Rachael Gieger, the new assistant director of catechesis for the Diocese of Nashville’s Office of Faith Formation, grew up in Denver, Colorado, which she called “the heart of the New Evangelization.”
“I fell in love with theology and apologetics in high school, mostly in conversations with Protestant friends,” Gieger said.
“I had a theology teacher at a Catholic high school who introduced me to moral theology, and that’s what I decided I really wanted to study,” Gieger said.
She earned both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in theology from Ave Maria University in Florida. Gieger is using that education to help directors of religious education at parishes across the diocese.
“I have known since high school that I wanted to work for the Church. I didn’t know in what capacity and where,” said Gieger. “Once I was called to get my master’s I knew I would probably be taking on a role that was larger than I originally dreamed of.
“I could take what I learned and studied really, really intently and take that and give that to people who would never have the opportunity to study it,” she said.
In her new position, which she began on July 27, Gieger will be working with directors of religious education and catechists.
“My job is to accompany them in their journey and their mission, to encourage them in their spreading of the Gospel,” Gieger said. “I’m a resource for them so we can all spread the Gospel.”
“Right now, I’m trying to meet one-on-one with each (director of religious education) in our diocese,” Gieger said. “I’m hearing from them what their needs are, what their parishes are facing, what they’re doing well.”
“I was really excited to bring Rachael in and add her to our team,” said Joan Watson, director of the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. “The directors of religious education and parish catechetical leaders are accomplishing so many great things in our parishes, and I am looking forward to being able to serve them better now that we’re back to three people in the office!
“Rachael brings a lot of energy and zeal to this position, and we look forward to both continuing what we have been doing with the parishes and starting new projects,” Watson said.
Parish religious education leaders and teachers are facing new challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of Gieger’s job will be to help them find ways to overcome those challenges, including the use of online and distance learning resources. “Our office is working with them about how to digitalize faith formation,” Gieger said.
The goal is to keep the students connected to their parish and their faith. “We all share that concern because making a connection with the children or anybody we’re forming is always the priority,” Gieger said.
“We do have to be creative,” she added. “A lot of it is an openness to be constantly changing and adapting based on the needs of each parish.”
Gieger remains confident parish religious education programs will overcome the challenges they face. “I know the Holy Spirit is alive and well. He can’t be limited by our difficulties and our trials. He’s going to find a way to reach people and overcome all the barriers we face today.”