Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Eurana Wood: a ministry of teaching for 50 years
Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the June 12, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
Eurana Wood retires this year as Director of Religious Education at Assumption Parish, Spokane. (IR photo)
At Spokane’s Assumption Parish, Eurana Wood has been on the job as Director of Religious Education (DRE) since 1994.
In those days, Father Joe Bell, now pastor of St. Peter Parish in Spokane, had just arrived as Assumption’s new pastor, she said. “He didn’t have a DRE. He knew me from his previous assignment at Sacred Heart Parish, and I had been a teacher at Cataldo School for24 years.” Cataldo is an interparochial school; Sacred Heart is one of the parishes that supports Cataldo.
It probably didn’t hurt that she and Father Bell used to golf together. “So he called and asked if I would take the job. He was desperate,” she said with a laugh.
The DRE’s job description at Assumption hasn’t changed much over the years, said Wood. “I do the Religious Ed classes on Sunday mornings. We used to have K through 6th grade. We now have grades 1 through 6. In the fall I prepare the fourth graders for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and in the spring I prepare the second graders for Confirmation and First Eucharist.”
The soon-to-be-retired DRE said that changes have occurred on the parish Religious Education scene, however, in the years that she has been at Assumption.
“There is hardly anybody with any background to teach” children’s Religious Education classes anymore, she said. “For two years now I have had hardly any volunteer teachers. One woman, Ann Galbraith, has been my right hand person.” Galbraith is a former kindergarten teacher in the parish’s school. Wood called her “very committed to the church, and very knowledgeable in religion, and she has done the evening classes for me, when Father Mike (Savelesky, pastor) has the adults in the church for about 50 minutes. She has some parents who help her, but she does all the teaching.”
It’s also difficult to get parents to volunteer as catechists, she said. It’s not at all unusual for both parents to work outside the home, and of course single parents have even less free time. Coupled to that is the fact that with the demise of the diocese’s Parish Services Office a couple of years ago, no catechist training sessions are available.
Some parents will opt to keep their children out of RE classes until second grade, which is the year of preparation for Confirmation and First Eucharist. “It’s a different church” than when she started.
“In some cases, it’s the grandparents who nudge the parents to get the kids connected with the sacraments,” said Wood. The weather also was a factor this past year, with a winter that was “a fabulous season for skiing, and consequently people were skiing every weekend. They don’t have time to run down to church in the city.”
She wonders who might take her place. “There just are not people who have the training and background to be Directors of Religious Education anymore,” she said. “You can’t just come in and start off from scratch. Also, it used to be that there was a lot more support among the DREs for one another; there was an organization, and we got together regularly. That doesn’t exist anymore. You could learn from people who had been at it for years. No more.”
It’s difficult to convince volunteers to make a commitment for a full school year, she said. “I think a lot of it is a lack of background in religious education. They’re so busy during the week that they don’t have time to come and help.”
As she retires, Wood has high praise for Assumption Parish’s current pastor, Father Mike Savelesky, whom she called “one of the most coordinated and far-seeing people to work for. He expects a lot, but you feel like you’re doing the right thing when you follow his lead. I have very high praise for that man. Everyone on the staff is really great to work with.”
Father Joe Bell had known Wood when she was a teacher at Cataldo School and he was pastor of Spokane’s Sacred Heart Parish (1983-94). As the new pastor at Assumption Parish in 1994, he said, he recalled Eurana’s “strong faith and educational background. I thought she would be a great asset in the Religious Education Program.... Much to our delight, she was interested and came to Assumption. She was a joy to work with and very dedicated in her service to others. I hope she enjoys her retirement.”
Father Michael Savelesky said that “Eurana has engaged in the service of teaching for 50 years. What a commitment and witness to living faith! Assumption Parish has benefited from 11 of those years. She has been a special blessing to our parish and especially to our staff. Her sharp wit, insight into people, and focus in a ministry of service has affected us all.”
Looking to the future, Wood expects that, for one thing, she’ll play more golf. “I have a trip planned to visit relatives,” she said. “I have 36 nephews and nieces and 36 grand-nephews and –nieces, so my brother and I are going to visit as many of them as we can.”
Next fall, once she’s back in Spokane and settled into being a regular parishioner, Wood says with a chuckle that if somebody asks her to volunteer for anything, she’s going to say, “I have one hour. What do you need?”
On a more serious note, however, she said: “Working for the church has been wonderful; I’m going to miss it. I may volunteer, but I’m not sure how exactly. We’ll see.”