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Mariella Frye

By Angela Zukowski


Mariella Frye (b. 1921), a Mission Helper of the Sacred Heart, was a national catechetical leader in the Catholic Church. She served in Diocesan Catechetical Offices and eventually was called to committee leadership roles within the National Catholic Conference of Bishops (NCCB) in Washington, D.C.  She was chosen (1973) to be the Associate Project Director for the United States National Catechetical Directory (NCD). The five year initiative set the stage for a comprehensive study of catechesis in the US Catholic Church and the publication of “Sharing the Light of Faith the first US National Catechetical Directory (1979).  She was the first woman appointed as an advisor to the US Delegation for the 1977 International Catechetical Synod of Bishops meeting held in Rome. She traveled extensively throughout the United States for the implementation of the Directory within dioceses and parishes. 


Biographical Data - Mariella Frye, MHSH, Ph.D.

June 2, 1921             Born in Washington, D.C.

June 12, 1021              Baptized in St. Dominic’s Church, Washington, D.C.

May 6, 1931               Confirmed in St. Dominic’s Church, Washington, D.C.

June 1938                    Graduated from Sacred Heart High School, Washington, D.C.

November 5, 1949      Entered the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, Baltimore, Md.

May 8, 1950               Received Habit

May 8, 1952               First Vows

May 9, 1955               Final Vows

June 13, 2009              60th Jubilee Celebration

1964                            Bachelors Degree in Psychology. Loyola College. Baltimore, MD

1968                            Masters Degree in Liberal Arts and Religious Education –

                                                Manhattenville College, NY.

1974                            Doctoral Degree in Education. University of Pittsburg. PA.

1974                            Began work on Sharing the Light of Faith. National Directory of

                                                Catechesis. NCCB. Washington. D.C.

1981                            President of the Archdiocesan Board of Christian Formation.

                                                Archdiocese of Baltimore.

1983                            Began Staffing the Study Committee on Women in the Church.

                                                NCCB. Washington. D.C.

1988-1992                   MHSH Leadership Team. Baltimore, Maryland.

1994-95                       Office of the Western Vicar (Bishop P. Francis Murphy). Baltimore,


2000-2003                   Chaplain in the Hospice Program at Mercy Hospital. Baltimore,


March 26, 2010          Died in Baltimore, Maryland after a long illness and buried at new

                                    Cathedral Cemetery

Early Life

Sr. Mariella Frye was born June 2, 1921, the second child and the first daughter of Ella Watson and John Frye. Her father was a bricklayer. When Mary Catherine was just two years old, her mother went to work as a telephone operator and Mary Catherine went to live with her grandmother, Mrs. Mary Ellen Watson.  She was just six when her father died, caught in a burning house.  Her mother worked for U.S. Government offices but finally became the telephone operator for the French embassy where she remained until retirement.  Her brother John was a disabled paraplegic veteran of World War II.

She was baptized Mary Catherine Frye on June 12, 1921 in St. Dominic’s Church, Washington, DC. by Rev. J.D. Fowler, O.P. and  Confirmed May 6, 1931 (St. Dominic’s Church) by Most Rev. John M. McNamara. 

She attended St. Dominic Elementary School (1934) and Sacred Heart High School (1938).  In high school, Mary Catherine was on the basketball and softball teams, was president of her junior class and was generally active in a small school where students were involved in everything. After graduation she spent 11 years working for the federal government, employed first by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Later she transferred to the Treasury Department where she remained until she entered the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart in November 5, 1949 at the age of 28.

