Speakers and authors well-known in national catechetical circles will share the bill with local Catholics and catechists this summer at the Diocese of Rochester’s 2013 Catechetical Congress on Family.
The event, titled "Households of Faith: Rooted and Grounded in Love," will take place Aug. 2-3 at Aquinas Institute in Rochester, featuring two keynote presentations, more than 30 workshops and a showcase of five Catholic publishing companies. Father Michael White and Tom Corcoran, authors of the 2013 book Rebuilt: The Story of a Catholic Parish, will give the Aug. 2 keynote presentation on bringing new disciples to Christ. Dr. Jo Ann Paradise, national consultant for Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, will give the Aug. 3 keynote on the Catholic Church’s teaching that the family is the center of transforming faith and love.
Presenting the congress is the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Catechesis, whose staff is eager to bring so many national speakers to Rochester to provide information about today’s families, said Maribeth Mancini, the department’s director.
"It’s phenomenal that we can have this level of speakers come to our diocese," added Mary Dundas, diocesan coordinator of evangelization and sacramental catechesis. "People are really excited. They can experience a national conference on a local level."
The catechetical congress is one way the diocese is responding to a recent call by New York state’s bishops to place more emphasis on the family. Focusing on the family is critical to effective catechetical programs, the bishops and the state’s Council of Diocesan Directors of Religious Education wrote in their September 2012 document, "The Catechetical Leader in the Third Millennium." Dundas said she hopes participants in the catechetical congress will come away from the event with some good ideas of ways to implement the document’s recommendations.
Diocesan staff members also have been involved in supporting "Strong Catholic Families, Strong Catholic Youth," a new nationwide initiative intended to help Catholic families live their faith and share it with their children. The family-focused catechetical congress is another way of promoting that initiative, added Jonathan Schott, diocesan coordinator of catechetical services and formation.
"The thing that is binding this all together is how we understand family. It’s truly about how families and parishes encounter Jesus and how we are disciples," Schott said.
Another catechetical topic of great interest lately is the "new evangelization," which is an understanding of faith-sharing as a lifelong process of reaching out to those who have fallen away from the church, seek to grow in their faith or don’t know Christ.
When people hear the term "new evangelization" they often start to think of parish programs and services, but don’t always realize that the family is one of the primary agents of the new evangelization, Schott said, noting that many of the catechetical congress’ workshops will focus on this theme.
"If we can get … a better understanding of how the family is an agent of preaching the good news of Jesus Christ, then that is a victory," Schott said. "We want to hopefully have people be able to make connections and get new ideas and implement new concepts in order to enhance the family’s participation in their parish and their faith, whether it is at home or at Mass."
Each of the three keynote speakers also will present workshops during the congress, and several Catholic publishing companies are sponsoring workshops from nationally known Catholic authors and speakers. A dozen local catechists and Catholic Charities staff members also will present workshops, as will Michael Theisen, director of membership services for the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry and former director of youth ministry for the Diocese of Rochester.
Registration for the congress is a la carte, meaning participants can register for as many or as few of the event’s components as they wish, Dundas said. For those who register by July 8, each workshop or keynote presentation will cost just $12 apiece. That price will go up to $15 each from July 9 to July 29. After July 29 participants must register at the door, where each workshop or keynote will cost $20. Lunches during the congress will cost $8 each, and a dinner on Aug. 2 will cost $10. Admission to the publisher’s showcase on Aug. 2 is free.
Online registration for specific workshops and presentations will close automatically when their maximum capacity is met, so Dundas encouraged anyone interested to register as soon as possible.
"I think (the congress) has enough depth that anyone who works for a parish or volunteers in a parish is going to find something that they can come to that’s going to give them new insights, excitement, enthusiasm about their ministry, as well as some valuable information," she said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To view the complete schedule or register for the congress, visit homelinks.dor.org/summer. The event’s Facebook page may be accessed by searching for "2013 DOR Catechetical Congress."