Rhonda Parenton wants Catholics to get excited about their faith.
As the director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Parenton said it is the responsibility of her office to connect with the parish churches to offer them opportunities and resources to help Catholics become intimately involved with Christ.
I would like to see us continue to do good ministry with adult education, especially with families, to help parents to be able to raise their children in the faith and in the context of their lives today, she said.
Parenton, who has 30 years experience in ministry, was named director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis on July 12. The position was created when the Office of Christian Formation was reorganized and merged with the offices of evangelization and youth ministry. The new office oversees adult formation programs; religious education and sacramental preparation for children; and youth and young adult ministries
Parenton said her first year as director would be one of self-reflection, seeking input from the staff and from other people. What we have come to realize as an office is each of us has our own individual gifts, and I think as we move forward and look to the future, all those gifts only strengthen what we will do and help us to work together.
Her vision for the office is to put evangelization in the forefront, not just for new people, but for all of us to be reintroduced to our faith to help build a stronger relationship with Christ, to be excited about our faith, she said.
The Catholic faith challenges us as lay people to be in the neighborhoods, stores and with friends, to model Christ, she said. Jesus gathered people together. He was with them and shared at the table. He helped them to grow, she said.
If the church uses that model, it can give people the skills and the opportunity to have a life of prayer and a better understanding of their faith, Parenton said.
She hopes to encourage and assist catechetical leaders, Catholic school teachers and lay ecclesiastical leaders in their roles and to encourage them to advance their own faith formation through programs offered through the diocese.
Each church parish is different and what works in one might not work in another, but the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis will continue to encourage the core values that call us to intimacy with Christ, she said. From pre-school through high school we should work on helping youth have that intimate relationship with Christ.
But there has to be a partnership between parents and the church, she said. Unless we touch the hearts of parents and help then become more formed in faith and excited about the faith, the children are not going to benefit strictly by what they learn in the classroom, she said.
She stressed that the diocese has to offer a variety of ways to reach people in their faith formation to accommodate the needs of all.
One focus of her office will be young adult ministry, she said. Young adults today see the world and their faith differently; they form community through social networking, she added.
In an attempt to stay connected with the lifestyle of young adults, the young adult ministry is offering catechetical courses online. For young adults coming out of college, online classes are very comfortable, she said. the office will continue to look at offering more courses online while still honoring the traditional methods of learning.
Parenton, who moved to Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina, has worked as assistant director of the Office of Christian Formation for six years. She said she began her life in ministry as a substitute religious education teacher in Metairie. That volunteer position turned into a long career of teaching and passing on the Catholic faith. She has also been a director of religious education and a Catholic school principal. She has an undergraduate degree in sociology with a focus on ministry and a masters degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University.
The gift I bring is my experience. I have been a DRE, a school principal and owned a religious book store, she said, adding she brings a practical experience into ministry, which helps her to connect with people in the church parishes.