While still working at the U.S. Department of the Treasure two Mission Helper Sisters visited her family home to take the parish census. She was not at home but the Sisters left a message for her with a family member: “Would Mary Catherine be interested in teaching religion?”  Her initial response to the idea was, “They must be out of their minds.”  But she was curious and the convent was just two houses away, so she visited and began a class taught by the Mission Helpers on how to teach religion.  “Two weeks later I was asked to teach,” she recalls, “and I loved it!  I just loved teaching religion” She accompanied the Sisters to Waldorf, Baden and Seat Pleasant, Maryland, as a fourth grade teacher of religion. After a few months, she decided that she would like to make religious education her life’s work, so she joined the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart Community, an apostolic missionary community, in Baltimore, Maryland. She wrote: “At first, Christ’s call was hardly discernible – enjoying the classes, finding the Sisters very pleasant company, experiencing a sense of accomplishment and peace.  After a few months I became less and less satisfied with my career, my social life, and more and happier when I was involved in ministry. Gradually the call became louder and louder. The pull toward religious life became stronger and stronger. After much prayer the day came when I knew I had to respond.”

First Ministries

 Sr. Mariella Frye’s first mission assignments included Baltimore, Maryland (1951), Dayton, Ohio (1952) and Covington, Kentucky (1953-55) visiting and teaching religion to children at the elementary level in parishes, convert instruction and preparing catechists for ministry.  In describing these years Frye said: “It meant bringing the good news to people in all walks of life…traveling the highways and byways to bring Christ to others…It meant responding to the Lord’s call to become an ever more caring, loving, giving person.”

In 1955, Frye was missioned to the Diocesan Office of Religious Education in Charlotte, North Carolina until 1959 when she moved to the same position for the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia. In 1968, she accepted an assignment as the Director of the Diocesan CCD Teacher Training Program and Assistant Director of the Religious Education in the Diocese of Pittsburg, PA.  While in the diocese she was elected to serve as the Vice President of the Sisters Council for the Diocese (1973-1974).  During this time she demonstrated extensive familiarity with the communications media.  She had media experience from her ministry in North Carolina and now in Pittsburg she applied her skills for preparing a number of TV programs, including the writing of the scripts and the coordination of the use of audio-visuals within the productions. She further orchestrated the establishment of the diocese’ audio-visual office and the development of a Master’s Program for Coordinators of Religious Education affiliated with Duquesne University.

Entering the National Catholic Catechetical Scene

On August 6, 1973 an NCCB (National Conference of Catholic Bishops) Press Release announced Sister Mariella Frye’s appointment as the Associate Project Director of the planned United States National Catechetical Directory.  The appointment was effective September 1, 1973.  Her position required overseeing the research, study, development and implementation of the Directory. The Directory was called Sharing the Light of Faith.

The extensive process involved analyzing the 17,000 suggestions from dioceses across the country through three national consultations, and five drafts before the final approval from Rome.    Drawing on scientific data, the Directory explained the cultural and religious trends affecting U.S. religious education. The Directory described itself as ‘pastoral standards and guidelines for catechesis.”  It discussed revelation and faith, church basic teachings, ecumenism and worship, while not neglecting social teaching and social issues, the formation of conscience and the role of the catechist.  The Directory even included a section for the catechesis of special groups, such as the aged and the handicapped.  Thus, conversations emerged for designing new approaches, or methodologies for inclusion and lifelong learning into both diocesan and parish pastoral catechetical plans.

The fourth draft of the document was discussed by the bishops at their November 1977 meeting. The bishops had been asked to submit amendments and Sister Frye indicated that 313 were submitted. Of these 34-35 were incorporated into the final document. “When the Bishops’ meeting opened they worked on the Directory all four days they met,” she said. The fifth draft had a vote of 216 to 12.  With strong affirmation Living the Light of Faith was sent to Rome for approval.  “That was finished about the time Pope Paul VI died, which held it up again,” Sister Frye said. “It was given final approval in October 1978.” (Pittsburg Catholic. Friday, February 16, 1979)

She indicated that Rome did ask for several changes. One suggestion dealt with revelation, which had been a key issue throughout the process and the subject of lengthy debate at the bishops meeting.  “There was division between static and dynamic understanding of revelation,” Sister Frye said. “To resolve the dilemma, revelation in the strict sense was capitalized and in all other ways a small ‘r’ was used”, as Rome asked that revelation be used only in the strict sense.

