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Catherine Dooley

By Elizabeth J.Flaherty


SR. CATHERINE DOOLEY, O.P., Ph.D. (1933-2015), an outstanding international leader in the field of catechesis, has consistently generated significant contributions to the mission of spreading the Gospel, including writing, publishing and teaching. “Kate”, as she is known, is a Sinsinawa (WI) Dominican Sister who has been professor of Catechetics and Liturgy at the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC. She is best recognized for developing a field called liturgical catechesis which acknowledges the liturgy as a source for cathechesis, a pastoral activity that aims to lead communities and individuals to full, active and conscious faith in the light of instruction and the experience of Christian living.


Catherine Agnes Dooley (Kate) was born and raised in Minnesota, was educated in the city of Faribault at Immaculate Conception Elementary School and Butler Academy High School. She became a member of the Congregation of the Dominican Order at Sinsinawa, Wisconsin. Some 50 years later Kate wrote in the newsletter of the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC: “It is in the Sinsinawa Congregation that I learned that teaching was a vocation and to be a teacher was a gift. So I began with 1st graders, and I loved teaching them just as I now love teaching university students. It might seem to be a great leap between those two levels, but there is an old adage: if you can teach 1st graders, you can teach anyone.”

And teach she did—at the elementary level of the congregation’s schools in Illinois, Wisconsin and Colorado. She was also giving religious education workshops for teachers in the Chicago area. In 1975 Kate was an invited presenter at a Religious Education Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. Her presentation was titled “Gospel Values: a Family Challenge.” She became a key figure in catechetical renewal after the Second Vatican Council.

These experiences led her to turn from the role of teacher to that of student. Kate earned degrees in Theology and Religious Education from Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, MA, and the Catholic University of Leuvain, Louvain, Belgium. These studies led to teaching positions at Rosary College, River Forest, IL, Edgewood College, Madison, WI, and ultimately to the Catholic University of American in 1984 which became her home for over 25 years. When honored for her long-term service to the University, Kate responded with the following comments in their newsletter of December, 2004:

“I remember coming in for my interview and people were very frank about what to expect and what not to expect. I wasn’t completely sold. When two faculty members took me out to lunch that day, I had to ask them, ‘Why do you stay?’ They didn’t hesitate for moment. They said, ‘The people.’” By the time lunch was over, the Dominican nun from Minnesota knew where she wanted to be. CUA buildings, salaries and class sizes have changed over the last two decades (when Sister Dooley first arrived, she typically taught 50 undergraduates per course), but for her, the good nature of the people has remained the same. 

Contributions to Christian Education

Kate’s ministry at Catholic University as teacher, author, innovator , publisher, and liturgist let to national recognition for her contributions to Catechetical Renewal. The following quotes are from the Beacon , the newsletter of the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters:

1999: Kate Dooley, OP, associate professor of Religion at the Catholic University, Washington, D.C., has been given the Michael Mathis award by the University of Notre Dame. Sr. Kate was recognized for her faithful and consistent efforts to keep liturgy and catechesis in dialog and for her writings and teachings that shed light on both sacramental practice and sacramental understanding.

2001: The National Conference for Catechetical Leadership honored Catherine Dooley, OP with its annual award for her outstanding contribution to catechetics. Sr. Kate also gave the keynote address at the yearly NCCL meeting.

2005: The Georgetown Center for Liturgy honored Catherine Dooley, OP, with its annual “Award for Outstanding Contributions Made to the Liturgical Life of the American Church.” Sr. Catherine’s visionary and widely influential work in liturgy and catechetics were cited.

2005: The lead article in the November issue of New Theology Review is “To Be What We Celebrate: Engaging the process of Liturgical Catechesis” by Kate Dooley, OP. A noted voice in the field develops solid principals and a solid process to help parish catechetical and liturgical ministers to envision the task.

2005: The National Association of Parish Catechetical Directors presented the “Emmaus Award for Excellence in Catechesis”, to Kate Dooley, OP, an outstanding national leader in the field of catechesis who has consistently generated significant contributions to the mission of spreading the Gospel, including writing, publishing and teaching.

2006: Catherine Dooley, OP, has been promoted to full professor in the School of Theology and Religious Studies, Catholic University, Washington, DC. She is the second woman since 1888 to hold that position!

