Bloomington catechist honored for fanning flames of faith

Photo Caption: Catherine Metsker of St. Mary Parish, Bloomington, will be featured as part of The Catechist Magazine Honors in the October issue.

By: By Jennifer Willems

BLOOMINGTON — When it comes to faith formation, Catherine Metsker is looking to start a few fires.

“This ministry is so important to the faith of the church,” said the longtime catechist, who teaches fifth grade CCD at St. Mary in Bloomington. “To repeat an expression I heard from Bishop Jenky, we Catholics need to be set on fire by the Holy Spirit. The catechetical ministry can do that — set a faith fire in the soul of our youth.”

For her determination to fan the flames of faith in her students, Metsker will be featured as part of The Catechist Magazine Honors in the October issue. She was nominated by Tina Boettcher, director of religious education at St. Mary.

“I’ve been here 18 years and she’s been here longer than that,” Boettcher told The Catholic Post. “She’s just always there. She always comes through. She loves the kids and they love her. She doesn’t let them slack — they learn their prayers, but they have fun, too.”

Metsker is one of 60 faith formation teachers at St. Mary — and thousands more throughout the Diocese of Peoria and the nation — who will be recognized for their work this Sunday, which is Catechetical Sunday. This year’s theme is “Open the Door of Faith” (Acts 14:27).

The theme is a reference to “Porta Fidei” (“Door of Faith”), the 2011 Apostolic Letter written by Pope Benedict XVI to declare a Year of Faith starting Oct. 11, 2012, and concluding on Nov. 24, 2013.

In nominating Metsker, Boettcher said the catechist is not only creative in working with her students but has mentored a number of other teachers to be good lead catechists.

“She is prayerful, an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, and takes Communion to our shut-ins,” Boettcher wrote. “She has led a women’s devotional group and a group of ladies who provide meals to families in need . . . and is always the first to volunteer to help in any way she can.”
Metsker is surprised and humbled by the attention.

“I share my faith with others because Jesus asked his disciples to evangelize,” she said. “Sharing our faith and love for God is our responsibility. I am not St. Paul, but I do my best.”

Raised in Taylorville by a Catholic mother and Protestant father, Metsker said she was drawn to Catholicism by her maternal grandfather and her uncle, “devout Catholic men who were great examples of how Godly men live their faith daily.”

She attended the University of Illinois where she received a bachelor’s degree in vocational and technical education and a master’s degree in corporate training and development. She also met a third-year law student, Grant Basting, who would become her husband. Married for 28 years on Aug. 31, they have three sons: Brant, 25, of Downers Grove; Reid, 23, of Lincoln, Neb.; and Bryce, 20, a junior at Eastern Illinois University.

When her sons attended St. Mary School, Metsker started teaching religious education classes. She found that as she helped the parish children learn about Jesus, prayer and the Mass, she was deepening her own faith.

While there is no sacramental preparation in the fifth grade, she makes certain her fifth-graders know the prayers of the rosary before they leave her class. Each one receives a handmade rosary in the color of their choosing that includes a San Damiano cross in keeping with the parish’s Franciscan focus.

“The examples our priests have set for us are marvelous,” she said, referring to the Franciscan priests who staff St. Mary. “We are so blessed.”
Metsker admires their giving spirit and the way they remind parishioners young and old of the obligation to serve the poorest of the poor.

She also emphasizes the healing power of the sacrament of reconciliation, seeing to it that her students seek out the sacrament during Lent and Advent at the very least. They also tour the church with the help of the permanent deacons and learn how to find things in the Bible.

The students get to put what they learn into practice by serving as ushers, lectors and choir members at the Ash Wednesday Mass.

“We do the book. We absolutely need to know the stories,” Metsker said. “But the most important thing they need to understand is that God loves them, he’s there and we find him in the church. That means going to Mass. That means serving the community. That means praying.”

Even when Metsker isn’t at St. Mary, she works with young people. She and her husband are licensed Illinois High School Association and USA Track and Field officials for cross country and track. While they do some college and junior high meets, they mostly work at the high school level.
Metsker has been employed at State Farm for 23 years and currently is a business analyst in external sourcing.

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