"Together in God's Service"
By Roy J. Horner
LOUISVILLE, KY -- In the Archdiocese of Louisville's Office of Lifelong Formation and Education (OLFE), executive director Matthew Hayes networks all for the sake of sharing, teaching and spreading Gospel values.
It starts with the OLFE staff. These are the people, he notes, who work with him, not for him. And then there are the more than 196,000 lay people, religious and priests in the archdiocese's 124 parishes and missions spread out over 24 Central Kentucky counties served by Hayes and the OLFE staff.
No work day is typical for the 51-year-old Hayes, a husband and father and a participant in church and community affairs. However, an important duty is the meetings Hayes and the OLFE staff hold regularly with the individual parish and school staffs. Listening in person to pastors, religious education directors, catechists, principals, teachers and youth ministers allows Hayes to build the Gospel-based relationships he believes in.
"I think the way people in a diocesan office serve parish- and school-level people is out of relationship," he said. "We don't do it simply by sitting in the office and giving mandates. We do it by building relationships with people ... learning about and listening to their concerns and then assisting them in moving forward to address those concerns."
Hayes knows his local church territory well. In a catechetical ministry spanning almost 30 years, the Chicago native rose through the ranks. He began as a high school religion teacher in Cincinnati and Chicago. Several years later he was in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, as a parish religious education director. In 1979 he became director of religious education and coordinator of adult education for the Indianapolis archdiocese.
Hayes has served on national committees of the U.S. bishops for the Catechism of the Catholic Church and adult education. He was vice president of the National Conference of Diocesan Directors of Religious Education He was named executive director of the Archdiocese of Louisville's Office of Lifelong Formation and Education in 1993.
His appointment as executive director of OLFE and as chief executive director of the archdiocese came in the wake of a discernment period. Looking inward with God's help, Hayes defined his career goal as wanting to work "in a team management situation in an organization that fosters human dignity and social change."
Even before Hayes came to Louisville, a job description that appealed to his instincts of ministry and religious formation had been written into the archdiocesan strategic plan. The plan advocated a position stating the need to make the learning of the faith a lifelong experience for all Catholics. By the time Hayes got to Louisville, the archdiocese had already consolidated four offices into the single entity now known as OLFE.
"We're here to be of service to learners of all ages," Hayes said. "The term I always use is to (help them) become convicted of the Gospel for their lives.'"
Hayes finds strength and support in Judy, his wife of 29 years. He is proud that the two of them share "core values" of faith that surfaced during to their dating days.
By virtue of his catechetical ministry, Hayes said his children ages 12, 19, 21 and 24 have grown up or are growing up in a spotlight where they're judged, much like the proverbial "minister's kids."
"My hope is that they are young people who will have values in their lives that are informed by the Gospel and will be active in their faith community," he said.
For Hayes, the joys and challenges of his ministry as leader of the Louisville archdiocesan Office of Lifelong Formation and Education are numerous. Something that makes his heart sing is "the way young peoples' lives are being impacted" by teacher creativity. A challenge, he said, is to build or maintain a faith community in which the people are disciples of Christ "by conviction, not by custom." Hayes said he often reflects on a poster he saw more than 30 years ago when he was a student at Xavier University in Cincinnati. The poster posed the question that "if you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"
"Well, I've often wondered, not only would there be enough evidence to convict me, but would they even arrest me?" Hayes said. "So I think the ultimate challenge ... is to form ourselves so that we become Gospel convicts, we become convicted of the Gospel to the point where we're ready to go to jail."
Roy Horner is local news editor for The Record, the newspaper in the Diocese of Louisville, Kentucky.