Gallup’s new religious education director hopes to help others build relationships

Kathleen Zelasko (center) and her husband Peter moved their family into their new home in Gallup, New Mexico, after Kathleen took over as the new director of religious education for the Diocese of Gallup. (Voice of the Southwest)

By Suzanne Hammons
Voice of the Southwest

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared July 1 on the Voice of the Southwest website, the official news outlet for the Diocese of Gallup.

Gallup native Kathleen Zelasko returned to her home diocese to take on the role as the new director of religious education. The new role has her coordinating outside mission trips to the mission diocese, overseeing catechetical and religious education programs and helping develop youth ministry programs.

A mother of two, Zelasko attended Franciscan University in Steubenville and taught at Catholic schools in Denver for 10 years before choosing to be a stay-at-home mom for a few years. Now back in Gallup, she spoke with The Voice of the Southwest about her background and her goals for her new position.

Voice of the Southwest: What brought you to Gallup from Denver?

Zelasko: It’s my hometown! My husband loves it — there’s a good community of young families here and lots of cousins and my family here. We knew we always wanted to come back here, and luckily, the Lord brought us back earlier than we thought.

Voice of the Southwest: And how’d you end up working for the diocese?

Zelasko: Dcn. Todd [­­­­­Church] had this job, and Dcn. Todd’s wife [Ann] delivered my second child, and so I knew of them, and that they were moving. They asked if it would be something I’d be interested in, and it fit the hours that I was looking for. I’ve never had a desk job so it’s exciting! I get to work with people coming to Gallup and share my excitement for it.

Voice of the Southwest: What attracts you to working for the Church?

Zelasko: What I love about it is you come in contact with Catholics all the time — you get to go out and meet them here.

I’m most excited about the Catechesis part of my job, with an education background. I’m still getting used to [coordinating] mission groups — it blows my mind how excited people are to come out and help, but I also want them to be building relationships and not just [being able to say] “I said I did a mission trip!” I want them to come out and actually build relationships, and have their hearts changed as well as the people here.

Voice of the Southwest: Do you have any big goals?

Zelasko: My big thing is with catechesis — to get the Directors of Religious Education talking, because it’s such a big diocese … and to bring in a lot of resources, especially for the re-ordering of the sacraments. I’m also trained in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, so I wouldn’t mind bringing that into our diocese also, if we’re able to get enough people trained and materials made.

I’m excited about the mission groups coming out — especially the high school missions — and I want to help it be more of a “come and see” our diocese — come and see the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni cultures instead of “Oh, I went to this area and helped these people out.” Come and see the way these people actually live. I want groups that will keep coming so that relationships are made.

Voice of the Southwest: Do you have a favorite saint?

Zelasko: I love St. Gianna Molla, just because I’m a mother also now. And then of course Our Lady — I taught at Our Lady of Lourdes School [in Denver] for so long.

Voice of the Southwest: Do you have a favorite book or author?

Zelasko: My favorite book is “Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh. When I was in low times — it reaches everyone. There’s a character in there that can reach everyone. It’s just a beautiful book.

Voice of the Southwest: Any hobbies you enjoy in your downtime?

Zelasko: I used to play basketball! I love to coach, too. I’m hoping I’ll be able to coach some teams next year.

Suzanne Hammons is the editor of the Voice of the Southwest and the media coordinator for the Diocese of Gallup. A graduate of Benedictine College in Kansas, she joined the Diocesan staff in 2012.

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