Local

Living the Faith: Mary Ellen Cassani

byDonis Tracy Pilot Correspondent
4/10/2009

Mary Ellen and Richard Cassani, pictured with their three sons. Photo by Hobbs Studio of Weymouth

WEYMOUTH -- Mary Ellen Cassani is excited by what she sees happening in her parish.

As the newly hired director of faith formation at St. Jeromes, Cassani believes she is witnessing a wonderful spiritual renewal within her parish.

I think we are really trying to work towards genuine spiritual renewal as well as building a true sense of community within our parish, she said.

Hired only 10 months ago, Cassani and her pastor, Father Robert Blaney, revamped the religious education program. Instead of traditional weekly religious education classes, the parish has begun a whole community catechesis model, in which classes meet biweekly with both children and parents in attendance, Cassani explained. In addition, every grade levels curriculum is centered on the Eucharist, with Mass attendance being an integral part of the religious education experience.

At first people seemed reluctant to change, Cassani said. But gradually people are growing into it.

Together with the newly reorganized religious education program, Cassani also directs St. Jeromes ARISE program. With over 180 parishioners participating in the ARISE program, Cassani believes the program is really energizing her parish.

It is going very well, she said. A lot of people have made new friendships and many people are feeling more comfortable speaking about their faith to others.

However, Cassani, 54, is not just the faith formation director of St. Jeromes, she is a long-standing parishioner there as well. Raised in Weymouth, the oldest child in a family of nine siblings, Cassani began attending St. Jeromes when she was in college. It was there that she married Richard, her husband of almost 30 years, whom she met at her fathers bowling alley in Hingham.

My fathers bowling alley is almost a mini-satellite of St. Jeromes, she joked, noting that he is also a member of the parish. Over the years I cant even tell you how many parishioners have frequented the place.

St. Jeromes is also the place where the Cassani family raised their three sons.

All of our children are very faith-filled, she said with a smile.

Cassani believes her childrens faith is a tribute to the genuine faith experience of her parish.

Our parish is a grounded parish in their faith experience, she said. Theres nothing put on about it. Its very real.

My faith is my life, she continued, and weve raised our children to see that their faith is the most important thing in their lives as well.

So it came as little surprise when her oldest son, John Cassani, heeded the call to the priesthood. He is currently a seminarian at St. Johns Seminary in Brighton.

Although Cassani sees that her parish has certainly changed through the years, especially because Weymouth has changed demographically, she feels the heart of the parish has never changed.

I love it here, she said. It has helped define who I am as a person and how I relate to other people.

St. Jerome Parish, Weymouth

Year established -- 1928

Pastor -- Father Robert Blaney

In residence -- Bishop John A. Dooher, Msgr. Peter Martocchio

Deacon -- Joseph Vitello

Faith Formation Director -- Mary Ellen Cassani

Business Manager -- Anne McCormick

Elementary School Principal -- Sheila Kukstis