Catholic Herald Staff
(Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of features about members of the faithful who received awards at the diocesan Fall Conference, Oct. 9, in Rice Lake.)
Fortifying youths to live a faith-filled life is the mission of Fr. John Drummy, recipient of the 2013 Gloria Lang Award for Outstanding Support in Ministry.
Named for the late Gloria Lang, a gifted religious education director from Woodruff, the diocesan award recognizes clergy or laity who are extraordinary supporters of catechesis.
Catechetical leader Joanie McKeown and members of the Superior Mutual Ministries Team nominated Fr. Drummy, pastor of St. Joseph, Amery, and Our Lady of the Lakes, Balsam Lake, for the award.
“I had worked, from the beginning at the Christian Renewal Center with Fr. Harold Dodge. He and I had worked together until he died (in 1977),” Fr. Drummy said. “I just believed in his philosophy of training our lay people and helping them teach their children.”
Fr. Dodge’s ministry focused on reaching youths, and Fr. Drummy has embraced that philosophy throughout the more than 40 years of his priesthood — making room in the budget to pay trained catechetical leaders; ensuring National Evangelization Teams were accessible to youths; and promoting faith formation among his youngest parishioners.
“I was totally surprised at the award being given in the first place,” he said of receiving the honor. “I was just doing the job that I was ordained to do, and doing the best that I can. I’ve always had directors of religious education who helped me.”
He credits Mary Modjeski, recently retired religious education director at St. Joseph, with being the other half of their team-led ministry.
Families are key to Fr. Drummy’s faith-forming strategy, which he describes as “working with the parents, the children as well as the teachers, helping the people become stronger in their own faith and celebrating that gift with their children.”
He cited confirmation “retreats” — Sunday afternoon sessions for candidates and their sponsors — as one means of strengthening relationships.
“We helped them to become instruments,” he said of the sponsors. “They were able to share feelings, their journey. Many have walked away saying how much they appreciated it.”
When Fr. Drummy noticed repetition in the primary and secondary school lessons, he adjusted the curriculum to make it more relevant to teens. Overall, he said, today’s students feel a lot of pressure to succeed.
“I think the challenge is selecting what’s important for them now,” said the pastor. “They want to be popular in school … they need to learn to know how to say no, that they can’t do everything and succeed in everything.”
“They aren’t always going to be coming in first in everything,” he continued. “There are going to be ups and downs. They’ve got to learn to believe what their limitations are, set goals that are realistic, and not get frustrated when they set them too high.”
At the end of religion classes, students are given quiet time to pray and reflect. Over the years, youths who came into the program without a strong sense of faith are often transformed.
“By the time they get to the junior and senior year, it’s amazing the turnabout that has taken place,” he said. “I have hope in them.”
Fr. Drummy’s religious education programs have never lacked teachers, and he has always attended training sessions and tried to encourage them.
“I work hand-in-hand with the teachers in supporting them,” he said. “Being visibly present with the teachers … that’s how I see my role.”
He and Modjeski also try to be cognizant of parishioners’ talents.
“That’s been the key thing,” he added. “We kept our eyes open, and prayed that these particular people in the parish would come forward and share their gifts, and we’ve been successful.”
“Oftentimes they say if you build a church, the people will be there,” he said.