Sister Mariella Frye coordinated the implementation efforts involving the National Catholic Educational Conference, the National Conference of Diocesan Directors and the Organization for the Continuing Education of the Roman Catholic Clergy. She orchestrated the preparation and production of audio-cassettes, filmstrips, transparences, for introducing the new NCD to religious educators and Church leaders for placing it into historical perspective.

She worked with Fr. Bernard Marthaler, OP, who composed the first official commentary on Sharing the Light of Faith.  Her constant attention and passion during the implementation phase of the Directory was focused on informing Church leaders and catechists that Sharing the Light of Faith contributed to a deeper understanding of what catechesis is to be all about in the 20th century.  She consistently proclaimed that catechesis is more than simple instruction for children. There was a broader connotation for a new approach to teaching religion (catechesis) woven throughout the Directory.  It called for a new lens for understanding catechesis as a lifelong process. She stated:  “Adults are often not aware they need ongoing catechesis. They must be made aware that catechesis is the responsibility of the entire faith community, not just religion teachers.”  (The Dialog. March 16, 1979)

“This document has more grassroots input than any other Church document: it is not a bishops’ document,” said Sister Mariella, referring to the NCD. (Catholic Review 3/7/80 – Archdiocese of Baltimore).  She lamented the fact that there were a lot of people who still had never heard of it.  She identified the four dimensions which encompass the person of faith (1) sharing his or her faith life; (2) providing an environment to experience Christian community; (3) responsibility for developing worship and prayers, which includes learning how to pray and (4) constantly encouraging others to incorporate their faith in the service of others.  She held firmly that all catechesis should be multicultural in nature, with minority groups, particularly blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Orientals, addressed in their own language, thought patterns and customs.  She emphasized that the Directory was strong on providing catechesis for the handicapped as well as on the theme of social justice.

International Contribution to Catechesis

In August 1977 Frye was named as the first woman to serve as an advisor to the U.S. Delegation that went to Rome for the International Catechetical Synod of Bishops which opened on September 30, 1977.  The Synod of Bishops is an international advisory body which normally meets every three years at the Vatican to discuss a designated topic and make recommendations to the Pope.  Approximately 215 bishops from around the world attended the 1977 Synod. The purpose of the Synod was to shed important light on major aspects of contemporary Catholic religious education, including its problems, purposes, content, methods and audience (NCCB Press Release 8/3/1977). A report submitted to the Synod by the U.S. National Conference of Bishops  US Delegation described catechetics as “one of the major battlegrounds” in the Catholic Church in this country since Vatican Council II, adding that the turmoil now seems to be “abating”. (NCCB Press Release 8/3/1977)

Prior to the Synod sessions a preliminary planning meeting of the NCCB Delegation Committee was held in St. Louis. Bishops in attendance were: Archbishop Joseph Bernardin of Cincinnati, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCC); Cardinal John Carberry of St. Louis, Archbishop John Wealon of Hartford, Conn and Bishop Raymond Lucker of New Ulm, Minn. Sr. Mariella Frye was in attendance.

The NCCB report to the Synod called the internal conflict in the Church “the most devastating handicap to catechesis since Vatican II” but also stated that “many devastating problems have been non-catechetical in origin or nature.”  “First among these,” the bishops’ report has been “the breakdown in the cultural order.”  The United States had been moving away from at least semblance of allegiance to and practice of Christian values to the condition of a secularized and even…amoral society. Other issues discussed for the Synod were:  (1) the social and psychological context of religious education in the United States; (2) motivational factors, including the importance of bringing people, through catechesis, to adopt an evangelical, Christ-centered orientation in their lives; (3) questions pertaining to the role of doctrinal instruction as part of overall catechesis; (4) the key role played by adults – parents, teachers and the adult community at large.  Sister Mariella Frye was asked to write the paper for Archbishop Whealon to introduce these insights during the Synod in Rome.

