History of Faith Formation at St. Justin


School of Religious Education

Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

The beginnings of religious education at St. Justin Martyr Parish can be traced back to 1926, when the dedicated families of Sacred Heart Mission opened their homes for religion classes for the children of their community.  This continued for many years and helped lay the groundwork for religious education in the parish.  

Only two months after the first Mass was said at the newly formed St. Justin Martyr Parish, the first religious education at St. Justin’s began. In July, 1958, adult convert classes started and were held twice a week. During that summer, Fr. Hugh O’Connor, pastor of the parish, along with parents and volunteers, planned and organized the children’s religious education, which would begin with the new school year.

On Sept. 28, 1958, the first Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) classes began, being staffed by 63 volunteer teachers and helpers. One hundred four students were enrolled in the released time program and were taught in trailers outside nearby public schools during the school day. Five hundred eighty elementary and junior high students were taught in the homes and back yards of the teachers, and the warehouse building which was the temporary location of the church. The next month, classes for St. Justin’s high school age students began at St. Boniface. In December, 1958, the CCD students presented a dramatization of the Christmas Story, a tradition that the children of St. Justin’s continue today each Christmas Eve.

The CCD and adult religious education programs were administrated by priests in the early days of the parish. The priests, sisters, and parishioners who volunteered their time enabled religious instruction to be provided for adults and for children attending pre-school and public schools in Grades kindergarten through 12.

In 1963, the cost of enrollment in the CCD program was 75 cents, which was to cover the cost of a book. In 1967, religious education for adults was conducted by priests and held weekly in the homes of those who were enrolled. The CCD program had 1,200 students enrolled, all under the direction of Fr. John Delany. To properly and efficiently administrate the program, the following committees were set up: the executive board, chairpersons and captains of the various grade levels, teachers, helpers, and visual aid supervisors. These committees are still in place today. Also in 1967, the CCD had the following committees: the Fishers, who would visit homes, meet parents, and encourage attendance; Parent Educators, who would maintain communication with the parents; the Apostles of Good Will, who would introduce those who were not Catholic to Catholicism; and the Discussion Club, which would conduct religious developmental meetings for adults. Without an office, the registration for the students each year was held under the lunch shelter. Finally, in 1970, a building for a CCD office and two meeting rooms was constructed.

The new office provided room for a secretary and the CCD records. That year the CCD had an enrollment of 1,380 students, taught by eighty volunteer teachers and sixty helpers. The first grade classes were all taught in teachers’ homes. The junior and senior high school students met at St. Justin School in the evenings, and on Saturday mornings, the school classrooms were overflowing with the other students. Some years a two week Bible School was offered for the children during the summer.

The CCD program became the School of Religious Education (SRE) in the mid 1970’s. In 1981, the SRE enrollment was 1,000, and the registration fee was $15.00. The 2012 SRE enrollment was 297 students.

Religion classes for Spanish speaking children are taught within Sacred Heart Mission’s SRE program at St. Justin Martyr School and at the mission, and had a 2012 enrollment of 450.

In 1983, the adult convert program became the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). It prepares would-be converts for the reception of the sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist, and Confirmation. Baptized Catholics who have never made their First Communion or Confirmation, and Catholic adults who wish to be sponsors for those coming into the Church, are also involved in the RCIA program.

The directors of the RCIA program at St. Justin have been: Mrs. Josephine Schiavone (1983-1989), Mr. William Spehn (1989-1995), Ms. Stellamarie Nadeau (1995-2001), Fr. John Neneman (2001-2003), and Deacon Jose Ferreras (2003 to the present). Since Fr. Delany, the Directors of Religious Education at St. Justin’s have been: Sister Joanne (1971-73), Mrs. Dorothy Eckes (1973-1981), Mrs. Mary Lou Betts (1981-1990), Ms. Mary Bakke (1990 to the 2015). Our current Director of Faith Formation (former name DRE) is Sandra Gutierrez (2015 to present).

Under the direction of these dedicated people, hundreds of men and women volunteers have instructed thousands of children of the parish in the basic doctrines of the Catholic faith and enabled them to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist, and Confirmation.