RELIGIOUS LIFE IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH 2017 by Ann Marie Strileckis, CND

I am currently the Pastoral Associate at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, CT. This is a position that I knew in grace would be the culmination of my teaching in schools in New York City and Chicago and then in parishes in Kentucky and Florida. There I often helped build a Catholic identity in mostly rural counties where Catholics were a minority.

The Cathedral of St. Joseph is made up of a very diverse population in Hartford, Ct. One of my greatest joys is the “picture” of the Communion line of ministers; men and women, young and old, lectors, Eucharistic Ministers, and altar servers representing a wide array of countries of the world. Togo, Nigeria, South Africa, refugees from Thailand originally from Burma, Jamaica, Argentina, Poland, Ireland, Italy and the Phillipines to name some. Pastorally we have made a concerted effort to invite this great diversity of people into the ministry of God’s family since they have chosen the Cathedral as their parish.

In the spirit of Marguerite Bourgeoys and in Visitation style, I work the weekend Masses, meeting and welcoming new families, learning about their origins and making connections for Baptismal preparation.

The weekend liturgies are my “fertile ground” right where most of the people are. In the past few years, I have gathered together the high school girls and the older Karen girls, refugees from Thailand, at my apartment. It has proven to be their time to be girls, sharing and learning from one another. My sister Margaret has worked with the girls, sharing her love of cooking and crafts with them to prepare Mexican and American cuisine and creating “works of art”. The girls have also shared their Asian food and fruits with us.

I hear Marguerite Bourgeoys’ voice, “If you educate a woman, you educate a family.” The Karen girls are very busy with family obligations, especially if both parents are working to pay the rent, to buy a vehicle, food and provide education.  The times that they get away to my place outside of Hartford truly contribute to building their inner lives. It has been a continuing joyful time of companionship.

I have found in my ministry at the Cathedral, that each altar server, lector and Eucharistic Minister in turn invites, trains, and incorporates new ministers into the fold. I see myself as a conduit of God’s grace.