Jo Ann Padgett – Boulder, CO
“I had been involved in CGS for almost 19 years when the opportunity to apply for the MAPS-CGS enticed me to go deeper into my understanding of the scripture, liturgy, and theology behind our form of catechesis,” recalls Jo Ann Padgett. “I was giving a substantial amount of my time to the atrium and to adult formation and felt limited by my lack of formal religious education.” Although an architect by training, Padgett has found her vocation as an advocate for CGS, opening atria in the Texas and Colorado regions, training new catechists, and – as of Summer 2008 – serving as a board member of the National Association of CGS. Padgett’s work is mostly gratis and Aquinas’ tuition is not inexpensive. Why would she make such an investment of time and resources? “I wanted to give myself the gift of pursuing something that I love, something that I believe has great value,” she replies.
Has it made a difference? “I certainly have a deeper understanding of some parts of Scripture, many teachings and practices of the Church, and the theologians and educators that have influenced Sofia Cavalletti,” acknowledges Padgett. “This greater knowledge enables me to work with children and adults in an enhanced way and sets my presentations and discussions with children and adults on a more solid foundation. But more basic and central than these obvious gains is the exposure to a way of listening, thinking, and working that are reflected in the Aquinas habitus and that has changed the way I go about doing things. I bring back to my ministry better listening skills, better communication skills, a, greater respect for disparate points of view, much time spent in a collaborative cohort learning situation, and much time spent in theological reflection. I come in contact with hundreds of children and adults in my ministry and cannot help but bring back some of this to them. Certainly these are skills that I will be able to use as a newly elected CGS Board member, hopefully, for the good of the greater association.”
Padgett closes, “The most basic way MAPS-CGS has changed my life is that I have a much broader view of how God works in the world and this has given me much hope. I feel less defensive about my faith and surer in God’s providence for all people.”
Karen Maxwell – Marietta, GA
Karen Maxwell has a big job. As Director of Formation for the National Association of CGS, Maxwell daily answers calls from all across the U.S. – and indeed, the world – requesting information on hosting a formation course to train catechists in the CGS method. Maxwell matches inquirers with one or more of the over 100 certified CGS formation leaders in the U.S. – formation leaders whose call she helps to discern and whose ministry she oversees. Although her position is technically part-time, her phone rarely stops ringing: A diocese wants a course offered in Spanish. A formation leader has a question about how to adapt a presentation for a Lutheran setting. A pastor wants to switch his whole religious education program to CGS by next year. How do they start?
Maxwell has eighteen years of experience as a CGS catechist, but she knew that her job required something more. “I saw MAPS-CGS as a valuable opportunity to strengthen me for the demands of the job,” she states. “I wanted to explore in a more formal way the scriptures and the sacraments. I also wanted to develop and utilize my leadership skills so that I could better serve where I’ve been called to serve.”
Maxwell finds that her studies at Aquinas are not only changing how she ministers, but how the national association ministers. “CGS in this country has grown so well over the years,” she observes. “But with growth comes difficult questions about how to best guide and nurture that growth. To have catechists and formation leaders, staff and board members with this level of theological and ministerial education integrated with their CGS formation helps us to be much better equipped to respond to the challenges of our time.”
Mary Heinrich – Des Moines, IA
“It is hard to say how MAPS-CGS has changed in my life,” states Mary Heinrich. “It has affected so many things that it would easier to talk about what it has not changed!”
Heinrich, the long-time director of faith formation at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Urbandale, Iowa, first became exposed to CGS in 2001 when her own three year old daughter began asking faith questions. “My motivation going into that first CGS course was that I would be able to share presentations with her and the children of the parish. I realized immediately the importance of fostering the relationship between the child and the Good Shepherd. It was not until I was completing the course, that I realized the relationship being fostered between the Good Shepherd and me. The gift, which I wanted to offer the children, was actually intended for me.”
MAPS-CGS has helped Heinrich to continue to open and enjoy that gift. The courses, Heinrich notes, have given her substantive background in liturgy, scripture, and theology, but more than that, they have taught her about herself and the relationships that mean the most to her. “MAPS-CGS has touched every area of my ministry,” she observes. She finds herself to be more confident, more articulate, and more assertive in the face of conflict. She describes how she has set firmer boundaries between work and family life, being able to reclaim more time for those things that give her life. “It is as if MAPS-CGS helped me find my voice, and the ability to share my voice with the church. MAPS-CGS helped me look at what was out of balance in my life and to find the boundaries that I needed to be my authentic, best self.”
One of the life-giving activities Heinrich has chosen to devote more time toward is forming new CGS catechists. After being approved as a formation leader in 2006, she offered her first course in the Des Moines area this past year to eleven women, including a Methodist minister. “I know that I would not have taken this step without MAPS-CGS,” Heinrich claims. ”MAPS-CGS has pushed me beyond my comfort level, to explore other areas of ministry that I am not sure I would have attempted on my own.”
