August 11, 2017

Catechists gather in Springfield for convocation; Bishop Rozanski is speaker

Story and photos by Rebecca Drake

Attendees at the New England Convocation for Catechetical Leadership look at instructional materials offered by vendors.


SPRINGFIELD – Catechists from throughout New England have gathered at the Tower Square Hotel in downtown Springfield for “Pathways of Hope: Evangelization, Catechesis, Community,” the biennial New England Convocation for Catechetical Leadership.

The convocation began on Thursday, Aug. 10 and continues through Saturday, Aug. 12.

Among the speakers featured in today’s program at the convocation was Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, who joined with Lutheran Canon Karl Paul Donfried, professor emeritus of New Testament at Smith College, for a workshop entitled “The State of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.”

Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski speaks at a workshop on ecumenical and interreligious affairs Aug. 11 during the New England Convocation for Catechetical Leadership in Springfield.

Bishop Rozanski, who chairs the U.S. Conference Catholic Bishops’ Ecumenical and Interreligous Affairs Committee, noted that restoration of unity among Christians was a major concern of the Second Vatican Council. And while “We have a long way to go,” Bishop Rozanski said, the ongoing dialogue between the Lutheran and Catholic churches has included 32 points of agreement along with “points of further discussion.”

The presenter at the Aug. 11 general session of the convocation was Vermont Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, whose topic was “From Evangelization to Community: Challenges in a Digital Age.” Using humor and humility, Bishop Coyne noted that his state, Vermont, has been rated as the least religious state in the country – followed in order by New Hampshire, Maine, Washington and Massachusetts.

 Bishop Coyne spoke about the challenges of reaching today’s Catholics, some of whom have been dubbed “A & P Catholics,” or “Ashes and Palms Catholics,” who mainly come to Mass on Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday or Easter. To nods of agreement from listeners, he also mentioned Catholics who connect with the church for baptisms, marriages and funerals – or “Hatch, Match and Dispatch.”

In encouraging the use of digital media in evangelization and catechetical efforts, Bishop Coyne described those media “as morally neutral,” saying that “What makes it good or bad is what we do with it.”

Acknowledging that digital media can elicit negative responses, such as angry Facebook comments, tweets and emails, he recommended catechetical leaders strive for politeness, even in the face of others’ negativity or attacks.

Bishop Coyne offered this quote from St. Therese of Lisieux as a guide for evangelization and catechetics in digital media: “See every moment as an opportunity to make concrete the love of God.”

“She should be the patron saint of digital media,” he said.

Gina Czerwinski, newly appointed director of catechetics and youth formation for the Springfield Diocese listens to a talk by Vermont Bishop Christopher Coyne.

Other topics and presenters at the convocation included “Families at the center of Faith Formation,” John Roberto, president, LifelongFaith Associates; Integrating Technology into Faith Formation,” Sister of St. Joseph Caroline Cerveny, president, Digital Discipleship Boot Camp; and “Catechesis with U.S.-Born Hispanic Children and Youth,” Miriam Hidalgo, director of youth and young adult ministry for the Archdiocese of Hartford. Other workshops focused on Small Christina Communities, developing a personal relationship with God, and nurturing discipleship among youths.

Local catechist Joanne Bagge, who has been director of religious education at St. Mary Parish in Westfield for the last 14 years, said she found the convocation presentations both practical and inspiring.

“It gives us practical ideas to move forward, and we all need to move forward,” Bagge said. “This world is changing; it’s much more digital… and we have to change with that.”

In connecting with other catechists at the convocation, Bagge said, “You see other people who have the same beliefs, the same values as I do. (You see that) you are not alone in what you do.”