Stories on the Journey – “I Owe it all to…”

Welcome back to Stories on the Journey, our summer experience of sharing stories about the ups and downs and ins and outs of being a catechist. So far, we’ve shared stories on the following topics:

Our topic for this week is, “I owe it all to…” which means that we will be sharing stories about our mentors. Who inspired and/or influenced you most in your role as a catechetical minister? Who do you try to emulate when you teach? What is/was so inspirational about this person’s approach to teaching that made you want to follow in his or her footsteps and become a catechist or DRE?

Share a brief story (in the Comments box below) – just one or two paragraphs -describing your thoughts about someone who was a mentor for you.  Then, return each day this week to read others’ stories and to comment on them if you wish. You can also go back and comment on stories from previous weeks or to add your own stories.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you! I’ll start the parade with a story about one of my mentors (see the Comments below).

* All stories posted become property of Loyola Press and may be used in future publications
About Joe Paprocki 2737 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

16 Comments on Stories on the Journey – “I Owe it all to…”

  1. One of my mentors is Fr. Dominic Grassi (with whom I co-authored Living the Mass - ). When I was a brand new high school religion teacher back in the 80’s, Dom was my chairman. We did a lot of team-teaching in those days and I was always impressed with the confidence and authority that Dom exuded. On occasion, we would find ourselves in a bit of a tizzy because the AV equipment didn’t show up or didn’t work and he never got flustered. He always found a way to turn it around and put the spotlight on the students, requiring THEM to fill the empty space by answering questions instead of feeling the need to do a “song and dance” to fill the void. I often think of Dom before I address a group of young people and try to emulate his confidence and authority.

  2. I owe everything I have to two people, the DRE from the church where I initially took classes for RCIC back when I was in seventh grade converting to Catholicism. She showed me how much fun religious education could be – on top of teaching me what I needed to know to become Catholic.

    The other person was my confirmation class teacher in tenth grade. While we use the metaphor of the fire of the Holy Spirit as in the first pentecost, he really lit the flame inside of me and it burns just as bright today, almost 20 years later, so bright in fact, that it has me considering entering into the permanent deacon program.

    Without these two great role models, I would not be as positive about my faith as I am today.

  3. Joe,

    I recently came across your blog, and I have been enjoying it tremendously! I really like this question because it is one I often ask people, both young adults and older adults, to reflect on to emphasize the importance of personal invitation into ministry.

    For me, my colleague and mentor, Charles Jumonville, from the Diocese of Baton Rouge is who I “owe it all to”. Charles sought me at, when I was 24 years old, to come and work for the diocese. My initial reaction was “you have to be kidding!”. After much thought and prayer, I finally said “yes”. His invitation changed the direction of my professional life. St. Ignatius suggests us to check the fruit of our decision…well, this decision 6.5 years ago led to a and continues to lead to a fuller life both personally and professionally. Charles taught me how to be a pastoral minister, using both my head and heart, and I am forever thankful for him.

  4. One of the people who has greatly influenced how I teach is my own RCIA director. When I began RCIA, I was already firmly convinced that I wanted to be Catholic and had plenty of the knowledge down. What I really got out of my experience was how to BE Catholic, the prayers and devotions and all those little quirks of the Catholic faith.

    That is something I try really hard to pass along to the kids in my class. Of course I want them to learn all the basics, but so much of the Catholic faith has to be experienced and I want them to be exposed to the Catholic culture that they are coming into.

  5. I owe it all to my friend Marcia who was a Catechist for 30 years. I told her I wanted to be a teacher but never bothered to go to college and pursue teaching. She suggested I teach CCD. I’ve been at it 23 years and still enjoy teaching. Also another person I owe it all to is Fr. Thomas Haggerty. We had the intergenerational teaching. and He got it started. It was in the action teaching. very hands on and the children enjoyed it very much. The parents not so much because they had to be in the class with the children,

  6. I have always envisioned myself as a teacher, even as a very young child (5yrs old!)
    The person who solidified this vocation for me is Carole Eipers. Carole taught the first offical university class I enrolled in: Principles and Practices of Catechesis held at Dominican University. Carole exudes the energy, enthusiasm, creativity and peace only the Holy Spirit can provide. She was knowledgeable, dynamic, and challenging in her presentation of the course material. Carole enouraged each of us in that class to share our own thoughts, feelings, and ideas in an effort to empower us to be strong catechetical leaders in the future. Her wit, humor, and love of teaching provided me with the motiviation to resume my studies and to complete my undergraduate degree in Pastoral Studies.

    I experienced Carole again while working as a parish CRE when she was the Director of the Archdiocesan Office for Catechesis, and still get to see her when she is speaking at workshops, conferences, or at our area catechist gatherings.
    So “I Owe it All To” Carole Eipers: My Inspirational Mentor Extrordinare….

  7. I “owe it all to” Fr. Jerry Devore, who has recently passed. I was a catechist for 6 years and an entrepeneur for 25 years running my own business in advertising and marketing. The DRE was retiring and Fr. Devore asked me if I would consider directing the RE program. He said my name kept coming to him from different parishioners. I said, thank you, but no! I wasn’t experienced and didn’t feel I had enough theology background; I had a minor. He said you are faithfilled and can manage people. He believed in me! After many meetings, much prayer, and a lot of thought, I said “yes” and currently I am in my 13th year of faith formation. Fr. Jerry, may you rest in the peace and love of Christ!

