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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Teaching with Words and Witness
Legionary brothers and RC Mission Corps volunteers teach religious education at 11 New York area parishes.

Br Andrew Tarleton
Br Andrew Tarleton teaches 8th grade students at St. Mary’s parish in Greenwich, CT.

March 20, 2010. Thornwood, NY. Teachers often say they learn a great deal from their students.  This is certainly true for the Legionary brothers who teach catechism at several parishes in the New York diocese and surrounding area.   Under the organization of Fr John Connor LC, more than 30 Legionary brothers volunteer their services at 11 parishes.

“I love teaching!” said Br Justin Nevarez, who oversees a class of 7th grade students at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Scarsdale, NY.  “It is everything I learned and reviewed at seminary.  It is my chance to give Christ to them, and it gives me a taste of what it will be like to be a priest in the future.”

Br Andrew Tarleton teaches 8th grade students at St. Mary’s parish in Greenwich, CT.  Though he and his fellow brothers are only seminarians preparing for the priesthood, Br Andrew said their age has a positive aspect when teaching young people.  “They think it’s ‘cool’ to have someone young teaching them,” he said.

Mutually enriching

According to Nevarez and other brothers who share this teaching apostate, their presence at these parishes  not only helps the parishes they serve, but also helps the Legion and Regnum Christi better understand how to effectively serve a parish.  And this growth in understanding becomes mutual, because the local parishes come to understand the goals of the Legion, said Br Justin. “They understand us better when they see brothers giving their lives, when they see our priests come to help with Masses.”

Working as volunteers in parishes helps the Legionaries gain more awareness from the clergy and laity in the diocese, said Br Ezequiel who is in his second year of teaching at St. Mary’s of the Assumption parish in Katonah, NY.  “Many people, even if they were located close to us at Thornwood, did not know we existed.”

Charlene Prisinzano, Director of Religious Education as St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenwich, CT, said the Legionary brothers who volunteer as catechists are very effective teachers.

“I don’t know what I did without them,” she said. “The boys really do relate to the brothers well.  They are fascinated by the fact that these normal, young men have given their lives to the Church.  The brothers are excellent role models.”

Br Ezequiel agreed that their presence “helps them to see that such a vocation is a normal choice, as well as a special one.”

Two young women volunteers from the Regnum Christi Movement’s Mission Corps program also teach classes for girls at St Mary’s. 

“I am just blown away by the impact they have on the girls,” said DRE Charlene Prisinzano. “Greenwich is sort of the Rodeo Drive of the East, and we have a lot of girls who are interested in fashion and much too much influenced by the media.”  Charlene said the school has a dress code for students attending catechism classes.  “Oh, we have to,” she said.  “You have no idea.  And since we have had the coworkers as teachers, I have not had one girl student sent home for a dress code violation.”

Bringing the faith to life

Br Andrew said one of the unique things which developed in the St. Mary’s program is that students take time for Eucharistic adoration and reflection in the chapel after each class meeting. 

“During the last 15 minutes of class time, we go to the chapel and one of the brothers gives a meditation to help the kids learn to pray.  The brother will discuss a virtue, and then pray aloud to Christ to teach them that the goal in prayer is to have a personal encounter with Christ through a conversation with him.”

Br Ezequiel currently teaches 7th graders, and said he uses some of the teaching strategies he learned at the LC Apostolic school to engage his students. He likes to bring controversy into his discussions, such as arguments for and against a certain commandment.  “Then I let them judge,” he said. “They know the basics, but they want to know how to apply the teachings to reality and how to put them into practice.”

At Immaculate Heart of Mary, Br Justin said he emphasizes the importance of prayer in their lives. “I try to get them to start off slowly.  They say they don’t have time, and I ask them how much time they spend watching TV, which for the most part is just giving them garbage, and they answer between one to five hours each day!  I tell them that prayer is like making an investment, and if they don’t put in the time, they will get nothing out of it.  But I tell them that, in later years, it will pay off.  It is my hope is that I am planting seeds that with God’s grace, in the future will bear tons of fruit. Years from now, when they are in a sticky situation, they will remember what they learned and it will pay off.”



Related links

Altius Foundation
Immaculate Conception Apostolic School
Sacred Heart Apostolic School
Sacred Heart Apostolic School
Anáhuac Network of Universities
Canyon Heights Academy
Clear Water Academy
Dublin Oak Academy

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