By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor
As a parish catechetical leader Dominica Vullo maintains there is a top priority when it comes to helping to form children and their families in the Catholic faith.
“They must have an encounter with Christ so they can fall in love [with him] and want more,” said Vullo, who has served as coordinator of religious education in St. Catharine Parish, Holmdel, since 2011.
At the same time, Vullo said that the students must be provided with “the knowledge of our faith story by giving them information necessary to challenge their minds so that they want to continue learning and grow in their faith.
“Once this happens, they automatically move into action and into discipleship,” she said.
Vullo reflected on her seven years serving in catechetical ministry upon learning that she had been named the recipient of the 2018 “Chick” McGinty Award for Excellence in Catechetical Ministry. Vullo was honored with an award during the annual Convocation of Catechetical Ministers held Oct. 18 in St. Isaac Jogues Parish, Marlton. The award, presented by the diocesan Department of Catechesis, is given in recognition of an outstanding catechetical leader who is designated by the ministry. The award is named after Rosemarie “Chick” McGinty, who was diocesan director of the Office of Catechesis from 1986 to 2003. McGinty holds the distinct honor of being the first laywoman to serve as a parish director of religious education and the first laywoman to be director of a diocesan office in the diocese.
“I am deeply humbled and honored to have received the Chick McGinty Award,” said Vullo. “Chick McGinty and the previous recipients of this award have been the pioneers and innovators in the ministry of religious education, and I am grateful and privileged to be included among them and to work alongside so many amazing catechetical leaders in the Diocese of Trenton.”
Denise Contino, director of the Department of Catechesis, in announcing the award recipient, described Vullo as a parish catechetical leader who “handles the job professionally and tenderly for over 12 years. She demonstrates excellence by glorifying God through all aspects of her life, a true witness. She is a good and fine example of the mission we are called to do as parish catechetical leaders.”
Vullo shared a bit about her upbringing saying that she was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. but had moved to New Jersey with her husband and their four children 30 years ago. Her family joined St. Catharine Parish in 1996 and she became involved in the religious education program and various ministries “because I wanted to give back to my parish who had given to much to me and my family.”
Vullo started out as a substitute catechist but went on to become a regular catechist and eventually a religious education administrative assistant. Her work led her to implement a parent volunteer program and she completed the diocesan Certificate Program for Administrators in 2006. She also enjoyed working with Sister Pat Schaldebeck, former director of religious education in which the two created and implemented “new, innovative programs” such as the summer [religious education] program and the eighth grade Confirmation program. Since becoming the parish’s religious education coordinator, Vullo has implemented online registration and participated in the former diocesan Institute for Lay Ecclesial Ministry.
Of the religious education program in St. Catharine, Vullo said there are currently 1,050 students enrolled and there are a number of ways in which catechesis is provided “because we have many different families and their needs vary completely.” There is the traditional style program with weekly classes held during the school year; Summer Intensive classes and a Family Home Study Program. There are also intergenerational offerings held throughout the year.
Of the staff, Vullo said the approximately 85 adult catechists are all volunteers and 180 teens who volunteer throughout the year, “many of whom become catechists when they turn 18 and return even after they go to college.
“It is a joy to witness our young people being mentored and watching them share their faith with our students. I love when I hear our younger students say they cannot wait to become a teen helper!”
The approach to catechesis that Vullo strives to implement is by challenging the catechists and students to want to learn more and grow in their faith.
“I’m never disappointed,” she said. “What I have seen over the past seven years is that our students want more. They want to know their identity as Catholic Christians. They want to know who we are, what we believe and what we stand for.”