By: Dominique Johnson
Sometimes getting the courage to begin a new ministry just takes a nudge from a fellow parishioner. That’s how Erica Tlachac decided it was time to revive the Religious Education program at St. Rose of Lima in Wrangell.
Tlachac, a parishioner of St. Rose of Lima since 2011, shared how for the longest time her children were the only ones consistently attending Mass, “We wanted to bring more kids to Mass.” So, last December Tlachac decided to put together a simple Christmas program. The program consisted of a few carols and the kids sharing a few lines from the Nativity story, performed by Tlachac’s two children and a few grandchildren of other parishioners.
The program was successful and Tlachac wanted to keep the children involved and attending Mass regularly. In January, she started an afterschool program where volunteers would share Bible stories and take part in an activity related to the story. This was the first time in at least 10 years that the parish held a Religious education program and the kids kept coming back, which encouraged Tlachac, “And we decided we wanted something more.”
In the spring the parish admin assistant Peggy Mitchell approached Tlachac about starting the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS), an international Catechesis program for ages 3-12, at St. Rose. After doing some research, Tlachac and Mitchell traveled to Kodiak to receive their CGS training. Tlachac admits that she didn’t know what she was getting into when she left for the training, “but once I finally saw what it was (CGS) I knew it was going to be wonderful.”
Tlachac, Mitchell and a few other volunteers began offering CGS, as well as Signs of Grace, a program for the older children, this past fall. So far, both programs have been well received at the parish, with five kids participating in Signs of Grace and seven children in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Five of the children are currently in the First Reconciliation and First Communion class as well.
With the growth of the program over the first few months, parish volunteers helped expand the atrium. They spent a weekend taking out a wall in order to combine two classrooms. Giving the kids and teachers more space.
The kids have also been invited to participate at Mass. On the first Sunday of the month a student will serve as the lector and the children also present the gifts. Mitchell shared, “The children have truly brought life back to the parish,” Tlachac added that going from two kids regularly attending Mass to 13, “Makes the church a lot more lively.”