Two years into her job as an administrative assistant in the program, Susan Keating couldn’t imagine becoming the director of The Saints Matthew and Thomas More Religious Education and Youth Ministry Center.
It was in 1991 when she was asked to lead the incorporated outreach of the two parishes in northeast Baltimore, St. Matthew of Northwood and St. Thomas More.
“When I took it over, I didn’t take it over willingly,” Keating admitted. “I prayed about it for a couple of days.”
Accepting the director’s role, however, is a decision she doesn’t regret.
“I’m extremely happy with the path I chose,” Keating said.
Keating and many others will gather Sept. 12 for a 10 a.m. Mass at St. Thomas More to celebrate the center’s 20th year of operation.
The current pastors, Father Joseph L. Muth Jr. of St. Matthew and Father Brian A. Zielinski of St. Thomas More, will attend. Former pastors and other Catholic dignitaries have been invited, along with current and former students. A catered picnic will follow.
“Just to come together and say we’ve been successful in the Archdiocese of Baltimore for 20 years is a proud thing to say,” Keating said.
The parishes explored partnering in the late 1980s, when St. Thomas More closed its school. Its students moved to St. Matthew’s school and helped form Cardinal Shehan School.
In the wake of that transition, St. Matthew shuttered its own religious education program and formed the partnership at St. Thomas More.
“It’s been a matter of breaking down parish boundaries,” Father Muth said. “It could be a model for the church. It almost has to be the model.”
Keating estimates 250 families have been impacted by the joint venture.
“It’s interesting when they come back,” Keating said. “They tell me they have children now and are getting them baptized. It’s enlightening to see that the seeds did grow and continue to grow.”
Keating said the parishes want children to remain active in the faith, so they are encouraged to become lectors, ushers and teachers. Keating says that families are crucial to the success of the center and that a project night is held twice a year for them.
“You need parents to be enthused about their faith in order for the children to be enthused about their faith,” Keating said. “It points to the fact that collaboration is necessary and going to be more imperative down the road.”
The program currently has 65 students. It includes confirmation and youth ministry programs that work with three other city parishes, Church of the Blessed Sacrament, St. Mary in Govans and Corpus Christi.
St. Thomas More will begin to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the parish founding Sept. 20 with a 2 p.m. Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden is expected to be in attendance.