The Challenge of the Women’s Pastoral

 In 1983 following the implementation of the Directory, the NCCB approached Frye to staff a committee to study the status of Women in the Church – both religious and laity. The committee worked for nine years and eventually published a report that influenced the role of women in dioceses. “Especially,” she says, “in dioceses lead by the more progressive bishops.” 

“The pastoral is probably one of the biggest challenges the American bishops have yet tackled.”(5/25/1985 Pittsburg Catholic News reported from the May 17 Catholic Press Convention talk in Orlando, Florida).   Sister Frye indicated “the intended Pastoral Letter , initially titled Partners in the Mystery of Redemption had its genesis in papal writings as far back as Pope John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris, which acknowledged women’s developing awareness and search for human dignity in domestic and public life. “

She called the first two years of discussions by the women’s gatherings in dioceses and the bishops “a painful, painful experience” but one which clarified concern in several areas: women’s rights as persons, the inconsistency of church teaching and practice, patriarchal structures, male images of God and liturgy” (CPA 1985 Convention).  In the same year,  Frye was invited to participate in the UN's Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi represented the culmination of ten years of work on gender empowerment. Attended by approximately 1,400 official delegates from 157 countries and 15,000 NGO representatives, the conference aimed to evaluate the progress made during the United Nations Decade for Women and devise a new course of action for the advancement of women. Regarding the Nairobi experience Frye said: “This is an experience of a lifetime.  Over 10,000 women from all nations were at the opening session. Saturday Sr. Teresa Kane and I are going to Nakura to see some women’s projects.” The Nairobi experience only intensified Frye’s passion for women’s issues in the world and the Church.


The second draft, released in April 1990, focused on the dignity and equality of women and stressed the sinfulness of sexism. It asked that all church roles not requiring ordination be open to women and that the Vatican quickly consider the possibility of ordaining women deacons.

Most satisfying for Sister Mariella had been the development of a process that enabled women to express their feelings about their role in the Church and in society. “Catholic women are not of one mind, particularly on Church issues,” she explained.  “Some are very comfortable with the status quo, but others feel like second class citizens.  There are statements on the equality of women throughout Church documents but equality is not being put into practice. If women are treated as equals, many other things will fall into place.”

In 1991 the Vatican called the NCCB’s Study Committee on Women in the Church to Rome for a consultation of concern. The consultation, requested by the Vatican, included five Vatican officials and bishops from 13 countries besides the United States. Originally no women were invited to the consultation; however, the persistence of the US Bishops won out and Sr. Mariella Frye and Dr. Susan Mutto (one of the key writers of the proposed document) were invited to be observers during the discussions. Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, said many participants at the May 28-29, 1991 Vatican meeting felt the document should not carry the weight of a pastoral letter, but be a pastoral statement or other type of document with “a lesser value of authority.” (The Catholic Review. Wednesday June 5, 1991 page 6)

The proposed pastoral letter was very close to Mariella's heart and caused her much pain over the years as she struggled with progressive pastoral ideas and realities for women’s roles in the Church in the 20th and 21st centuries. There was definitely something different about the tone, attitude, engagement, theology and perspective of the proposed document. It was a document that attempted to listen to the voices of women (and men)  in the Church and tried to respond with pastoral sensitivity and prophetic vision. That “something different” did not last. There were rumblings, about the name, the process and format.  Opponents claimed that a new sin had been introduced, the sin of sexism.  Three more drafts incorporated changes. “By the time the final draft was presented to the bishops’ meeting in November 1992, it was clear that while a majority would vote for the pastoral, the two-thirds vote necessary for passage simply fell short”, stated Frye. This was one of Mariella Frye’s biggest disappointments within the Church.

In Crossing the Bridge (Church 2001) Dolores Leckey speaking of the challenges that the Committee on Women and the specific task of the writing committee faced wrote: “That would not have been possible without the skill and pastoral acumen of Sister Mariella Frye, chief staff person for both committees.  A Mission Helper of the Sacred Heart and a nationally known catechist.”

