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Fr. Saunders named vicar of faith formation

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Every year since he was ordained, Father William P. Saunders, pastor of Our Lady of Hope Church in Potomac Falls, has taught a religious education class. He’s covered every level —  from elementary a to graduate school. “I've always enjoyed teaching and talking about the faith,” he said. 

Still, it came as a surprise when Bishop Michael F. Burbidge created an episcopal vicar of faith formation and appointed him to the position. Father Saunders takes over many of the responsibilities of Father Paul F. deLadurantaye, who served as the executive director of the St. Thomas More Institute and as secretary for catechetics and sacred liturgy before being appointed to the English section of the Vatican Secretariat of State. 

Read Fr. Saunders' "Straight Answers" columns in the Catholic Herald archives.

Father Saunders was ordained for the diocese in 1984 and then served at St. Mary Church in Alexandria, as chaplain at Marymount University in Arlington and at Queen of Apostles Church in Alexandria. In 2000, he was appointed the founding pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish. He was dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College in Alexandria from 1997 to 2001.

Father Saunders now will split his time between the diocesan chancery and his parish. In the near future, he hopes to meet with all the directors of religious education in the diocese. “(I want to) listen to them, what their assessment is of what the diocese offers and how the diocese can assist them in the faith formation of those entrusted to their care,” he said.

Related: What is an episcopal vicar?

He hopes to make greater use of technology to train catechists. “So many classes are offered online, so how we can better use the resources like the Institute of Catholic Culture and the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom?” he said. “Not only do you have great sites like FORMED but we can deliver instruction to our catechists via the internet and they don’t have to drive far away to attend a class.”

Father Saunders believes his many years in a parish will serve him well in his new role. “I know what is demanded in a parish, I know what DREs are responsible for and the challenges they face,” he said. “I understand the circumstances of families in Northern Virginia.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018