Deborah Zeni – Ontario, Canada
Many students struggle to juggle the demands of a full-time job and studies. Dr. Deborah Zeni juggles the equivalent of at least two full-time jobs with her studies at A.I., and she doesn’t even live in the country. Zeni and her husband are the only family practitioners in their mostly rural community of Georgetown, Ontario. The recipient of the 2006 Mentorship Award for the Ontario Rural Medicine Program and the 2004 Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons Award for Excellence in Community Medicine, Zeni focuses in the fields of obstetrics and pediatrics, but – truthfully – she has a difficult time focusing on any one thing. She is also passionate about mental health care, medical ethics, health care in the Third World, and, of course, CGS. In 2005, Zeni was one of the founding members of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Association of Canada, working tirelessly to secure the association’s charitable organization status. She remains on the association’s board. She is trained at all three levels of CGS and offers formation courses in Canada, but her eye is now set on Africa, where she hopes to help launch a formation course at Tanghaza College in Nairobi, Kenya.
Why would a busy woman who already holds a doctorate decide to pursue another masters degree? “I realized that I needed the MAPS-CGS programme to deepen my knowledge and understanding of the teachings, history, and traditions of the church in order to better serve the church, not only as a catechist and formation leader, but as a visionary and advocate for children’s religious formation,” Zeni states. “I hope to use the MAPS-CGS programme as a springboard to building partnerships and collaboration between church hierarchy and CGS-Canada to enhance the religious formation of both children and adults in the church traditions represented by Canadian catechists (Roman and Orthodox Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran).”
How soon will these efforts pay off? Zeni laughs, “Already through my participation in MAPS-GCS I have formulated new perspectives on ministry and brought these to the CGSAC board for implementation nationally!”
Anita Vincent – Bethlehem, PA
When Vincent first arrived in the U.S. over a decade ago, she wanted to study something that could impact her home nation of India in a positive way. In her doctoral studies in biotechnology at the University of Notre Dame, she initially researched malaria vaccines. “I wanted to take vaccines back home to India to help the poor who often have no means to get medical treatment for such infectious diseases,” Vincent recalls. After the birth of her first son, however, Vincent found her interests shifting dramatically to child development and theology. In 2004, she discovered CGS, and – in 2006 – MAPS-CGS. Now Vincent plans to take a very different sort of gift back to her homeland. “I would like to become a formation leader to train more catechists in the CGS, especially in India. Since CGS does not yet exist in India, I hope to take this ‘mustard seed’ back home and plant it there. I have watched it grow and thrive here, and I pray that I can give this gift to the children of my home country. To this end, I want to prepare myself well, in order to train catechists with a strong foundation, so that they can reach out to the children they work with more effectively.”
Vincent’s pursuit of the MAPS-CGS degree has not been an easy one. Immigration challenges prevented her from being able to join the first cohort. Job changes for her husband and the birth of a second son made the likelihood of being able to join the second cohort uncertain. But the on-line nature of the degree and strong community support from cohort members have made what seemed impossible possible. “Being in this program is a dream come true,” Vincent smiles.
Martie Rheaume – Martha’s Vineyard, MA
“It is so funny,” says Martie Rheaume. “It is as if every job I’ve ever had – lunch lady, ESL instructor, caterer, inner school elementary teacher – has all prepared me for this one.” Rheaume, a 2008 graduate of the MAPS-CGS program, is the new Director of CGS for Good Shepherd Parish on Martha’s Vineyard, where she works with pastor, Fr. Michael Nagle, a member of the 2006 MAPS-CGS cohort. She oversees the parish’s twelve weekly atria sessions, collaborating with the catechists of the parish to see that as many children as possible on the island are served. A great cook, Rheaume has begun to host catechist gatherings and material-making parties in her home to build a stronger sense of community among those involved in the CGS program. She’s inquired about serving the Portuguese population on the island and begun to plan for further catechist training. “The thing is,” she continues, “Inever would have been able to pull together all these pieces of my life in a new ministry without MAPS-CGS.”
Rheaume first encountered CGS in 1999 and fell in love with it immediately. When the MAPS-CGS degree was launched in 2006, she was one of the first to enroll, leaving her steady teaching job in the Belleville, IL school district to embrace the unknown future of a full-time graduate student. “I wasn’t sure where it would lead,” admits Rheaume. “Would there be a job for me out there with this degree?”
It turns out that as a soon as she graduated, there was. Fr. Nagle remarks, “We wanted someone who had solid theological background, but also substantive practical experience in CGS. Martie’s background was perfect. In the four months that she’s been here, she has already brought all kinds of new ideas from her experience and training that have really strengthened the program.”