Priester retires as regional DRE; Boettcher named to succeed her

Photo Caption: Sharon Priester is pictured during the Aug. 4 Catechetical Leadership Conference. She has served as a regional director of religious education for the Bloomington and Lincoln vicariates since 2006.

By: By Jennifer Willems

BLOOMINGTON — The Catechetical Leadership Conference marked a changing of the guard for one of the regional directors of religious education working with the diocesan Office of Catechetics.

Sharon Priester, who has served as the regional DRE for the Bloomington and Lincoln vicariates of the diocese since the post was established in 2006, has retired. Succeeding her is Tina Boettcher, director of religious education at St. Mary’s Parish in Bloomington.

“I really look forward to helping the other DREs in any way I can,” Boettcher said. “I can identify with the stresses they’re feeling and hope I can provide enthusiasm and support.”

“Tina comes to us highly recommended and has a wonderful performance record as a director of religious education in Bloomington,” said Dr. Vincent McClean, director of the Office of Catechetics. “We’re looking forward to her energy and her expertise in serving those vicariates.”

Boettcher is starting her 16th year as director of religious education at St. Mary’s, where she is also involved in ministry to the Spanish-speaking community. Prior to that she taught junior high science and religion at Epiphany School in Normal for seven years.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education (kindergarten through ninth grade) and Spanish from Illinois State University in 1988, and has endorsements in junior high education. Boettcher is also halfway through a master’s degree in educational administration at ISU, but said she doesn’t feel called to be a principal.

“This is where I’m being called,” she said of her work in religious education.

“What I love about teaching is sharing faith with the children and seeing their faith grow,” Boettcher told The Catholic Post. “It’s absolutely beautiful when they come up and say, ‘I was praying for you last night’ or ‘I prayed for my grandfather last night. He’s sick.’ That tells me it’s working.”

She said she has worked with and continues to work with wonderful people around the diocese and is impressed by the level of collaboration.

“Hopefully by working with people in other parishes I’ll get to know them and they will get to know other people and it will just get better,” she said.

One of the people who took Boettcher under her wing when she was starting out was Sharon Priester. The master catechist worked at neighboring Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington for 28 years before being named a regional director of religious education.

Not only did Priester serve as coordinator and director of religious education for many of those years, but she also coordinated the RCIA process at Holy Trinity from 1989 to 1998. In addition, she formed and oversaw the Parish Education Group and developed a Scripture Study Committee.

On the diocesan level, Priester chaired the committee that revised the Diocesan Religious Education Curriculum Guidelines.

She said the best part of being a regional DRE has been getting to know people, sharing ideas and helping them to grow in their understanding of catechesis and faith. She also has enjoyed learning how unique each parish is.

“We have so many dedicated people in our parishes that want to pass on their faith to others, to help others and strengthen their faith,” Priester said. “It’s not just walking into a room and off the top of their head talking about faith. There’s preparation. . . . They give up hours of their weeks to do this. It’s awesome.”

She’s looking forward to traveling with her husband Dave — they have five children in five states, as well as family in Michigan, North Carolina and New York. They also hope to return to the RCIA team at Holy Trinity and continue to serve their parish and community organizations like the Midwest Food Bank.

Priester said she will miss the other regional DREs and the people with whom she’s worked, but knows they’re in good hands with Boettcher.

“I think she is going to be absolutely fantastic,” Priester said. “She has a rich background and so much to offer. She’s going to be just great.”

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