The following story appeared in the May 12 Idaho Catholic Register.
Willing and capable catechists are always difficult to find in any parish.
This year, the Diocese of Boise will take a triple whammy with the retirement of three catechists who, combined, have given 60 years toward religious education in their parishes.
“These ladies have all served their parishes with dignity, honor and ingenuity,” said Jackie Hopper, director of Religious Education and Catechetical Leadership for the Diocese of Boise.
“Their devotion to their parishes and leading children to Christ was unwavering,” Hopper said. “Each had the gift of amazing faith that they shared passionately with the families in their programs. We are so blessed by the ‘yes’ they said to his ministry so many years ago.”
Marisela Linan is retiring from St. Paul’s Parish in Nampa after being the religious education director for 23 years. Debbie Chicane is retiring from the Tri-Parish Community in Cotton-wood after 20 years as youth minister. Finally, Mary Wax retires as director of faith formation after 17 years at Holy Apostles Parish in Meridian.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Linan said. “But to see how happy the kids are to receive all the sacraments in one night makes it worth it. It’s beautiful to see.”
Most difficult, Linan said, is seeing how not all the families continue in the Church after becoming Catholic. “It’s sad to see that it’s just a checkmark on their to-do list for them to become Catholic,” she said.
The children are so excited to be-come Catholic, but the parents don’t always follow through in making sure they continue to go to Mass or Confession, Linan said. “The kids cannot drive themselves. They have to rely on their parents, and unfortunately, the parents are not all the way in with their faith.”
As youth minister at St. Mary’s in Cottonwood, a portion of Chicane’s duties is to bring teenagers into the Church through the Order of Christian Initiation for Adults (OCIA; formerly known as RCIA, or Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults).
“The doors are always open in youth ministry programs for Catholics and non-Catholics, whoever wants to come,” Chicane said. “So non-baptized kids would come to our youth ministry, and they would feel like this is home. This is where they wanted to be, and they would want to be baptized.”
One young man came to youth group for pizza, she said. “His friend invited him to youth group because we were having pizza that night. He kept coming back and was baptized a year later. He said this is where he found home and hope for his life.”
Through the years, Chicane guesses 15 teenagers have become Catholic through her program. “Our community is very Catholic in the Cottonwood area,” she said.
She estimates that 200 children have become Catholic through her program.
Wax has played a role of seeing about 1,000 adults, she estimates, come into the Church during her 17 years at Holy Apostles Parish, Idaho’s largest parish. It was not unusual for Wax and her team to have classes as large as 100 received into the Church in a year.
“The best thing about being part of OCIA is the people,” Wax said. “When someone steps through the doors of the church and is a bit intimidated by all of it, walking with them during this journey of faith through the Catholic Church is the biggest joy. Seeing them move from trepidation to ownership is why our team of volunteers calls the OCIA the best ministry in the parish.”
Conversely, the most difficult aspect of the job is “letting someone go.”
“We tell each person that they are free to check out of the Church with no repercussions of leaving. But when someone realizes that the Catholic Church isn’t where God is calling them, it’s like losing a friend.”
Like Linan, Wax says it is even more disappointing to see some not attending Mass after they have completed OCIA.
Stephanie Hardy, the new OCIA coordinator at Holy Apostles, notes that Wax became coordinator of the program without much training or knowledge. In fact, before she became the coordinator, she had temporarily left the Church and was attending Boise Bible College. While there, she got so many questions about Catholicism that researching her answers led her back into the Church.
“While the OCIA director, she made connections with people and watched their children grow,” Hardy said. “She calls all the new Catholics her ‘kids’ because she watches them grow from people beginning in their journey in Catholicism to full members of the Church.”
If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.