The Winter 2000 issue of THE LIVING LIGHT features an essay titled “Catholic Foremothers in American Catechesis.” The works of the “foremothers” cited there inspired and nurtured contemporary catechetical leaders. Today’s leaders include Catherine Dooley, described as “taking a cue from the General Directory for Catechesis (GDC), elaborates how the formation of Catechists should have a “catechetical style” (GDC, no. 241) whose point of culmination is not in theology or method but in a life of witness and mission.”

Catherine Dooley, OP, (Kate) emerita of the Catholic University of American, Washington, DC, currently resides at the Dominican Convent in Sinsinawa, WI. She continues to inspire students at the Dominican University in River Forest, IL.

Addendum: SR. CATHERINE DOOLEY, O.P., passed away on December 1, 2015, at St. Dominic Villa. The funeral Mass was held in Queen of the Rosary Chapel at Sinsinawa December 7, 2015, followed by burial in the motherhouse cemetery.

Professional Education

  • PH.D. Religious Studies, Catholic University (KUL), Leuven, Belgium, 1982 ( Dissertation: An Historical and Theological Study of Devotional Confession)
  • M.A. Religious Studies, Catholic University (KUL), Leuven, Belgium, 1977
  • Th.M. Theology. Harvard Divinity School, 1975
  • M.A. Religious Education/Catechetics, The Catholic University of America, 197
  • B.A. Education/English, Edgewood College, Madison, Wisconsin, 1963

Teaching Experience

  • 1984-2009 Professor, The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.
  • 1981-1984 Professor of Religious Studies, Rosary College, River Forest, Illinois
  • 1975-1976 Instructor, Religious Studies Department, Edgewood College, Madison, Wisconsin
  • 1969-1974 Religion Consultant, Elementary Schools, Archdiocese of Chicago


  • Merrill Fellowship, Harvard Divinity School, 1974
  • F. Sadlier Dinger Award for Religious Education, 1993
  • Michael Mathis Award, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, 1999
  • Sabbatical Research Grant, Louisville Institute, 1999
  • Catechetical Award, National Conference of Catechetical Leadership, 2001.
  • Emmaus Award for Excellence in Catechesis awarded by the National Catholic Education Association (National Association of Parish Catechetical Leaders), 2005
  • Georgetown Center for Liturgy: National Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Liturgical Life of the American Church, 2005
  • ACTA Foundation grant for the initiation and implementation of an Undergraduate Certificate Program in Pastoral ministry to prepare students for future ecclesial ministries, 2003

Professional Organizations

Member of:

  • Catholic Theological Society of America;
  • Religious Education Association;
  • Association of Professors and Researchers in Religious Education;
  • National Association of Catechetical Leaders

Participant in the Field of Christian Education

  • Intercontinental Symposium on the Catechumenate, Lyon, France, 1993
  • Delegation to the International Catechetical Congress, Rome, 1997
  • Lilly Foundation sponsored Education for Religious Particularism and Pluralism: Relationship of Catholics and Jews, 1994-1996
  • U.S. Delegation to the International Catechetical Congress (Canada, Latin America, and U.S.) , Miami, FL, 2003
  • USCCB Committee of the Liturgy, 1987-1993
  • International Committee on English in the Liturgy, 1995



  • Author: In progress: Be What You Celebrate
  • Author: To Listen and Tell : a Commentary on the Introduction to the Lectionary for Masses with Children. Washington, D.C.: Pastoral Press, 1993.
  • Co-Editor: The Echo Within: Emerging Issues in Religious Education , ed. Catherine Dooley and Mary Collins. Thomas More: Allen, Texas, 1977
  • Editor: Ecclesial Mediation of Grace : Essays in Sacramental and Liturgical Theology . Louvain Studies 23, no. 2 (Summer, 1998)


