Lisa Benzer will bring new era of Faith Formation to diocese
Lisa Benzer really knows the ABC’s of religious instruction. As the new director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Buffalo, she will focus on adoration to God, building bridges, and curating good programing with parish leaders.
Benzer has gained more than nine years of experience from serving as religious education coordinator at Our Mother of Good Counsel in Blasdell and St. Vincent de Paul in Springbrook. There, she directed the Family Faith Formation Program, and the Life Teen and Edge programs for youth.
A lifelong Catholic and product of Catholic education in Rhode Island, Benzer began volunteering at Father Baker Manor, Nativity of Our Lord and St. John Vianney in Orchard Park in Orchard Park while her children were young.
“When my children were going to Catholic schools, I did a lot of volunteering,” she said, mentioning she helped establish a Catholic identity program at their school to educate the parents and their children about saints, liturgical celebrations, feast days, indulgences, holy days, Catholic Church teaching, and service opportunities. That work drew her into wanting to be more involved in teaching the faith. At the same time, Our Mother of Good Counsel Parish began looking for a religious education coordinator. After two years there, she moved to St. Vincent’s.
“I love the faith and I want others to know how much God loves them and how merciful He is. So, we brought a lot of that into our program,” she explained.
St. Vincent’s had a traditional “drop off” program, where the parents left the children to learn about Catholicism. With the diocese encouraging Family Faith Formation, Benzer began using the new model where parents learn along with their children in 2018. She found parents were reminded of things they have learned in the past, but haven’t thought about in years.
“As parents we think we know everything that there is to know, but there is always a way to search for more and get more out of their faith when we work with our children like that,” she said.
Benzer fills a role vacant for over a year and a half, which now falls under the Catholic Education umbrella.
“This position is very different than in year’s past,” she explained. “This position is working with the directors of religious education. First and foremost, we start with adoring Jesus and being steeped in prayer. I think this position is all about building bridges with other departments within the Catholic Center where we cross over in a variety of ways. And also building bridges from the diocese to our parishes – establishing trust, establishing confidence, establishing relationship. Building all of that over again. That’s very important today for our schools and our parishes to trust.”
She will be working with the Road to Renewal initiative and Safe Environment office, as well as developing a web portal to provide DRE’s and Catholic School teachers access to resources. She knows the hours DRE’s spend researching appropriate content for their programs, so she will curate those resources herself and make them available. “We’re going to facilitate that for them so they can be more engaged with their families and can evangelize on that level,” Benzer said.
Currently, she is working on a strategy with Road for Renewal on Religious Formation within the new Parish Families, also designing a monthly newsletter for the DRE’s.
“I’ve been observing other family faith formation programs and special needs programs. The engagement level is very important; the material being represented by the catechist, making sure the catechists know the material well. It’s a whole format that I go through,” she said.
Benzer and husband have been married for almost 25 years and live in Orchard Park. They have they have three children attending Canisius College, SUNY Geneseo and Canisius High School.