Living the Faith: Howard League

PEMBROKE -- How many hats can one man wear?

Howard League hasn’t found the answer yet.

At St. Thecla Parish, League, 56, is a lector, an adult altar server, and an extraordinary minister of Communion. He is also a member of the parish pastoral council. He is the assistant director of the religious education program, as well as a religious education teacher for middle school students. Together with his wife, Anne Marie, he is the coordinator for the local SERVE program, a program that promotes volunteerism by providing quality food at a reduced price. Beginning this year, he will attend classes at St. John’s Seminary, with the goal of being ordained a deacon in 2011.

But perhaps closest to his heart are two programs he himself helped develop for the parish.

While working on his masters degree in religious education at Boston College four years ago, League was required to complete an internship.

“My pastor, Father [Robert] Sullivan was kind enough to allow me to do the internship at St. Thecla’s, my parish,” League explained. His internship was centered on two specific topics: the children’s Liturgy of the Word program and the service component of the confirmation program.

Relying on his experience as a teacher for the Pembroke public school system, League dove in, creating two programs the parish still employs today.

League described the Children’s Liturgy of the Word as a weekly program for children in grades one to three. Each week, during the 9 a.m. Mass, the children are invited to the parish hall, where there is a separate Liturgy of the Word geared specifically for children, he explained. Beginning with a candle-lighting ceremony, the children process out of the main church into a special area reserved for them. After listening to the readings of the Mass proclaimed from the Children’s Bible, League gives a lesson on the readings geared toward the children.

“A lot of the message has to do with their prayer life, their behavior, their friends and their families,” said League. After the lesson, the children rejoin their parents in the main church for the remainder of the Mass.

According to League, the participation in the program averages 60-80 children every week.

“It has really caught fire in our parish,” he said.

League also brought his innovative ideas to the parish’s confirmation program. Unlike many other confirmation programs in which students complete their service component independent of the parish, St. Thecla’s provides students a variety of one-day service projects. Each of the 75 confirmation students of the parish must complete one of these projects in order to receive confirmation.

According to League, the daylong projects begin at the parish, where students start their day with a prayer. Together they perform the service, and return to the parish to share their experience of the day with the others.

“We reflect upon the work we are doing as part of our Christian faith,” he said. Some projects include working in soup kitchens in Brockton and distributing backpacks to underprivileged children in Boston.

When asked where he finds the energy, League just chuckled.

“Everything I do comes from the energy I get from my faith,” he said. “My faith is the single most important part of my life and everything else I am emanates from that.”

League praised Father Sullivan, calling him his “primary mentor.”

“I sort of feed off of him,” said League with a smile. “He’s the most religious man, and the most regular man, I have ever met.”

“It’s fascinating to be around him,” he added.