Catechist workshop emphasizes using God-given gifts

CHARLESTON — Children as well as adults have been given gifts, and no gift is more special or more important than another, according to Sister Caroljean Willie. The keynote speaker at the annual catechist workshop sponsored by the Coastal Association of Directors of Religious Education said that learning how to use one’s gifts is a responsibility everyone has.

The theme of this year’s workshop was “Stewards of God’s Wealth.” Youth ministers and RCIA teams from diocesan parishes attended the day-long event at Nativity School Sept. 18.

Sister Willie, a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati, is a cultural diversity consultant to religious congregations and health care and educational institutions. She is a retreat director throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Her credentials include a bachelor’s degree in sociology, a master’s in reading, and a Ph.D. in multicultural studies.

It was her extensive education coupled with her vast experience with varied cultures that made Sister Willie an ideal candidate for speaking at this year’s workshop. Her talks were centered around the idea that everyone has been given gifts.

“You must figure out how God can use you as a steward of the gifts he has given you,” said Sister Willie. “We must make stewardship a way of life every hour, every minute. It’s not just about giving money, but it’s about giving time and talents.”

Sister Willie outlined the contrasting ways that people pray as highlighted in her new book “Praying All Ways: A Multiple Intelligences Approach to Prayer.”

“Not everyone talks to God in the same way,” she said. “This idea became more and more evident to me after serving in Caribbean and Central American countries. There isn’t just one way to pray.”

“I want people to understand that prayer is much broader than saying words,” she said.

Sister Willie also conducted breakout sessions on the topic of prayer with younger and older children. Other sessions included “Catechesis 101 and 102,” “Who is a Real Catechist,” “Music in the Classroom,” and dealing with children with attention deficit disorders. Speakers included Paul Schroeder, principal of Summerville Catholic School, and Webby Dyches, a school psychologist specializing in work with children with special needs.

“We were so excited to have Sister Caroljean and the other speakers with us today,” said Sister Maryjane Golden, SSMN, co-coordinator for the diocesan religious education board. “Sister Caroljean is so very challenging, informative, and inspirational. Her multicultural background is truly one that the diocese can benefit from.”

A catechist retreat is scheduled for the spring.