Vince LaBarbera
Vince LaBarbera
Freelance Writer
October 7, 2019 // Diocese

Called to evangelize: directors of religious education

Vince LaBarbera
Vince LaBarbera
Freelance Writer

“Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you….” (Mt 28:19)

A director of religious education is first and foremost a catechist, someone who teaches the Catholic faith while being a model of Jesus Christ — helping others build a personal relationship with Him. A DRE administers a parish’s catechetical program for adults and children, sometimes teaching but also organizing and overseeing its budget, curriculum and catechist formation. Those who take on this role do so to serve and out of love for God.

“Our DREs have embraced the call to hand on the Catholic faith” said Jonathan Kaltenbach, director of catechesis for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. “Many of our DREs have received professional training for the purpose of taking on these ministerial roles, but many also simply stepped up when called upon by their parish. I have great admiration for all of them and their work in ministry.”

One such person who answered the call is Rebeccah Frulla. She was recently appointed director of religious education and youth director for St. Therese Parish in Fort Wayne.

Frulla is no stranger to the study and teaching of Catholic faith. Originally born and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire, she moved to the Midwest to obtain a bachelor’s degree in theology and English from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. Upon graduating in 2013, she helped with a family business and served part-time at her home parish with the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program, the youth group and confirmation preparation.

She moved to Fort Wayne to be closer to her now-husband David. She first accepted a position at the University of Saint Francis in the TRIO Student Support Services program, then moved her service to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish.

Frulla explained that she accepted her new role at St. Therese in July because “it’s more varied and encompasses areas I’ve always been interested in, namely, the RCIA process of bringing people into the Church, and religious education, working with both young people and adults.”

Frulla’s dedication to bringing others into the faith is a vocation that requires balance with other life and daily responsibilities. Like other DREs, she feels called to a multifaceted and very active vocation, and she also balances work and family. Frulla and her husband are expecting their first child in January.

Cheryl Donaghy, director of religious education at St. Aloysius Parish, Yoder, substitutes for a catechist on Sept 22. She has been a DRE for more than 30 years, ensuring the sharing of the faith through catechetical programs first at Most Precious Blood Parish, Fort Wayne, then at St. Joseph Parish, Bluffton, and now at St. Aloysius. — Jennifer Simerman

The job of being a DRE requires a true commitment to working with others — one’s own family, parishioners, parents, students, staff — in every part of every day, encouraging them to obey all that God has commanded.

“I am continually impressed and inspired as I continue to get to know our veteran DREs and welcome our new DREs: Their faith, commitment, experience and wisdom are truly remarkable,” said Kaltenbach. “These are women and men who clearly love the Church and their parish and work tirelessly to hand on our faith to children and youth. And many of them serve catechumens and adults as well.”

The diocesan Office of Catechesis organizes two DRE gatherings every year, at the end of August and beginning of Lent. These gatherings are an opportunity for fellowship, program updates and professional development.

At the Aug. 22 gathering, attendees learned about the new Foundations of Faith course that assists with catechist and adult faith formation. It is offered both in Fort Wayne and South Bend, using online resources from Franciscan University.

“We strongly encourage DREs who do not have formal theological training to pursue diocesan certification as catechists,” said Kaltenbach.

Other topics of discussion included regional DRE meeting options, resources and curriculum options for the coming year. Throughout the day, DREs were given the opportunity to briefly speak on particular special projects and events, such as the upcoming World Apostolate of Fatima Mass and breakfast, the Totus Tuus summer program for youth at St. Jude Parish, Fort Wayne, and much more. Various diocesan staff also dropped in to update the group on diocesan support available to them, and Kara Slocum gave a preview of some of the books and resources available from Good Shepherd Books & Gifts. Kaltenbach said he was also very “grateful to Father Louis Fowoyo for celebrating Mass for us and for his inspiring preaching on the mission of all Catholics to hand on our faith in Jesus Christ to all our brothers and sisters.”

“I am truly blessed to work with these amazing women and men.” Kaltenbach concluded.

Jennifer Simerman contributed to  this article.

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