The February issue of Catechist magazine features St. Katharina Kasper, whose feast day is Feb. 1. In the article, author Patricia Mathson gives readers a glimpse into Katharina’s life. Mathson writes that St. Katharina (also spelled “Catherine”) loved God with all her heart and shared that love with people living in poverty.
Katharina knew that God was calling her to help others. Her example of service reminds Catholics today that they, too, are called by God to serve other people.
Catechist Lori Richards exemplifies this same attribute of St. Katharina by dedicating her life to the career of pediatric nurse and also answering the call to share God’s love to the children of St. Therese, Little Flower Parish in South Bend.
“I first became a catechist out of necessity,” stated Richards. “Our youngest son was in the sixth grade religious education class and there was no catechist, so I volunteered to teach his class. I followed his class through to their confirmation and then just continued teaching confirmation.
“I always tell my students it’s not about what I teach you but what you teach me,” said Richards.
Lori and her husband, Steve, are celebrating 33 years of marriage and have five grown children. They have been parishioners of Little Flower for 25 years.
“I originally coordinated our children’s liturgies, for 15 years, as well as singing and organizing the music for those liturgies,” remembered Lori. “After we no longer offered this ministry, I became a catechist. I love kids and feel it’s a wonderful calling.”
Lori begins each new year of religious education by asking the students if they are ready to be transformed.
“I like to focus on the phrase, ‘Called by Name.’ I give the students a journal my daughter and I developed that works like a cell phone. Complete with texts from God. I ask, ‘Who’s in your contacts? What applications (gifts) do you have?’
We use these journals throughout the year, and then I send them home with the kids at the end of the year to see how they have answered God’s call.”
“I like to use real-life stories to help the students understand what we are learning,” stated Lori. “Through my life experiences I help them understand that our purpose in life is to be a witness to our faith.
“One of the exercises I give to the students is to write down three things they would share with someone who didn’t know about Jesus. These students are not social people, so it’s very difficult for them to be a witness. I ask them to stay after Mass to talk with a parishioner about the things they wrote on their list, to help them be able to have the courage to witness to someone.”
Confirmation student Michael Loughran shared, “When I look at the questions from last year’s class, I think I know these things! Mrs. Richards has tons of experience and shares real-life stories with us to help us relate to what we are learning.”
A large part of the process of preparation for confirmation is teaching students about using their gifts to serve others. “I love helping the students with their service projects,” explained Lori. “I want them to have a better understanding of what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus. So we offer many service opportunities throughout the year.”
One of the hands-on service projects she asks her students participate in is the making of prayer shawls for the sick and the dying.
“My father-in-law received a prayer shawl while he was battling terminal cancer, and it really touched him. The students can say prayers as they knot the prayer shawls, along with placing a cross on the fleece. The shawls are then given to our parishioners in need of the prayers and comfort.”
On the second Saturday of the month, Little Flower serves breakfast to the homeless at Our Lady of the Road Drop-In Center in downtown South Bend. “I invite our class to participate in this outreach by serving breakfast to the guests. The students help with the preparation, the serving and the cleanup. This is truly being the hands and feet of Christ,” she said.
Lori lives out the two great Commandments each day, to love God and to love others. To foster her own spiritual growth, she spends time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and her favorite prayer is the Memorare.
“My profession as a pediatric nurse allows me to care for medically and mentally fragile children in the home, and teaching religious education to children — these are wonderful callings and a wonderful way to witness the love and the joy of Christ Jesus.”
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