Pittsburgh honors volunteer catechists

.- The Diocese of Pittsburgh will honor 2,100 volunteer religious educators at a convocation Thursday at the David Lawrence Convention Center. They complete a two-year certification program, based on The Catechism of the Catholic Church. About 6,000 volunteers teach 53,000 students in grades K-12 throughout the diocese.

Diane Kirk, diocesan director for religious education, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that if there weren’t volunteer catechists, spreading the faith would be very difficult.

About 75 percent of all dioceses have an adequate training program for catechists, but Pittsburgh is one of the best, Fr. Daniel Kutys, deputy secretary for catechetics at the U.S. bishops' conference, told the newspaper.

He said the U.S. bishops see Bishop Wuerl “as one of the real leaders of catechesis in this country.”

Pittsburgh is the first diocese in the nation to conduct and complete on-site evaluations of religious education programs at all 215 parishes. The diocese also developed take-home guides for parents and other initiatives to help the teachers.

The program is also successful in that is provides ongoing faith formation for catechists as well.

"I'm 65, but I'm still learning about my faith," volunteer catechist Tony Fonseca told the Post-Gazette.

The retired research scientist teaches seventh and eighth graders during at St. John Capistran School, which holds the catechism class at 7:40 a.m. weekdays. The class begins with bagels and orange juice.

"The world is not a very virtuous place. These students are going to have a hard time dealing with how to integrate their religious beliefs with their daily life. They need to know what their religious beliefs are, and why they are there," he said.

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