TAYLORSVILLE, Ky. — Catholics and others look to the lives of saints for inspiration, guidance and holy example.
These holy men and women can serve as our patrons, intercessors and guides. And every year the Catholic Church recognizes their virtuous lives collectively on Nov. 1, a holy day of obligation.
At All Saints Church in Taylorsville, Ky., catechist Rob Richards aims to make the lives of saints relevant to his religious education students.
His work as a catechist was recognized by Catechist Magazine earlier this year.
“I wanted to do more in the parish. It lets me give back to the church,” he said in an interview earlier this week.
He views his role as a catechist as an opportunity “to build relationships with the kids and give them the foundation they need to continue to be great people and a good Catholic.”
Richards became involved in his parish’s religious education program as a substitute teacher on Sunday mornings. About six years ago he began teaching every week. He primarily teaches fifth- and sixth-graders, but has also helped the seventh- and eighth-graders prepare for confirmation.
For a number of years, Richards served as a coach for his sons’ various sports teams. His interest in forming young people has served as inspiration for his work in the parish.
Richards said he’s also a “big heart kid at heart.”
“I try to meet them at their level. I’m a big guy, that can
be intimidating but I get down on their level and address them. I’m known as Mr. Rob,” he said.
He also tries to make lessons come to life.
For All Saints Day, the parish’s namesake feast day, he encourages his students to pick a saint, learn about their life and even dress up like them.
And, Richards, ever a kid, joins in on the fun as well. He’s dressed up as St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Francis Xavier and St. Nicholas. This year, he said he might add St. Patrick to his repertoire.
He also leads a student-focused Stations of the Cross during Lent and helps organize an overnight retreat at Carter Cave each year.
Richards said his mother was the first teacher of his faith.
“My dad wasn’t Catholic. My mom was my first teacher. She made sure we went to Mass every week,” he said. Richards attended the now-closed Resurrection School and St. Xavier High School.
Being a catechist, he said, has helped renew his faith.
“I learn more from them, then they do from me. In preparing to teach class, it helps in my own understanding of my faith and the Gospel,” he said.
There are 188 families at All Saints. About 25 to 30 students in kindergarten through seventh-grade attend weekly religious education classes at the parish. In addition to Richards, there are five other catechists.
Aside from his service as a catechist, Richards is the chief financial officer for Kentucky State Parks. He and his wife, Lola, have been married for 25 years. They have two sons, Michael, 22, and Joshua, 17.