ALLOUEZ — Pam Fischer has become one of approximately 30 religious educators in the United States to be awarded a national certification.
Fischer, the director of religious education at St. Thomas the Apostle in Newton, has received certification as a Parish Catechetical Leader through the Alliance for the Certification of Lay Ecclesial Ministers (ACLEM).
Not only is she one of the select few in the nation to achieve this honor, but she is also the first catechist from the Diocese of Green Bay to receive it.
Fischer will be receiving her certification at the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership (NCCL) in Chicago, Ill., which runs May 30 through June 2. The NCCL is one of the five official national Catholic ministry organizations that partners to make up ACLEM. Fischer will be awarded the certification on June 1 at an awards luncheon.
“I think it’s just going to help me be a better disciple of Jesus,” she said.
Fischer said that the certification will help her better serve her parish by being an example of the faith for others, but she still looks to God in her ministry work.
“It’s just a piece of paper,” said Fischer. “It’s not going to change me. Only God can change my heart.”
To receive certification, applicants must meet criteria set by ACLEM, which is made up of five national Catholic ministry organizations. Certification is meant to acknowledge and assess lay ecclesial ministers based on a variety of factors through an accreditation process, according to the ACLEM website.
“It’s something I wanted to accomplish because it was different than getting my master’s degree,” she said.
Fischer feels that by receiving the accreditation, she is fulfilling the same role that others have filled before her, but is taking it to the next step.
“It doesn’t make me any smarter than anybody else,” she said, “but I feel like I can help others and continue my role at what I’m doing well — maybe in a more positive way, or professional way.”
Fischer has been the director of religious education at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish since 2000. Previously, she was the principal of St. Joseph Parish in Alverno for three years and a Catholic school teacher from 1985 to 2000. During this time, she substitute taught for a few years so that she could raise a family.
At her current position at St. Thomas the Apostle, Fischer is in charge of all the education that happens within the parish, including the first grade through 12th grade education programs.
“I do adult faith formation, as well as Bible school,” she said, “from little to big people.”
Fischer aims to share actions that have worked well in her parish with others. For example, if she notices that a certain prayer service is well-received by those attending, she said that she will share it with others to utilize in their ministry work.
“I’m one of those people who will share anything that I have,” she said, “I don’t want anybody else to have to recreate the wheel in ministry.”
Fischer said she wanted to join a lay ecclesial ministry for the bigger picture — especially the bigger picture of what God is doing in the country. Being a lay minister has allowed her to gain insight into what parishes around the country are doing and provided the ability to network with others, she said.
To receive certification as a Parish Catechetical Leader through the ACLEM, Fischer went through an accreditation process that evaluated her competency