New director of family catechesis focuses on New Evangelization

Angela Gaetano is the new diocesan director for the Parish Leadership Support Office. She is fluent in Spanish and will oversee several professional development opportunities including new support for children with special needs. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Angela Gaetano is the new diocesan director for the Parish Leadership Support Office. She is fluent in Spanish and will oversee several professional development opportunities including new support for children with special needs. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

[dropcap type=”4″]A[/dropcap]s the new point person for supporting parishes in religious education, Angela Gaetano has hit the ground running.

In the three months she’s been on the job in the Diocese of Phoenix, Gaetano has already hosted two diocesan parish and youth leader gatherings.

She is gifted with strong communication skills, an innate desire to help others encounter Christ and the ability to connect with people of multiple cultural backgrounds.

Maybe growing up third in a family of 11 children, praying daily, attending Mass regularly and discovering a natural ability for languages at 15 had something to do with her vocation.

Raised in Ocean City, Maryland, Gaetano and her siblings were homeschooled in an old house built in 1910.

She has vivid memories of praying each night with her father; children gathered together in her room and spilling out into the common area to share prayers of thanksgiving and supplication.

“Growing up, being Catholic was intrinsic to my family’s identity,” Gaetano said. “My parents’ faith and example led me, but as a young adult I really had to make the choice that I would follow Christ.”

Following high school, she received her bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 2005 from Christendom College in Virginia and completed her master’s degree in Spanish language and literature in Pamplona, Spain, at University of Navarra.

With her heart ablaze for missionary work, it was only looking back that Gaetano realized her former jobs as program leader for religious education and the coordinator of Spanish religious education in Northern Virginia were her first missionary assignments.

Phoenix was next.

In her new diocesan role, Gaetano will impart the faith by supporting parish leaders and parents in their task of evangelization and life-long catechesis.

“In particular, the heart of my work the Lord has given me is to have a focus on the New Evangelization,” she said. “People want to know they are intensely, deeply and personally loved by a Savior that lives among us. The Holy Spirit is stirring hearts, and people are looking at programs they might have done for years to see what is missing and how the New Evangelization can be at the center.”

Her office provides guidance and support to catechetical leaders, religious education coordinators and youth leaders and specific resources for adult faith formation, children’s catechesis and sacraments, youth and young adult, pastoral care and disabilities.

Additionally, Gaetano will provide professional development days, facilitate deanery meetings and liaise with Kino Institute.

She said she’s excited to work with “boots on the ground” parish ministries and apostolates, but stressed catechesis is not about the program or the method.

“There’s no silver bullet in catechesis. It’s about putting people in touch with the love of Jesus Christ,” Gaetano said.

Known by her friends as the social secretary, she said enjoys planning outings like swing dance lessons and sporting events.

Gaetano settled in central Phoenix and attends Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle. She is an adorer at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral.

As parishes become increasingly diverse with refugees and immigrants coming from Spanish-speaking countries, Gaetano’s fluency in Spanish and appreciation for the multi-cultural beauty of the Church will be a guiding light.

“With these gifts and her love for Christ and the Church, she will be a blessing for our local Church and an especially strong support and good resource for our catechetical and pastoral leaders,” said Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted.