By: Vince Marcantonio – Director of Religious Education Holy Name
This year, the Church will celebrate Catechetical Sunday on September 16th. In many parishes, those who serve as catechists will receive a special blessing ahead of their ministry. Our theme this year – “Enlisting Witnesses for Jesus Christ” – should serve as an inspiration to all the faithful, not just our teachers. Why? By having received the Sacrament of Baptism, we are all called to share the joy of the Gospel with others no matter what our station in life or role in the Church. So, in keeping with this theme, I would like to reflect on the joys of being a Director of Religious Education here in the Last Frontier and forming new soldiers of Christ.
It is my great privilege to raise the visibility of our Native Catholic community here in Ketchikan. While we are very aware of our Alaskan Native heritage here in the City of Ketchikan, and have many totem poles, placards, and museums to celebrate it, we do not frequently commemorate the Native Catholic community. This is absolutely critical at a time when in some circles the Church is seen in opposition to the native identity. Here at Holy Name this Native Ministry can take many forms – trips out to our Catholic community in Metlakatla, serious discussions in our youth ministry program about being native and Catholic, inviting our elders to speak to parishioners and visiting mission groups, and integrating native musical traditions into our sacred music. In the future, we even hope to begin introducing native language materials into our atrium!
I love ministering to our nones (those who do not affiliate with a specific faith) and searchers (those who go from church to church in their quest to find Truth and Beauty). It is so gratifying to be able to accompany someone on their journey of faith, no matter where it starts. They are so sincere in their search for God and so contemplative of Him, even if they do not know Him well. In many ways, I find them to be an inspiration to our cradle Catholics in their tenacious search for the Truth. It is a pleasure to work with them through RCIA and out in the community as I am able to witness men and women who sincerely wish to walk with God.
Another great blessing in my work is the opportunity to serve and accompany my catechists. They are precious cargo and we are lucky to have them, not only for their time commitment, but also for their witness and their devotion to improving our faith community through education. As teachers, we not only give, but exponentially receive, through our preparation of the materials and through the relationships that we forge through this ministry. This helps us to lead each other to sainthood.