  • Christiane Brusselmans. “ Christian Educators of the 20th Century
  • Claimed for Christ , RITE 38, no. 2 (March/April 2007): 22-25
  • “Do This in Memory of Me”. RITE 38, no. 4 (May/June, 2007): 22-25
  • “Life is Changed, Not Ended”. RITE 38, no. 4 (July/August, 2007): 22-25
  • “The Service of Light”. RITE 38, no.1 (January/February, 2007): 22-24
  • “Sacraments: Celebrations of the Whole Community”, in Whole Community Catechesis: Come to the Table . ed. Bill Huebsch (Harcourt Publishers) TBP Summer, 2005
  • Lex Orandi, lex credenda: Implications for Catechesis. Sister Maria de la Cruz: Herald of Hope . Annual National Association of Parish Catechetical Directors Convocation (April 13-16, 2004); Department of Religious Education, Washington, D.C.: National Catholic Educational Program, 2005
  • “Engrave it by Memory in your Hearts,” Living Light 40, no 4 (Summer 2004): 30-36
  • “To Be What We Celebrate,: New Theology Review 17, no. 4 (November 2004]: 9-17
  • “Imagine that…..Preaching to Children, “ Preach 1 (July/August) 2004): 19-24
  • “Liturgy: Source for Catechesis, “ Catechetical Leader (January 205): U1-U5
  • “Our Story column: St. Thomas More”, “St. Ignatius Loyola”, “St. Jane Frances de Chantal”, “St. John Vianney: The Cure of Ars:, “St. Clare of Assisi”, “St Alphonsus Ligouri”, “St. Angela Merici”, in Why Catholic? Renewing Family Faith . Published monthly by RENEW International, Newark, N.J.
  • “Mystagogy: A Parish, Not a Program”, Today’s Parish , no 3 (March 2003): 18-21
  • “Celebrating the Word of Forgiveness”, Liturgical Catechesis 6, no 2 (2003): 9-12
  • “Renewing the Parish” , The Living Light 40, no 1 (Fall 2003): 24-31
  • “Church Community as Catechist”, Living Light 39, no 3 (Spring 2003): 15-18
  • s.v. Catechist; First Communion; Liturgical Catechesis TBP New Catholic Encyclopedia , 2002
  • “La formation des catechistes.” In Theologie, Mission at catechese , 165-174, ed. Andre Fossion. Brussels: Lumen Vitae, 2002.
  • “Catechesis and Religious Instruction in Catholic Schools: Perspectives of the General Catechetical Directory ( 1997). In Religious Education as Practical Theology , ed. B Roebben and Michael Warren. 175-190. Leuven: Peeters, 2001
  • “Give Imagination a Chance!” The Living Light 38, no 1 (Fall 2001): 17-27
  • “The Religious Education Curriculum in Catholic Schools” in The Catholic Character of Catholic Schools , ed. J. Youniss and J. Convey, 156-73, Notre Dame University Press, 20.
  • “Liturgical Catechesis for Confirmation”, In Traditions and Transitions , ed. E Bernstein and M Connell , 253-65. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1998.
  • “The General Directory for Catechesis and the Catechism: Focus on Evangelizing”. Origins 28, no.3 (June 4, 1998): 33, 35-39. Excerpts reprinted in Catholic Trends 28, no. 21 (1998)
  • “Baptismal Catechumenate: Model for All Catechesis”, In Louvain Studies 23, no. 2 (Summer 1998): 114-123
  • “Evangelization and Catechesis: Partners in the New Millennium.” In The Echo Within: Emerging Issues in Religious Education , ed. C Dooley and M, Collins, 145-159. Allen, Texas: Thomas More, 1997.
  • “Celebrating the Child’s Natural Sense of the Sacred.” Childspirit 8 (Winter 1997-1998): 7-9.
  • “Mystagogy: Ministry to Parents”, In Catechesis and Mystagogy: Infant Baptism , ed. V Tufano, 97-104. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1996.
  • “Women Confessors in the Middle Ages?” Louvain Studies 20 (Summer-Fall, 1995): 271-281
  • s.v. Lectionary for Masses with Children. Christiane Brusselmans. In New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol 20, ed. B Marthaler. Washington, DC.: Catholic University of America 1996
  • “The Bible in Ministry: The Lectionary for Children”. Bible Today 33, no. 5 (September 1995): 281-285
  • “Life in Christ: The Approach to the Ten Commandments on the Catechism of the Catholic Church”. In Looking at Our Faith . New York: William F. Dadlier, 1995.
  • “Mystagogy: Model for Sacramental Catechesis” In New Directions in Sacrament and Spirituality ed. Mary Gray, 58-69. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1995
  • “From the Visible to the Invisible: Mystagogy in the Catechism of the Catholic Church ”. Living Light 31, no.3 (Spring 1995): 29-35
