later was named director of the department. She said she cherishes the time she spent implementing sound religious education programs in parishes throughout the diocese.

“I am, to the core of my being, a catechist,” she said. “I have three passions: The Sisters of St. Joseph, my birth family, and catechesis.”

Bishop Rozanski and Sister Robillard pose outside the diocesan pastoral center after a June 28 reception marking her many years of catechetical ministry.

Over her three decades of ministry, she said she strove to build up every parish catechetical program, which included having certified catechetical leaders, trained catechists and a vision of lifelong faith formation.

“Every document in the world says that the most important thing in a parish community is a paid, certified catechetical leader to run the program,” said Sister Robillard. “So I spent a lot of time working with them, helping them to find the qualifications they need, and also supporting the leaders afterward.”

She said she was also proud of the handbook she and her staff created in 2000 to provide resources for parish religious education programs.

“I’m very happy with what I was able to accomplish in the years that I was here,” said Sister Robillard.

Although Sister Robillard will be leaving one ministry, she will still remain active in the diocese, serving as an assistant to Bishop Rozanski. She will coordinate the bishop’s parish visitations. Since his ordination as bishop of Springfield, Bishop Rozanski has visited half of the 80 parishes in the diocese.