Anne-Marie Welsh

DIOCESE OF ERIE — Deacon Steve Washek, executive director of faith formation for the Diocese of Erie, has used the image of a front porch — both empty as well as filled with neighborhood activities — to help describe his vision for inviting, inspiring and life-giving initiatives. Recently, however, he’s taken to comparing his work to that of a gardener.


Deacon Steve Washek presents to parish leaders in St. Marys.
Photo by Anne-Marie Welsh

         “I’m still building my vision and that of our new directors around the idea of the porch,” he said during an interview with the DioceseofEriE-news. “But much of the work we are doing right now is not readily visible. We are tilling the soil. Roots are growing and seedlings are coming up, but there is still a lot of space for them to grow.”

         The team of four faith formation directors Deacon Washek has assembled will be in place by July 8. Members include:

  • Mary Hickin, director of Faith Formation for Catechesis and Sacraments;
  • Jessie Hubert, director of Faith Formation for Parish Support;
  • Kate Wilson, director of Faith Formation for Marriage and Family Life;
  • and Jillian Zaczyk, director of Faith Formation for Young Adult and Youth Ministry.

         Deacon Washek acknowledges parishes are eager to see the team in action. He shares their sentiments, but wants to ensure a cohesive, collaborative approach that remains focused on priorities. 
          “I am hopeful,” he says. “I believe we will be able to provide the resources people need and help generate new energy and creativity.” He expects team members will approach the work as a whole, supporting each other’s specific responsibilities where appropriate.

          One of the first challenges the team will have is continuing to help people understand that the term “faith formation” is not a substitute for the term “religious education.”

           “We have to help parishioners understand that faith formation is a really broad umbrella — that we need to provide for growth in faith across the spectrum of people’s lives. And we also need to embrace the idea that parish leaders are professionals. They are not there just to turn on the lights and close the doors.”

         Deacon Washek also plans to to help parishes work with each other effectively.
       “How are we church to each other?” he asks. “We need to share resources as we work together in the spirit of building the kingdom. We are about creating a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
     Even as he looks forward to the coming year, Deacon Washek looks to the past for inspiration.

          “In the Book of Acts, where the community was just coming together, we read that ‘they were of one spirit and one mind,’” he points out. “That’s what we need to do.”