Bishop Imesch spoke in this way of the outcome of the Bishops vote on the proposed Pastoral on Women: “How history will judge our efforts during these past nine years may be disputed. What cannot be disputed is the fact that women have very deeply felt and legitimate concerns – concerns that range from abuse at home, less than equal standing in the Church.  Women need to know that we will not dismiss their concerns just because we cannot agree upon the appropriate response- women also need to hear our words translated into action.”

Last Years

Time needed to heal the drama for all the effort, dedication, energy and passion Sr. Mariella offered the Church as she attempted to navigate the Study Committee of Women in the Church and preparing the final draft document of the Pastoral Letter. She retired in 1992 assuming full-time ministry caring for her aging mother.  Her mother died in 1994.  After her mother’s death Frye stated: “I felt deeply called to hospice ministry. I wanted to give to others what had been given to me.  Within a year, I responded to that call. “After completing a 30 hour program to be a hospice volunteer, she started volunteer work in pastoral care ministry. Within a few months, she began work as a part-time chaplain at Stella Maris Hospice at Mercy Hospital in downtown Baltimore, Maryland.  She continued in Hospice ministry until she entered full retirement. 

Sister Mariella died on March 26, 2010 at The Villa after suffering complications from a stroke.  Her life witnessed a profound faith through a long life of dedicated service to God, the Church, her religious community the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart and to all whom she met along her path.  Within her religious community she was a prophetic voice alerting the Sisters to the signs of the times and the challenges that women religious needed to face in support of all women in the Church and society. In her calm, determined and compassionate manner, she was ever faithful to her calling and the vision she believed in all through her life. Sr. Mariella Frye’s contribution to the catechetical ministry of the Church may not be known by prolific writings but historically her contribution has made a difference for the evolution of Catechesis in the Catholic Church in the United States.

Honors and Awards

1978                NCEA Presidential Award for Outstanding Service to Catholic Education.

1980                Sadlier Dinger Award. (In recognition of her contribution to the ministry

                                    of religious education in America). 

1988                C. Albert Koob Merit Award from the National Catholic Education

                                    Association (for her work on the National Catechetical Directory)

1989                Catholic Library Association Award. 

1995                Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Archdiocesan Medal of Honor

1999                Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Papal Award

2002                National Conference for Catechetical Leadership Life Time Achievement


Contributions to Christian Education

A staunch supporter for the place of women in the church and society in general, the NCCB (1983) selected Frye to assist with the ordinary work of the NCCB’s Study Committee on Women in the Church. Her specific task was to organize the work of the committee for preparing a Pastoral Letter on Women in the Church initially titled Partners in the Mystery of Redemption.  She maintained the pastoral, steady, intelligent and prophetic course for the work of committees she served.  While in leadership in her Mission Helper community she brought the same passion and enthusiasm of her experiences, research and pastoral insights for challenging the Sisters to re-imagine themselves in changing times. She spoke clearly and boldly as a prophetic voice through each MHSH Chapter she was a delegate. Her personal writings are not numerous because her primary efforts were grounded in assisting the composition of Church documents associated with her leadership roles in the Church.  However, it was her presence and influence that was dynamic, inspiring, compassionate and holy is how those who knew her remember her today.  She was one of the Church’s 20th century catechetical pioneers that prepared a pathway for a new vision for catechesis grounded in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

Msgr. Wilfrid H. Paradis on Sr. Mariella Frye, MHSH, PhD

In the 1974 issue of The Living Light, Msgr. Wilfrid H. Paradis, Associate Secretary in the Department of Education of the USCC and director of Research, Policy and Program Development reflected on the importance of Sr. Mariella Frye, MHSH, to the work of the NCCB in light of planning, research, design and implementation of the first National Catechetical Directory. 

