What would you put in front of you to help you look up and notice the practices that will help you keep faith, hope, and love in challenging times?

I have been employed in catechetical ministry for almost 30 years. I was a volunteer catechist summer bible school and youth ministry long before that. Starting in 5th grade Sr. Valerie Usher,OSF shaped me as a catechist by meeting my desire to learn to play guitar by also teaching me about liturgy and the ways Christ is present in the Mass. There have been many doors that have opened and closed along my journey as well as twists and turns in the path of following Christ and sharing his love and peace with all I encountered. Maybe someday I’ll make a full accounting of my catechetical lineage. Today I’ll highlight seven symbols of significant people who shaped my vocation as a catechist in different periods of my life.

When I started working from home in March 2020 due to the pandemic I created a dedicated workspace to help me keep some kind of separation between my job as the director of lifelong faith formation for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland (Maine) and home life with my husband. I placed seven items on the window ledge to help remind me to look up occasionally.

Overtime, I realized each item represents a gift or practice that helped me keep faith and hope through all the challenges of journeying together:

1. The crucifix was a gift from a parish catechetical leader who walked with me to stay anchored in  Christ in my first diocesan job.

2. A plaque my mom gave me when I was working on my doctorate that helps me accept my limits by trusting that all are truly fed through God.

3. The icon of the Madonna and Child that was written by women in sister parish to help fund children’s education because the whole community, not just parents, are responsible for educating young people.

4. A figurine of a women with hands together that is the mate to another figurine with hands that wrap around them; a dear friend I met through college music ministry has the companion figurine, nudging me to remember something important is missing in my life when I don’t connect with God through music.


5. A blue stained-glass angel with a  bell that was a gift from the parish choir I was in between undergrad and graduate school recalls that people often see gifts in you before you see them in yourself.

6. A white stained glass angel that was a gift from my stepson because he appreciated how my Christian faith (the blue cross) was “out in front” of everything I did.

7. A pineapple made up of silver and multiple colors of glass gems that was once in the home of my best girlfriend’s parents, the ultimate witnesses of hospitality in being themselves and using their varied gifts to care for others, especially using food to give comfort.

You may notice that these seven graces came through people who made Christ present to me in small ways that have had a large impact on the way I practice catechetical ministry. Their authentic witnesses of faith are now part of my own sacred story. Their thoughtfulness in choosing and giving these gifts helped me to become a more thoughtful, generous person who recognizes the value of small gestures if done in love and in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

What would you put in front of you to help you look up and notice the practices that will help you keep faith, hope, and love in challenging times?