By Barb Arland-Fye
Sister Carol Cimino, a longtime Catholic teacher and administrator, blended levity and lessons in a presentation tailored for catechists gathered Nov. 11 at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport. The New York nun’s sense of humor kept the session moving, but it was her passion for kids and experience in ministering to them that inspired the 120 participants from the Clinton and Davenport deaneries.
A Sister of St. Joseph of Rochester, N.Y., she’s been a teacher and administrator at all levels of Catholic education and currently co-directs the Catholic School Leadership Institute at Manhattan College. She’s a national consultant for textbook publisher William H. Sadlier Co. and has a book coming out next spring called “Keeping the Faith.”
She told the audience that catechists need to know themselves first and to be real for the kids they’re ministering to. Catechists need to be what Jesus wants them to be, and the guide is found in the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel.
“If we don’t live out what we teach, it’s no good,” she said. “John Paul II said people don’t listen to teachers, they listen to witnesses.”
One of her concerns is people’s preoccupation with money issues. That was never Jesus’ preoccupation. In the parable of the loaves and fishes, she said, Jesus’ disciples are talking about having to buy food for the hungry crowd while he’s talking about giving.
“We need to be people with the mentality of abundance,” she observed.
A sense of community is also vital in passing on the faith to the next generation. Kids need it, and their parents do, too, she said. Today’s youth belong to a visual generation that want the smells and bells, the sacramentals of the Catholic Church, she continued.
Being Catholic isn’t easy; it’s a challenge, but kids are up to a challenge, she said. And catechists need to teach “the whole faith and nothing but the faith. Teach what the church teaches. We need to be consistent in our teaching.”
Julia Jones, coordinator of youth ministry at St. Ann Parish in Long Grove, said she was inspired by Sr. Cimino’s energy and enthusiasm. “To see she’s been involved in faith formation and teaching youth for so many years and to still be so inspired, it says something about her character.”
Jones would appreciate more educational opportunities for herself and the volunteers she works with. “The more events we have like these, the better. The more resources we can give them, the better.”
MORE (Ministers of Religious Education) from the diocese’s Davenport and Clinton deaneries sponsored the presentation.
The group saves up funds for a speaker-led presentation every other year, said Roberta Pegorick, one of the event’s organizers and director of religious education for Holy Family Parish in Davenport and Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire. During off-years, MORE organizes a session of educational workshops. The diocese also offers several seminars and workshops throughout the year for catechists.
Of last week’s presentation, Pegorick said, “My catechists all said Sr. Cimino was entertaining, lighthearted and yet she had a real message, something they could take home and apply.”
Leigh Boorn, coordinator of confirmation and youth ministry at Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport, said the presentation provided a good reminder for catechists that kids who are difficult may have issues they’re struggling with that make them appear to be annoying. Boorn also appreciated Sr. Cimino’s observation that “the mind of Jesus is to give, not buy.”
Annie Walljasper, youth minister at Holy Family and Sacred Heart parishes in Davenport, said Sr. Cimino’s presentation “definitely motivated me that we have to be real for our kids and what we’re going to stand up for as far as our Catholic faith. They need real models that aren’t just going to play the game.”