A Catechist Journey

Sr.Joyanne Sullivan

The Pandemic has made this Catechist flexible and being creative pushing me to thinking outside the box to make a difference in these young adults’ lives.

As a young sister I learned to start my day by saying “Jesus, put me where you need me the most today”. What a journey those words have taken me on and honestly there were times that left me wondering “What the heck am I doing here”? But it was always where Jesus wanted me to be.

 I became a catechist 40 years ago at the invitation of the DRE at St. Mary Magdalene parish in Camarillo, CA where I volunteered as a 4-grade teacher in the Religious Ed program. I went through the Faith Formation and was inspirited by Sr. Anna Dunn, Sr. Carol Quinlivan and Sr. Edith Prendergast. All three of these Sisters led by their example of being Disciples proclaiming the good news and that led me to become a Master Catechist.

For 35 years I have been involved in Adult Formation at Sacred Heart Parish in Ventura and now at St. Dominic’s Parish in Los Angles Ca. During those years I was involved in Faith Formation Centers for new Catechists, and I treasure those years for, it not only enhanced my own spiritual life and my personal relationship with Jesus, but I could encourage new catechists to be disciples and proclaim the story of Jesus. Often at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress these catechists would come up to me and say that some story I shared in class touched them in a way that changed their perspective on their relationship with Jesus and their approach in teaching.

My passion is the RCIA and Adult Confirmation. I have been Director of Adult Formation for 35 years and there are so many experiences I can share; it would be more a book than a reflection. So just a few experiences, first I am blessed to work with the Dominican Fathers at St. Dominic’s. Fr. Michael Fones, O.P. took four of us to Colorado Springs CO to the Catherine of Siena Institute for three summers for training in Making Disciples which was just a tremendous experience and changed my whole approach in sharing the story of Jesus with these young adults. They in turn have come to the point that they are willing to share their stories of how Jesus is working in their lives with others as you can read in the addition of our parish newsletter from one of the Adult Confirmation students.

My Confirmation Experience By Jason Opena: 

I like to think about my journey through life and how I got to where I am today. I think back on the last 13 months of my life and what it has meant to me. As a Registered Nurse, this last year has been one of the hardest times of my life and my career. It is through these hard times that I was able to renew my faith in God and complete my Confirmation. I was able to renew my faith through our weekly meetings, videos, and discussions about God. I remember Sister Joyanne telling us that the purpose of Confirmation is that you are making a promise to follow Jesus Christ, and the purpose of Confirmation class is so you can make an informed decision of who He is and what it means to make that promise. Confirmation class also made me appreciate attending Mass. In a class with Father Roberto, he taught us that Mass is the closest you will get to God and heaven while on Earth. This lesson helped me pray and think about my grandmother who passed away last year on Easter. It has given me an opportunity to feel close to her and feel like she is still with me every time I attend Mass. Confirmation class gave me an appreciation of the work I do in the hospital. It helped me appreciate God for giving me the opportunity to be a nurse. As a nurse during the pandemic, it is easy to lose faith while witnessing the suffering of patients in overflowing hospitals. Through Confirmation class, I was able to continue to have hope, faith, and strength to do my job through the worst months of the pandemic. Confirmation class also gave me the strength and motivation to go to Confession again. Confession has always been very intimidating for me. I had not been to Confession in quite some time, and I was embarrassed to list off years’ worth of sins to the priest, but Confirmation class made Confession seem more welcoming and less shaming. After my Confession, I felt like a great weight was lifted off my shoulders and I felt spiritually refreshed. I was able to think back on my life experiences, and it gave me an appreciation that I might not have had if I had gone through with my Confirmation while I was younger and did not have as many life experiences to reflect on. I wholeheartedly recommend completing your Confirmation if you have not received it yet. I hope by doing so, it will be a life changing experience that will give you a new appreciation for your faith and God.

As Jason mention in his testimony the Pandemic proved to be a challenge and not being a techie, learning to use zoom not only was a challenge, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience and I plan to keep using zoom for the teaching aspect of both RCIA and Adult formation because I have been able to reach young adults outside our parish. We have an ongoing RCIA, and these young adults are searching for some parish that will help them to become fully Catholic. Therefore, I feel strongly that I now have a real opportunity to evangelize more people outside our parish boundaries and it is really all about making faithful, educated disciples. The Pandemic has made this Catechist flexible and being creative pushing me to thinking outside the box to make a difference in these young adults’ lives.