Kathy Drinkwine, Diocese of Superior’s Safe Environment Coordinator, presents program updates to parish catechetical leaders at the Amerivu Inn in Rice Lake on Aug. 21. Drinkwine is flanked by displays of St. Padre Pio and Our Lady of Guadalupe. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

At the Parish Catechetical Leader Conference, Aug. 19-21 in Rice Lake, Kathy Drinkwine, Safe Environment coordinator for the Diocese of Superior, presented updates her office had begun incorporating during the summer.

Having approached Bishop James P. Powers in January, Drinkwine said she “asked him for what felt like the moon.” In order to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of Safe Environment training and resources, her goal was to update to an online format that included an approved children’s curriculum.

The BASE trainings that had been offered for a number of years had their share of challenges – extensive paperwork and limited availability of training sessions. In addition, while extensive guidelines and resources were offered, local school and parish leadership was responsible for implementing their own curriculum for the children under their responsibility.

Drinkwine said the bishop had approved the change, “because all of the pastors were so excited about going online and having a true children’s curriculum.”

She also shared that after presenting the program updates to the diocesan Presbyteral Council, “I thought I was going to get carried out on their shoulders, they were so excited.”

Since the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was originally established, revisions have been made in 2005, 2011 and 2018.

The latest revision, according to Drinkwine, “made the Charter much, much stronger.” It broadened the requirement for training and background checks.

“We needed something that was accessible, easy to get at,” Drinkwine shared.

CMG Connect Program

The chosen program is a product of Catholic Mutual Group, a non-profit organization that has served Catholic Church insurance needs for more than 125 years. Services also include risk management resources, including a safe environment program called “CMG Connect.”

The program, which is used by 30 other U.S. dioceses, serves three purposes.

It offers the adult safe environment training and background checks. Consistent training will be offered across the diocese and is available 24/7 via any device that has an internet connection, a browser and sound capability. The staff/volunteer authorization and background check is built in as the last step of the training.

The program also serves as a data collection venue and a record keeping platform for the 14 diocesan schools and almost 80 religious education programs.

Drinkwine shared this will result in an enormous reduction in paperwork and will save her office an estimated 600 hours.

Circle of Grace curriculum

Currently being used for 45 other dioceses across the country, the Circle of Grace curriculum was developed 10 years ago.

Drinkwine highlighted the following characteristics of the curriculum: Catholic, easily accessible and technology friendly, age and developmentally appropriate, consistent and adaptable for use in multi-grade classrooms. She noted the last point as crucial for smaller parishes with limited numbers of religious education students spread across a wide spectrum of grades.

With repetitive content in early grades, the curriculum builds upon previous lessons while going more in depth. Content for older elementary grades includes internet safety, media and its influence.

Middle school lessons address coping with stress and pressure, boundaries in relationships and moral responsibility. Human trafficking is addressed in grade seven as a diocesan requirement.

High school content repeats some of the earlier topics more in-depth and addressing age appropriate levels of intimacy, boundaries and influence.
Theology of the Body is incorporated throughout and alternate lessons for middle and high school levels give program directors needed flexibility to address needs specific to their local realities.

Parent materials and resources are included as well as suggestions for using the curriculum in special needs cases. Parents are to be notified of curriculum being offered to students in diocesan schools and religious education programs, and notified of their right to opt out.

Drinkwine ended the presentation by thanking those present for their dedication to the safety of youth in the diocese and encouraging them to thank their pastors and the bishop for their support of the new programs.