Leap of Faith Sparked Shift in her Career
Her work as an educator as well as her recent accomplishments are worthy of review as the Archdiocese of Newark prepares to celebrate Catechetical Sunday on Sept. 16 (see special report on pages 13-19 of this edition). In addition, the archdiocesan Catechetical Office is organizing the sixth-annual Catechist Convocation to be held Saturday, Oct. 20, at Union Catholic High School, Scotch Plains.
Pozza earned a bachelor's degree in transportation and logistics from St. John University, New York, and worked as a logistics operations manager for years before deciding she wanted to try something new, as pastoral associate for family faith formation at St. John the Baptist Parish, Hillsdale.
"I loved what I was doing in the business world. I volunteered at Church of the Presentation in Upper Saddle River and something drew at my heart. I was on the core team of Small Christian Community and I was involved in a lot of church activities. I just thought I wanted to try something different. I felt I was being drawn to what I was doing," Pozza explained.
This "something different" would lead to Pozza being awarded the prestigious Religious Education Excellence Award for the Mid-Atlantic Region sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Parish Catechetical Directors in 2006 (See The Catholic Advocate, April 26, 2006) and the 2003 Golden Jubilee Award presented by the Archdiocese of Newark.
"I really worked hard to get to where I was in the business world but I realized that I had to move on and take a leap of faith. I needed to hear from the Holy Spirit where to go next," Pozza said.
She decided to leave Elmsford, NY-based Ryder Integrated Logistics in 1999, after working there for five years. Although Pozza was apprehensive, she knew pastoral work was the right fit at the right time for her. "When I quit, I thought I would have mixed feelings, but I knew where I belonged. After I left, I was at peace with my decision and that was a clear indication that I was were I should be."
Pozza worked at St. Lawrence Parish in Weehawken from 2000 to June of 2006. "You can plan and organize, but God taught me to trust in Him."
As pastoral associate for catechetics at St. Lawrence, Pozza served as director of religious education (DRE), director of Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), coordinator of family parish ministry and trainer for eucharistic ministers among many other tasks. While working at the parish, she took classes at Caldwell College and earned a master's degree in pastoral ministry.
Although a fulfilling experience, Pozza made the decision to leave St. Lawrence Parish. "I enjoyed working there, but the distance from home made it inconvenient and my daughter was in her junior year of high school. I wanted to be there for her. I wanted to be closer to home."
Since relocating to St. John the Baptist Parish, Pozza is responsible for developing and supervising catechists and family faith formation for the parish through direct management, collaboration and consultation with the pastoral staff.
"Working at St. John's was a learning experience. It is a really large community and I have had an amazing journey this past year. There are over 500 families involved in religious education with a lot of lay leadership. We have a lot of good things going on here," Pozza said.
As a pastoral associate, responsibilities for Gladys Pozza (back row, third from left) at St. John include developing and supervising catechists and family faith formation for the parish through direct management, collaboration and consultation with the pastoral staff. Her associates at St. John include: (back row, left to right) Daine Bellin, Kathy Breitenbach, Lisa Innaccone, Jeralynn DellaPesca, Olivia Carbonaro (front row, left to right) Debra DiPiazza, Mary Ellen Breen and Carolyn Dentato.
Catechetics is defined as the field of religious education in which the Catholic Church's doctrinal and moral principles of faith are taught. Pozza's approach to religious education involves the whole family, not just the K-8 students in her classes.
"Parents are the primary educators of their children," she said. "One part of the program requires parents to attend two parent faith formation sessions. The parents can attend Cornerstone retreats, bible study or any of our programs. We are meeting people where they are to help create a Catholic home. It is about sharing and learning from each other," she said.
Some parents are reluctant to join in their children's religious education, but they have a change of heart when presented with all the options St. John the Baptist Parish has to offer. "Parents are the first example of Church; that is where children learn to be a community first. We try to build on that."
Spending quality time with family is lost in modern society, Pozza believes. "It is now countercultural to have family time with your kids. The children have so many activities to get to and sometimes that takes away from the family unit."
The parish's family faith program has increased to 70 families this year from 40 families last year. The parents focus on a home study guide once per week that appeals to multigrade children.
The family is not the only focus of Pozza and her team's programs. "We try to reach out to the community. We have baseball games and other fun ways to incorporate what the children leaned in their religious education classes." The creative aspect of education is attributed to the amount of lay volunteers who are also teachers. Pozza puts her logistics and organization skills to work as coordinator of the alternative summer camp that runs for seven days and involves over 514 children.