In selecting a person to work side by side with Msgr. Paradis, he wrote: “The need to employ a woman who had wide experience in the field, who would bring feminine insights and sensitivity to the project, was recognized immediately.  The unanimous choice of the committee fell on Sr. Mariella Frye, a Mission Helper of the Sacred Heart.” (The Living Light. P. 298)

Paradis said:  “In all likelihood, one of Sister Mariella’s most lasting contributions to religious education in our times will be her participation in the preparation of a National Catechetical Directory.  This will be a document of historical significance – if only for the fact that it is the first for the Catholic Church in the United States and among the first in the world.  Sister Mariella will be involved in selecting and preparing educational materials for nationwide use; planning and executing three massive church wide consultations; developing a system for recording and analyzing tens of thousands  of recommendations and comments on these separate occasions; recruiting authors and sharing with them in the writing and revising of the various drafts of the documents ; cooperating with and carrying out the directives of the Directory Committee (decision-making body) and the Bishop’s Committee of Policy and Review. (The Living Light, p. 302)

Quotes about Sister Mariella Frye:

 “Sister Mariella manages to assimilate the rich and varied experiences she has had into an integral, balanced whole. When meeting her for the first time, one is struck by her easy and relaxed manner. She comes across as a person of conviction about the church, the world and the equality of women in both. Though her work on the National Directory demands long hours at the office and good deal of travel, when in ‘Washington she lives with other members of her community.  She spends every free weekend at the MHSH motherhouse in Towson in order to be with, “the sisters who are retired and the other religious who live there.”  (Statement written by Msgr. Wilfrid Paradis acknowledging Sr. Mariella Frye’s contributions during the International Year of Women – The Living Light, p. 303)

“The author wants to thank Sister Mariella Frye, M.H.S.H. who had been charged with the implementation of the Directory; her encouragement and patience were important in keeping the project alive at times when the author’s resolve had weakened.”(Bernard L. Marthaler, O.F.M. Conv in the Preface to The Official Commentary on Sharing the Light of Faith. January 1980)

“Sister Mariella Frye, an exemplary religious woman, has been tireless in her commitment to the church and, in a special way, to the Archdiocese of Baltimore.  As a young Mission Helper of the Sacred Heart she directed Vacation/Bible Schools and was a pioneer in giving talks on human sexuality in both high school and religious education programs.   With twenty years of ministry at the National Conference of Bishops, she is best remembered for her untiring efforts in the writing of the Pastoral Letter in Response to Women’s Concerns and as a wealth of experience to her leadership positions on the Board of Christian Formation.  In granting this honor to Sister Mariella, Bishop Murphy is recognizing her life and religious commitment as evidence of the Love and Service she has bought to her Discipleship. Even with all of her gifts, her personality has reflected a serenity and generosity to respond to the many challenges found in the church which she continues to serve so well.” (Archdiocese of Baltimore Press Release. December 6, 1995)

“On this bridge of memory three statues cluster close together Bishop Joseph Imesch, Sister Mariella Frye and Dr. Susan Muto – all true collaborators in the mystery of the pastoral letter on women’s concerns.  The sculpture resembles Rodin’s famous “Burghers of Calais” – without the rope around their necks.  The statue depicts six burghers imprisoned during the siege of Calais in 1397. Under the sentence of death they stand with their arms around each other, in a circle, looking calm, strong, and supportive of one another. These threesome, a sub-group of the Pastoral Letter Committee (of five bishops and five women consultants) faced no death threat, but they did labor for a very long time under difficult conditions.  (Crossing the Bridge: Women in the Church by Dolores Leckey. Church. Winter 2001 p. 15)

Sister Mariella was one of the great catechetical leaders and one of the significant woman leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in the USA in the 20th century.  She was very compassionate but a strong woman of the church, particularly during the 1970’s and 1980’s. She brought dignity and respect to whatever pastoral assignment she engaged.  She had hoped that her swan song would be the issuance of a ‘Pastoral Letter on Women,’ and the fact that it did not happen was something of a major significant disappoint that she had to come to terms with.  One of the many gifts was her ability to bring stability and vision and get people of different dispositions on issues to sit around a table and converse. She did not like to define people She would say “We are one coming together to find a creative solution to meet the needs of the Church today!” (Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D.Min. The Baltimore Sun. Thursday, April 1, 2000.)

