Catholic Herald staff
Editor’s note: This is the first in series of four articles featuring those who were honored at the diocesan Fall Conference.
Outstanding diocesan educators were honored for their contributions at the 52nd annual Fall Conference, Friday, Oct. 24, at St. Joseph Parish, Rice Lake.
This year, four people – two religious education coordinators, one teacher and one priest – were recognized. Among them was Fr. Ed Anderson, pastor of St. Francis de Sales, Spooner; St. Catherine, Sarona; and St. Joseph, Shell Lake. Fr. Anderson received the 2014 Empowered by the Spirit Award.
The award honors recipients for their service and ability “to inspire, invigorate and foster the vitality of Catholic formation and education.”
In his effort to maintain strong faith formation for youths, Fr. Anderson has strengthened his parishes’ school and religious education programs and encouraged engagement in the wider diocesan community.
“What we do – we’re trying to take advantage of the diocesan youth programs,” he explained.
That includes exposing teens to Totus Tuus, Extreme Faith Camp, Discipleship U – the diocesan youth leadership program – and similar opportunities.
Meanwhile, parishes are relieved of any financial burden because teens raise all their own money. They borrow the Knights of Columbus’ food stand for fundraisers and take part in community events; individual earnings are based on the number of hours worked.
“We encourage the youth to get out and participate in the community and raise their own funds,” he added. “It’s to raise awareness for the youth. There’s opportunities out there, but it doesn’t come for free.”
Educationally, the cluster’s religious education program is also advancing. It follows the diocesan curriculum, Fr. Anderson said, and it’s blended with “Chosen” – an up-to-date faith formation and confirmation preparation program available through Ascension Press.
“We try to stay current with the number of things going on,” he said.
Fr. Anderson is also focused on conveying church teachings in a way that is meaningful and applicable to youths; younger people are presenting the materials, using technology and giving current examples to reach teens.
“It doesn’t focus on one specific teaching,” he said of the program. “It’s a way to draw youth into Catholic teachings.”
Sometimes religious education programs “teach them the basics, but don’t always give them the tools to carry them out in real life,” Fr. Anderson said. That’s a pitfall the cluster’s program is trying to avoid.
Boosting interest in scouting across the diocese is another of Fr. Anderson’s projects. He is credited with re-introducing rosary and saint patches, which all diocesan youths can earn, and he hopes to raise awareness about free educational programs on the saints, Mary and other topics that are available to Catholics of all ages.
The priest has also traveled to a couple of scouting conferences and reached out to other scouting advocates in the diocese.
“We’re trying to reinvigorate the scouting committee,” he said.
Most recently, Fr. Anderson has been appointed chaplain for the Knights of Columbus, a responsibility about which he’s trying to learn more.
“My goal there is to try to contact each of the priests that have been assigned to the chaplain … and to be involved in the diocesan events,” he said.
When he learned he’d received the Empowered by the Spirit Award, Fr. Anderson was “overwhelmed.”
“Really, a lot of people did a lot of work in order for me to receive this award,” he said. “It’s just been so much foundational work done ahead of time, so many people working … to bring their faith to the Catholic youth and to share it.”
“I was just very honored,” he added.