Carl J. Pfeifer, "Father" of the Contemporary Catechist – R.I.P.

I read with sadness the announcement of the passing of Carl J. Pfeifer who, with his wife Janaan Manternach, were, in the minds of many, the “father” and “mother” of the contemporary catechist. Their book, Creative Catechist, is a classic and inspired me early on in my career in catechetical ministry. Thank you, Carl, for inspiring so many of us to be creative catechists!

Carl J. Pfeifer, 78, died of Alzheimers at 1:05 am, Thursday July 12 2007, at Stonehill Care Center. His body was donated to the Deeded Body Program at the University of Iowa College of Medicine.Services: A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at St. Martin’s Catholic Church in Cascade, Iowa at 10:00 A.M. on July 28, 2007 with Rev. Neil J. Manternach officiating. Concelebrating is Rev. Douglas Loecke, Rev. Msgr. Albert Manternach & Rev. Carl J. Manternach. Eulogy will be given by Angela Barbieri. Relatives and friends may call after 9:00A.M. at the church. The Reiff Funeral Home in Cascade is in charge of arrangements.   

He was born on June 22, 1929, in St. Louis, MO., son of Carl and Emma (Heine) Pfeifer. He was a member of the Society of Jesus, Missouri Province, for twenty-nine years. On November 20, 1976 he married Janaan Manternach, a former Dubuque Franciscan at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown, DC. Carl was a prolific writer of religion textbooks, and single title books on catechetics, theology, prayer, meditation, and the saints. He also wrote numerous articles for journals, newspapers, and newsletters. He co-authored with his wife the trend setting religion series, LIFE, LOVE, JOY. It dramatically changed how Catholic children are taught religion.   

He was widely known as a lecturer on catechetics and religious education throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, Guam, and Central America. He taught summer sessions at both The Catholic University of America, and St. Michael’s College in Winooski, Vermont. He also taught courses at Theological College in Washington, D.C. and St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Maryland.   

Carl and his wife, Janaan, were presented the prestigious annual award from the National Conference of Catechetical Leadership recognizing their long and illustrious contribution to catechetical ministry. They were the first married couple to receive this award. They were also honored by the National Association of Parish Catechetical Directors with the Emmaus Award for Excellence In Catechesis. This award was given to them because of their international reputation and contribution to the field of Catholic catechesis through writing, publishing and teaching. He was an avid photographer. For several years he wrote a weekly photo-meditation which appeared in many Diocesan newspapers. They also became a book titled “Photomeditations” His photos were exhibited in galleries in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland. He was a pioneer in introducing photos of everyday life experience into religion textbooks.   

Carl is survived by his wife, Janaan, his brother, Richard (Rosemary) Pfeifer, three brothers-in-law, Thomas (Helen) Manternach, Donald (Anita) Manternach, Richard Ripple; two sisters-in-law, Grace Miller and Janice Manternach; four godchildren, Angela Barbieri, Miguel Barbieri, Edward Jeep and Emily Jeep Klingaman; two honorary, grandchildren, Jake and Hannah Verrips; numerous nieces and nephews including a special nephew, Carl Gerard (Jerry) Pfeifer and his wife, Charlene, who loved their Uncle Carl in many simple and cherishing ways.   

He was preceded in death by his parents, his father and mother-in-law, Jacob and Anita Takes Manternach; three sisters-in-laws, Janet Manternach Ripple, Luann Vaske Manternach and Cecilia Lucas Manternach; two brothers-in-law, Orland (Bub) Manternach, and Donald Jacob Manternach (in infancy); a niece, Amy Manternach Kurt and a niece-in-law, Cathy Kimm Manternach.   

Memorials may be given in his name to Stonehill Care Center, the Missouri Province Jesuits (St. Louis), the Sisters of St. Francis (Dubuque, Iowa), Hospice of Dubuque or to a charity of your choice. His family would like to thank Dr. Osamah Khatib, the aides, nurses, and others who lovingly cared for him at Stonehill and for the staff of Hospice of Dubuque who ably helped him in his final act of living. Online condolences may be left for the family at www. in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from 7/15/2007 – 7/16/2007. 





About Joe Paprocki 2751 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

2 Comments on Carl J. Pfeifer, "Father" of the Contemporary Catechist – R.I.P.

  1. I read about Carl’s death in NCR. Carl and Janaan added inspiration on my life when I met them in Washington, D.C. in the 70’ies. Bill and I were raising three young children. I was inspired by their religion series LIFE,LOVE,JOY; also, Carl’s photographs touched my heart! I became a CCD teacher and introduced their series in my Parish. My sister, Natalie DeWitt Weaver, introduced me to Carl and Janaan. I am indebted to both Carl and Janaan for all the joy they have created in the field of Catehesis! My sincere symapthy to Janaan and family on the passing of Carl.
    He will not be forgotten. Love, Shirley Poore

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