Mariella Frye’s Reflections:

 Once Sr. Mariella Frye was asked: What has life as a nun meant?” She replied:

“ It has meant being a part of a community of women Religious dedicated to proclaiming God’s word by evangelizing and catechizing, bringing the good news to people in all walks of life and in a variety of circumstances. It has meant traveling the highways and the byways to bring Christ to others: giving convert classes, teaching teachers, helping children and adults to grow in their relationship with the Lord, helping people to know the Scriptures and see the meaning which the Scriptures can give to their lives. It has meant responding to the Lord’s call to become an ever more caring, loving, giving person.  Through my vocation, I am in a position to take a vital role in the renewal of the Church called for by Vatican II.  I experience community and all that is involved in the give and take of community life. My lie has been deeply enriched by all of the people who have touched me in the community and in my ministry, each of whom has enabled me to touch the Lord in them.” (Sr. Mariella Frye 10/19/79)

“My faith is part and parcel of who I am. I couldn’t imagine not having it!” (Sr. Mariella Frye. The Catholic Review. February 17, 2000. P. 16)



 Frye, Mariella. (1970). What have they done to the catechism? Paulist Press 1970. 

            (Written while she was in the CCD Office of the Diocese of Pittsburg)


Frye, Mariella (1970). Where do we go from here? William J. Reedy (Ed.)

“What are they teaching our children in religion? (pp. 1-35). New York: Sadlier Publishers.

Unpublished manuscript not submitted for Publication

(However, this manuscript was the foundation for the establishing the Master’s Catechist Formation Program in the Diocese of Pittsburg, Pa.)

Frye, Mariella (1974). A Model for Training Coordinators of Religious Education.  Unpublished Manuscript. University of Pittsburg, PA. (Located in the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart Archives)

Unpublished Papers:

Frye, Mariella. The Challenge of Peace:  God’s Promise and Our Response – Catechetical Implications. (MHSH Archives no date given probably around 1978)

Articles about Mariella Frye:

Paradis, Wilfred (1974).   Mariella Frye.  The Living Light.  P. 298-303

Articles Co-Authored:

Frye, Mariella and Paradis, Wilfrid. (1974, Fall)  The National Catechetical Directory:  Major Issues and Concerns in the Field. The Living Light, 11(3),

NCCB  National Catechetical Directory Publication Materials

National Catechetical Directory. USCCB Publications office.  1978

Frye, Mariella (1985).  Listen and Follow with an Open Heart.

USCCB Publications Office.

Frye, Mariella (1986). Speak the Truth in LoveCatechetical Sunday Materials. USCCB

 Publications Office. 

Excerpts from Publications

In What have they Done to the Catechism? (Paulist 1970), Frye addressed the question of the emergence of the new catechetical textbooks that definitely looked a lot different than those most of the parents studied.  She addressed the question: “But are they just new looks for old books? Or are they completely new books with more drastic changes than just format and style?” (p.4) In addressing the question she wrote: “The blue-covered Baltimore Catechism, with the doctrinally incorrect picture of Jesus coming out of the tomb as guards fell back, has given way to bright yellows, oranges, deep blues, reds and greens.  The pictures are a far cry from the spotted milk bottles and pen sketches of an effeminate Jesus. As for the content, it has a new look, too. Instead of questions and answers, the pictures are complemented by narratives which refer to the Bible, to the liturgy, to social problems, to things like life, and love, and friendship, and freedom, and other human values.” (p.5)

