St. Anthony of Padua Parish Year established: 1945 Pastor: Father Richard Shmaruk Parochial Vicar: Father John Carroll Religious Education Director: Sandra Strong Business Manager: Patricia Cardinale Music Director: Patricia Michielutti Pilot photo/Courtesy St. Anthony Parish
Help us expand our reach! Please share this article
WOBURN -- Three years ago, Sandra Strong made the decision to become a parishioner at St. Anthony of Padua Parish.
Faced with having to say goodbye to her home parish -- Immaculate Conception in Winchester -- which was closed as part of parish reconfiguration, she -- and her husband Gary -- began to look for a place that would feel like home.
“I chose to go to St. Anthony’s because I liked the intimate feeling and welcoming atmosphere,” recalled Strong, a Woburn native.
Another aspect of the parish which really appealed to Strong was the “consistency” she saw in worship.
“There were many groups of parents, grandparents and children all attending church together,” said Strong. “That was definitely a draw for me.”
After only a few months, Strong, 45, saw there was a need in the parish for a religious education director. Having been the religious education coordinator for her prior parish, Strong offered to become the director.
That was three years ago. Today Strong is the director of the religious education program, which has over 450 students and 60 volunteer teachers. She is also a Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) team member and trains teachers and other parish volunteers in the Protecting God’s Children program.
“I get a lot of support from others in the parish so the entire program runs pretty smoothly,” she said.
For Strong, working with the children in the religious education program is a way for her to serve God.
“I really want to work to instill the love I have for God to the kids I work with,” she said.
“Oftentimes religion is the last thing on [the children’s] priority list,” continued Strong. “They don’t see immediate results with God, so it’s not important to them.”
Strong feels that reaching out to them and sharing her faith may pave the way for some of the children to want to deepen their faith.
“It is not always easy to be a Catholic in today’s world but because of my beliefs and trust in the Lord, I continue to find strength and comfort in my faith, everyday. I hope that my work with the religious education program will in some way help our youth to develop their own sense of comfort and to find strength in their faith. My wish is for the youth of the parish to learn to appreciate and respect the traditions, customs and values of the Catholic Church,” she stated.
In order to serve her students better, Strong, who works as the alumni affairs coordinator for a local nursing school, is currently enrolled in college for her masters in education.
“I’m hoping the education I am getting I can relate to the high school students I have,” she said.
“My faith means everything to me,” she said full of emotion. “It is the foundation on which I live my life. My faith has made me who I am today and has helped me to appreciate the life that I have.”