  8. Thank you, Mrs. McTaggart, 1971, Science Class….she taught me to teach with Joy …. Thank you, Cathy Hammond, my DRE 18 yrs ago…she taught me to serve with a Smile…. and thank you Teresa Dominguez…DRE/Safe Environment Manager of the Diocese of Fresno…for the Inspiration and Gift of openly loving God! Thank you, my Jesus, for the Gift of Faith!

  9. My mentor was Brother (now Father) Bill Meyer, my high school English teacher and religious retreat leader. Brother Bill took an interest in me during our class time and asked me to participate in the schools encounter program. After my initial retreat he then asked me to become a retreat leader during my senior year. Brother Bill was the first person encouraged me to share my faith with others and showed me how happy one can be when you walk with God. He gave me the book “The Little Prince” when I graduated from high school, a book a have kept to this day and one I refer to as needed in my current role of teacher in my parish religious education program. Brother Bill saw the spark of faith inside me and the Encounter program lit it so I could share with others.

  10. I inherited the Religious Education program in my parish and was feeling very inadequate having never had the opportunity to attend college. I wanted to be able to train my volunteer catechists but lacked what I thought I needed to do so. Attending a local DRE meeting Msgr. John Barry who was the Director of Religious Education for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles conducted the meeting. He indicated that there was a need for more Master Catechists for the Diocese to train volunteer catechists and he pointed to several people including me. Later he emphasized his desire for me to submit myself to the Diocese for training to be a Master Catechist. I was stunned…me? But I did go and began teaching in my parish.
    Later Fr David Sork was put in charge of the Master Catechist program and he revamped the formation process. I joined and completed the formation process. Fr Sork (now Msgr) asked me to be part of his advisory board for the Master Catechist program. I was both honored and scared. Because of his encouragement, I attend a college in Los Angeles and acquired a Certificate of Studies in Religious Studies. My journey began in 1970 and today I’m still involved and am the coordinator for RCIA in my parish. These two priests saw potential in me that I could not see and I am forever grateful to them.

  11. I owe my great faith to my parents, particularly my mother, and to my maternal grandmother. However, I became involved with the Faith Formation at St. Francis from speaking to and see our former pastor, Fr. Joe Doyle, with the parishioners and the goodness he conveyed to everyone. Fr. Joe was truly my inspiration to volunteer and I have never looked back. His encouragement and kind words meant so much. At that time, the DRE was Connie Sheehan – and she, too, was a great mentor and encouraged all I did.
    These two wonderful people really opened the floodgates for me – and I thank them everyday for that. May God bless them now and always…

  12. I owe so much of my spiritual journey to the Clerics of St. Viator. I had the opportunity to work with some very special men. To Father George Auger who taught me how to pray the bible and to put my primary vocation first. Fathers Tom Von Behren, Dan Hall, Bill Carpenter, Larry Lenz, Mark Francis, Dan Riordan and Jim Crilly for your example and love of the Lord. Maternity BVM was blessed and so were all the people they ministered to. I thank them for leading me on an incredible spiritual path.
    Jackie Brace
    Director of Religious Education
    Our Lady of the Hills, Columbia, South Carolina

  13. I owe it all to my deceased mother and one DRE in our archdiocese who was a mentor and personal friend. Mummy first planted the seeds of faith in me and she was a formidable catechist on fire with God’s love even into her old age. Our DRE Linda provided some great training sessions for us catechists which greatly inspired me, and she encouraged me to take up the challenge of further study in the area of catechetics. I am very grateful for the privilege of having these two great women of God in my life.

  14. I owe it all to many influences starting with my parents and the sacrifices they made for my Catholic education. Two other amazing people who helped me on my journey were the principal and pastor of a small parish where I was privileged to teach- Ms. Rosemary DiPietro and Father Gaetano Menegatto of Holy Rosary School in Cleveland, Ohio. They taught others through their dedication and actions. I was blessed to have been able to work with them as I continued to grow in my own faith. They truly are Christ-like in all they do.

  15. I would be remiss if I did not give credit to the Holy Spirit for my Faith Journey and becoming a DRE for the past 14 years in 2 different parishes in my Diocese. I also should give credit to one of my previous DREs in the Diocese of San Jose, Sr. Nancy Thomas who was a great leader, always encouraging her catechists to further their education to serve the Lord better in his people. I also owe a debt of gratitude to the previous Director of Adult Faith Formation at St. John Neumann in Irvine, Gene O’toole for placing his confidence in me and recommending me to the pastor to assume the DRE position at that parish, back in 1997. Gene has since retired but was a great mentor, always enthusiastic, full of suggestions to improve on the program. I believe that those people, the Lord has put in my path, deserve the recognition and a million thanks for having guided me.
    Edith Marik
    St. Norbert Church
    Orange, CA

  16. About 40 years ago, Fr. (now Msgr.) Robert Berggreen taught me 10th grade Religion straight from the Bible. Not only did it directly familiarize me with Scripture, but I learned that Catholicism could be taught from the Bible itself, without the intermediation of a textbook.

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