  • s.v. Catechesis; Catechetics; Catechism; General Absolution; In The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia , ed. M.Glazier and M.Hellwig. Collegeville; Liturgical Press, 1994
  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Both the Old and the New”. Chicago Studies 33, no.1 (April 1994): 5-14
  • “Why a Lectionary for Masses with Children?” Pastoral Music 18 (June-July 1994) 36-38
  • “Liturgical Catechesis in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.” In Introducing the Catechism of the Catholic Church:Traditional Themes and Contemporary Issues ,87-98, NY:PaulistPress,1994
  • “The Directory for Masses with Children”: 1973-1993”. Liturgy 90,24 no.2 (Feb./Mar.1993):4-7
  • Liturgical Catechesis”. In Sourcebook for Sunday and Seasons 1993, xii-xv. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1993
  • “The Lectionary for Children”. Liturgy 90, 23 (August-September 1992) 4-7,12. Reprinted in Supplement Liturgy 90, 1993
  • “Liturgical Catechesis:Mystagogy,Marriage or Misnomer”, Worship 66 (September,1992)386-97
  • “First Communion: Sacramental Event or Initiation Process ?” Professional Approaches for Christian Education (PACE) 21 (February 1992): 146-49
  • “Celebrations of the Word”, Liturgy : Ritual and Reconciliation 9, no 4 (Fall 1991):101-107
  • Overview of the Directory for Masses with Children”. In The Liturgy Documents: A Parish Resource , ed. E.Hoffmann, 230-33. Chicago: Litrugy Training Publications, 1991
  • “Baptismal Catechesis for Children of Catechetical Age”. In Issues in the Christian Initiation of Children: Catechesis and Lturgy . ed.K.Brown and F.Sikol, 47-60.Chicago:Liturgy Training Publications, 1989
  • s.v. “Theology of Forgiveness”. New Directory of Sacramental Worship , ed. Peter Fink. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1990
  • “Sacraments: Signs of Conversion and Commitment”. In The Catechist Connection 5, no 44 (1988 1-2)
  • The Catechumenate for Children: Sharing the Gift of Faith”. In The Living Light 24, no.4 (June 1988): 307—17. Reprinted in Readings in the Christian Initiation of Children , ed. V. Tufano, 66-82. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1994.
  • “The Lectionary as a Source Book for Catechesis in the RCIA”. In The Catechumenate 103 (May 1988): 10-22; Reprinted in Before and After Baptism: The Work of Teachers and Catechists , ed. J.A.Wilde, 39-51. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1988
  • “Catechesis and Sunday Worship”. In Catechesis: Sow Justice; Reap Peace . USCCB, Catechetical Sunday Publication, 1988, 6-8
  • “The Sign of the Cross”. In Liturgy 7, no.1 (1988) 61-65
  • s.v. “Catechesis, Catechetics”. In The New Dictionary of Theology , ed. J. Komonchak and M. Collins. Collegeville: Liturgical Press (Michael Glazier)1987.
  • “A Lectionary for Children?” In Living Light 23 no.4 (June 1987): 325-332
  • The 1987 Synod of Bishops and the “Crisis of Confession”. In The Fate of Confession , ed. M. Collins and D. Power, Concilium 190, no 2 (1987):11
  • Early Penance History and Its Implications for the Future of the Sacrament ”, In Reconciliation: The Continuing Agenda, ed. R. Kennedy, 83-95, Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1987
  • s.v. St. Thomas Aquinas. In Harper’s Dictionary of Religious Education , ed. K. and I. Cullly. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987
  • “Catechizing Through the Liturgy”. The Catechist Connection 3, no. 26 (January 1987) 1-4
  • Catechesis for a Community of Saints ”. Liturgy 5, no. 2 (1985): 95-99
  • “Reconciliation in the Wake of the Synod: Reflections of the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope John Paul II”. The Living Light 21 (1985) 328-336
  • The Rite of Penance for Children”. Study paper prepared for the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, 1985
  • “Reconciliation in the Early Church: Lessons from History”. New Catholic World 227 (January- February) 16-21
  • “Development of the Practice of Devotional Confession”. Questions liturgiques 64(1983):89-117
  • “From Penance to Confession: The Celtic Contribution ”. Bijdragen 43 (1982): 390-411
  • “Reflections on the Ministry of Teaching”, Service 4 (1982): 379-381
  • “Catechesis in Our Time”. Louvain Studies 7 (1979): 195-200
  • “Moral Education in Sourcebook for Modern Catechetics ”. ed. Michael Warren, 395-410. Winona, MN: Saint Mary’s Press, (1983)

