Faith formation has always been an important part of parish life for the community at St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish in Center. This was highlighted in a particular way on July 14, 2022, when Bishop Joseph Strickland blessed and dedicated their faith formation building to St. John Bosco. The faith formation building will now be called the Don Bosco Student Center.
The purpose of this building is education,” Father Nelson Munoz, pastor of St. Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Mary of the Epiphany Mission in Timpson, explained. “We are educating children and young people, and for that reason, we were trying to find a saint to have as a patron here.”
John Bosco, more commonly known as Don Bosco, was an Italian priest who lived from 1815 to 1888. He is remembered for his deep and profound love for children and young people. Don Bosco dedicated his life to helping and educating orphans and poor children from the streets. He is the patron saint of schoolchildren and children who frequently get themselves into trouble.
Considering Don Bosco’s work with children, dedicating the faith formation building in his honor was a perfect fit for Father Munoz. Members of the community also appreciate the dedication of the faith formation building to Don Bosco.
“I didn’t know who John Bosco was,” Rose Jenkins, a longtime parishioner of St. Thérèse said with a laugh. “But now I do. He was for religious education and I think that’s perfect to name the hall that.”
Jenkins has served the parish as a lector, catechist and even as the volunteer director of religious education for nine years. Jenkins noted that one of the struggles the faith formation program has had over the years has been the space. They often find they do not have enough space for all the children coming to the classes.
“Even with the recent remodel and clean up of all the classrooms, we still have a problem with space for all the children coming for faith formation,” Jenkins said.
Rosa Barbee is the current volunteer director of religious education at the parish. Though she’s been leading the program for four years, she’s been a catechist in the parish for much longer. She has a deep dedication to the children she serves through catechesis.
“Don Bosco loved the children,” Barbee said. “He had his heart on those kids. You have to have heart to teach those kids. Because let me tell you, if you don’t have the heart to teach those kids, you’re going to find excuses and excuses, no matter what. My heart is with the kids.”
Father Munoz found a personal connection to Don Bosco. “The example of Don Bosco is great encouragement and a great inspiration for me as a priest for how to be connected with children,” he said.
In addition to being the pastor of a parish and mission, Father Munoz is also the assistant vocations director for the Diocese of Tyler and now spends more time with children and young people.
“I never went to a youth group before,” Father Munoz said. “I was never in charge of children before. I went to a seminary with students who were older than me. I’ve always been with people older than me. But now I need to work with young people in the vocations office and with the students here. So I was looking for inspiration and an example and I found that in John Bosco.”
As the new faith formation year kicks off, the St. Thérèse community will continue teaching the faith under the guidance of their new patron, Don Bosco.