Pittsburg reanimates its PSR

By Don McClane
A year ago, there was no active PSR, a Parish School of Religion, at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Pittsburg.
“Moving to Pittsburg three years ago, I was delighted that there was such a strong Catholic community at Our Lady of Lourdes parish,” recalled parishioner Kristy Hutchinson. “I was quite surprised that there seemed to be no regular religious education program in place for our young people not attending St. Mary’s Colgan School.”
Meanwhile, a couple of other parishioners had a fateful conversation.
“One day after Totus Tuus, Amy Firman, another Stewardship council member, and I started talking,” said Angela Radell. “Her children went to public school, and she realized she and her husband weren’t enough. Her children needed more religious education from others, and more than the week that Totus Tuus provided. It was then that the Holy Spirit started prompting us to act.”
Radell and Firman put together a proposal to revive the PSR program and presented it to Fathers Michael Baldwin and David Voss and the director of Parish Advancement then, Francis Mitchelson.
“We shared our story and how we felt the Holy Spirit was prompting us to act,” said Radell. “Fr. Mike said ‘yes’ just like that.”
“I came from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Wichita and grew up at St. Patrick’s in Wichita,” recalls Fr. Voss. “Both of those parishes had parish school of religion programs. I attended the one at St. Patrick’s and am very appreciative of the experience.
“When I came to Pittsburg, there was definitely an opportunity to establish a PSR program once again,” he continued. “Fortunately for us, two motivated volunteers graciously came to Fr. Mike to restart the program.”
“Now the big questions were: ‘where,’ ‘what,’ ‘who’ and ‘how,’” said Radell. “It all began with communication and sharing with others what we were doing. Nobody needed the ‘why.’”
The crew searched for people to teach. Among those they found were Kristy Hutchinson.
“I was approached by Angela Radell to consider serving as a catechist for the newly reinstated PSR program,” Hutchinson remembers. “Since we were losing the priest who had taught First Reconciliation classes and still needed a teacher for preparation for Holy Communion, I agreed to teach the sacraments to my daughter’s class unless and until they could find someone else.
“It wasn’t that I don’t enjoy teaching young people, it was just that I felt overwhelmed with the responsibilities of raising and teaching my own five children, ages 3 to 20 at the time.” she continued. “However, God was calling me to this ministry, and He has graciously provided all that I have needed to successfully share our Catholic faith each week with beautiful young people!”
Also drafted to teach were college students from the St. Pius X Newman Center at the Pittsburg State University campus.
Fr. Voss helped research the curriculum Radell and company proposed to use. Other members of the parish community helped by making places for classes available, teaching or providing other services.
“We rely especially upon students who have taught Totus Tuus before,” Voss said. “That experience prepares these college students to make a difference in not just ‘head knowledge’ but also ‘heart knowledge’ as Totus Tuus teaches.”
“In addition to Pittsburg, Newman Club students also help teach PSR in St. Paul and Girard,” he noted.
The revived PSR was launched in January 2017 and was concluded the week before Easter. A total of 54 students attended the school, ranging in age from second to eighth grade. Thirty-three received the sacraments of Reconciliation and Communion. Two ninth-graders prepared for Confirmation.
A dinner was provided to the staff each week, and the children received snacks.
“The meal provides for their basic need for food, but also facilitates a time for these young adults to interact, share, and live out their faith with their peers,” Hutchinson observed.
“We had and have a large Hispanic community that has so much to offer,” Radell said, “but we do struggle with the language barrier.” Sisters Naty, Lourdes and Sylvia, with Pilar Mendez, have been instrumental in translation and communication, she added. “They are not afraid to call or even stop by their homes to check in and remind them of PSR. Technology is really helping in this area of translation as well.”
“Our Hispanic sisters really encourage our Spanish speaking families to come, and they work with the parents as well while the children are in the sessions,” Voss said.
Another session of PSR is underway at Our Lady of Lourdes this fall.
“To date we have 64 students,” Radell said. “Each week we are blessed with at least one more returning or new student.
“We also added a class for our parents of PSR, open to anyone, really,” she saod. “Last year we had some parents who would stay, but not join their child’s class. Most would sit around on their phones or whatever, but mainly by themselves.
“We now offer a 30-minute video, available in both Spanish and English, take a snack break with our RCIA participants, and then return for group discussion about the video, which usually ends with them sharing about themselves. We are currently watching Fr. Robert Barron’s ‘Pivotal Players’ series. The class currently has about eight parents and grows each week as well.”
“Her [Radell’s] inspiration for persevering with the PSR has been the Parable of the Lost Sheep,” Hutchinson said. “She frequently reminds herself and others of ‘that one sheep.’”

Want to sign up?
The Our Lady of Lourdes website for its PSR program is tinyurl.com/pittsburgPSR.