Religious Education Materials

  • General Editor: Elementary religion series, Christ Jesus the Way, 2002-2005
  • General Editor: Celebrate series, Grades 1-8; Author: Celebrate for Grade One,
  • General Editor: Christ Jesus the Way, Benziger/McMillan/McGraw-Hill,2002-2003
  • Author: “Liturgy and Sacraments”, in Echoes of Faith : Video Assisted program for Catechist Formation, Resources for Christian Living, Allen, TX, 2001
  • Author: The Jesus Book, Paulist Press, 1983
  • Author: The Saints Book, Paulist press, 1981
  • Author: The Mary Book, Paulist Press, 1978
  • Author: The Gift if Peace, W.H. Sadlier, 1978
  • Co-Author: Leader’s Guide and Participant’s Guide, Paulist Bible Program, 1990
  • Co-Author: Come Together: An Adult Catechesis for the Eucharist , Tabor Publishing Co., 1985
  • Co-Author: Family: A Parish Religious Education Program . Paulist Press, 1975
  • Co-Author: Come to the Father (Teacher’s Guide, Grade One), Paulist Press, 1970
  • Editor: The Idea Book: A Collection of Shared Ideas for Religion Teachers , 2 volumes, Archdiocese of Chicago, 1970-71.
  • Consultant: Familytime, Tabor Publishing Company, 199
  • Consultant: Coming to the Faith Series , W.H. Sadlier Company, 1987-1989
  • Consultant: My Eucharist Book , W.H. Sadlier Company, 1987
  • Consultant: My Reconciliation Book , W.H. Sadlier, 1987
  • Consultant: The Easter People, Winston Press, 1974-1981

Audio-Visual Materials

  • Author: Liturgy for the Primary Child, Paulist Press, 1982
  • Discipline and the Primary Child, Paulist Press, 1978
  • Consultant: God’s Life, Our Life, Mark IV, 1983
  • Dialogue, Roa Films, 1975
  • Children of Light, Roa Films, 1974

Excerpts from Publications

To Listen and Tell: Introduction to the Lectionary for Masses with Children, with Commentary . By Kate Dooley, O.P.. Washington, D.C. :The Pastoral Press.

Sister Kate’s credentials are first rate. She explains the history, nature and structure of the lectionary and its intended uses, i.e. , Masses where a large number of children participate with Adults; Masses where the congregation is mainly children; separate liturgies of the word; sacramental celebrations; classroom or family prayer. She reminds us that the spiritual lives of children are no less real and serious than those of adults, and that children need to be nourished by the Bible proclaimed in words they can understand.
“’Lectionaries are creations of the churches. The Scriptures are inspired; lectionaries are not.’ Dooley provides an historical development of the lectionary of the church’s worship…and gives important background information on the construction of the Lectionary for the Mass in order to help parish leaders understand the design of the lectionary for Masses with children.

Liturgical Catechesis: Mystagogy, Marriage or Misnomer. By Catherine Dooley. Liturgical Catechesis: Resource Publications: San Jose, CA.

“Liturgical catechesis is only one part of the larger catechetical ministry but it is primary form of the catechetical ministry. Liturgical catechesis is not an alternative form of catechesis; catechesis by its very nature has a liturgical component as one aspect of the whole process and cannot be separated from the other tasks of catechesis. Scripture and tradition, liturgical worship and prayer, action for justice and the fostering of a solid community life are integrally related.”
Liturgists and Catechists are often viewed as opposites of religious education, i.e. ritual versus creed. Here Kate Dooley cleverly presents a relationship which blends the two: a) as coexisting as in the RCIA process of mystagogy ; b) as partners as in a marriage ; c) as a mistaken belief of religious contradictions, a misnomer . This is a must read on a Dooley book list.

The Echo Within: Emerging Issues in Religious Education : a tribute to Berard L. Marthaler, OFM, ed. by Catherine Dooley, O.P., and Mary Collins, O.S.B. Resources for Christian Living: Allen, TX.

Preeminent religious educators explore major issues in religious education. Topics include: the question of revelation, the story of the human place in God’s creation, the mystery of the Eucharist, the reform of the sacrament of reconciliation, Jesus as catechist, evangelization and catechesis in official discourse, and formation in Christian spirituality for the next century.
Here Kate Dooley offers the meaning of “new evangelization” as the process whereby individual and social life is transformed in the light of the Gospel.” But she also offers the need for “re-evangelization…of the baptized who have lost a living sense of the faith”. This text of Dooley, first published fifteen years ago, is most valuable in interpreting the concepts of both new- and re-evangelization.

Author Information

Elizabeth J.Flaherty

Elizabeth J. Flaherty, O.P., MTS, is a graduate of St. John Major Seminary (Plymouth, MI), former adjunct faculty at Sacred Heart Major Seminary (Archdiocese of Detroit), at SS Cyril and Methodius Seminary (Orchard Lake, MI), and Theology Department faculty, Siena Heights University, Adrian, MI.