In What Have they Done to the Catechism? Frye explains the influence of the new development psychology of the person and methodologies that would be enhancing the quality of faith formation with children through the new catechetical materials. She speaks of the inclusion of creativity, life experiences and the cultural and social factors impelling a new approach to religious education.  The new methodology was to help students become “the Christian men and women of the future through whom Christ will continue to incarnate and redeem the world.” (p. 30)

In her writings she endeavored to articulate that the new religious education methodology moved away from the realm of abstraction and would bring students closer to real life.  It would eliminate the false split between what is sacred and what is not.  “No longer,” she wrote, “can the term sacred be confined to worship, fasting, and nominal tithing.  No longer can it be encased in buildings, offices, and religious duties. Rather, we now regard as sacred anything or anyone that contributes to bringing peace on earth and unity among men.” (Frye. Sadlier. P. 12)

Frye, Mariella (1970). What Have They Done to the Catechism? Paulist Press. (Written while she was in the CCD Office in the Diocese of Pittsburg, PA)

In order to capture the catechetical pioneering experience and wisdom of Sr. Mariella Frye’s perspective which influenced her contributions to Sharing the Light of Faith (NCD) her article “What Have They Done to the Catechism? highlights the impact of the Second Vatican Council on catechetical methodologies for animating a deeper perspective for understanding the teachings of the Catholic Church in the early 70’s.

Frey, Mariella (1974). A Model for Training Coordinators of Religious Education. (Unpublished Manuscript. University of Pittsburg, PA. (Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart Archives – Unpublished)

Dr. Frey’s doctoral work demonstrated a radical new methodology for Catechetical Formation that broke away from the traditional question and answer religious formation styles to one that was inclusive of the new sciences in education, psychology and sociology.  She applies ‘The Adaptive Way’, a methodology of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, to an evolving era of teaching and learning.  The bases of her dissertation became the backbone of the Diocese of Pittsburg new Catechetical Formation Program and eventually captured the imagination of the USCCB for hiring her to co-chair the composition of the new National Catechetical Directory (1970’s).

Frey, Mariella.  The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response – Catechetical Implications. (Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart Archives – Unpublished but elements exist in News Releases)

Dr. Frey was well connected with the USCCB’s prophetic ecclesial leadership.  While co-directing the publication of the National Directory for Catechesis she spent quality time with the American Bishops who were composing the Pastoral Letter on The Challenge of Peace.  She identified creative methodologies for integrating the Bishops insights into catechetical initiatives throughout the Church.

Frey, Mariella. (1985). Listen and Follow with an Open Heart.  Catechetical Sunday Materials.  USCCB Publications Office.

Following the implementation of the National Directory of Catechesis “Sharing the Light of Faith,” Dr. Frey began preparing catechetical materials for introducing parishes for celebrating the role and ministry of catechists and catechetical leaders within the parish each year. These basic promotional materials introduced the initial steps for raising parish’s consciousness (marketing) to the importance of catechesis within the Church. This was the beginning step for the annual celebration of Catechetical Sunday which continues in September each year. In the initial materials Dr. Frye highlighted the basic principles from the National Directory of Catechesis in a creative approach that influenced a paradigm shift for the Church’s recognition of the significance for being a catechist or catechetical leader in the Church.

Author Information

Angela Zukowski


Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski (D.Min.) is a Mission Helper of the Sacred Heart. She is a professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Director of the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives of the University of Dayton, 1979 – present. The Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation, a robust online international catechetical, lay leadership and faith formation program, is a key dimension of Zukowski’s ministry. She has served as the world president for the International Catholic Association for Radio and Television (UNDA 1994- 2001) and on the Pontifical Council for Social Communications (Vatican, 1988-2002).  She is an international consultant for Catholic communications and adult faith formation serving on both national and international committees.  In May 2012 she received the National Conference of Catechetical Leaders Life Time Achievement Award in Catechesis. Sr. Mariella Frye was a close friend, mentor and confident of Sr. Zukowski.