By Kathy Schmugge
COLUMBIA — The 2002 All Ministries Conference stayed on target all day with the theme “Faith in the Marketplace: Putting Faith into Action.”
Keynote speaker, Diana Hayes, Ph.D, gave the marching orders that all the other speakers naturally followed in their own sessions, demonstrating their collective vision of how faith should be reflected in one’s prayer life, family life, cultural and generational communities, and in the response to social issues.
“There was a great sense of continuity throughout the day,” said Oratorian Father Joseph Wahl, commenting how the speakers had formed a cohesive unit in a very short time. Wahl, Christian Brother Ed Bergeron, St. Mary Namur Sister Maryjane Golden, Dominican Sister Patricia Keating, and Paul Schroeder, director of Evangelization and Catechesis, were on the conference planning team.
Hayes, associate professor of theology at Georgetown University, has a juris doctorate and a doctorate in sacred theology from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. She is also the first African-American woman to earn this degree. Her expertise is in liberation theology with an emphasis in black liberation and womanist theology.
In her keynote speech, she gave some tangible ways people could prevent the common practice of setting their faith aside during the week and “dusting it off just for Sunday.” Her talk spoke to the document, “Our Hearts Were Burning,” addressing the need for adult education that can lead people to a mature faith.
“I could relate to her conversion experience because I am also the only Catholic in my family,” said John Gist, parishioner of St. Mary Church in Rock Hill. “I also agree with her that we must know our history because it breaks down barriers. By knowing who we are and where we came from, we can see that we are all uniquely created in the image and likeness of God.”
Another speaker, U.S. Coucil of Catholic Bishops Catholic Campaign for Human Development Executive Director, Father Robert Vitillo, reiterated some of Hayes’ thoughts on how to put faith into action regarding social concerns.
“If you really believe [and live as a Christian], you will love and if you really love, you with have compassion,” Father Vitillo said. His breakout session was entitled “Can the Good News’ be Preached Without Hearing the Cries of the Poor?”
Donna Tomasini, director of religious education at Our Lady of the Hills in Columbia, plans to put some of the wisdom she heard in Tom Hild’s talk, “Putting Faith into Action in the Family,” to use in her role as the leader of her parish’s religious education program.
Hild described the role of a catechetical leader as one who should be designing a city. But far too often, he sees them get caught up in getting too involved in the details of a specific job that should be delegated. This style of micromanaging can hinder the essential role of the leader, to be the visionary and goal setter.
“I think we tend to like building carts because of the instant gratification,” surmised Tomasini.
With a wide range of leadership experience, Kathy Hendricks, who edits catechetical material published by USCCB, presented “Forming Faith in a Fast-Paced World: A Five Pronged Approach.” She discussed: “A Fresh Face for Catechetical Leadership,” “Collaborative Ministry,” “The Bigger Picture,” “Contextual Thinking —Looking at the Lives and Cultures of Parishioners,” and “Evangelization with a Multi-faceted Dimension.”
An application of contextual thinking giving by Hendricks is in the treatment of young adults who return to the church for their marriage ceremony or baptism of their child. If they are confronted with ridiculous obstacles (not prescribed by doctrine or in the rubrics) that make arrangements for ceremonies so difficult, these returning Catholics go elsewhere.
“Putting Faith into Action in a Church of Many Faces” was the subject of Dominican Sister Rosa Monique Pena a national catechetical leader for the Hispanic.
She demonstrated ways that people could be inclusive instead of condescending to minorities. She not only discussed the importance of learning about new cultures, but maintaining one’s own culture, inviting others to experience it as well.
“Sister Pena gave an excellent workshop. I could relate very well to what she was saying about the feelings of people in minority groups,” said Msgr. Joseph Roth. The vicar general referred to the time he was in Japan as a missionary.
The conference concluded with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert J. Baker. In his homily he spoke about how Christians must be engaged in discussions about current topics like just war, abortion, death penalty, stewardship, and issues related to the abuse of God’s gift of human sexuality.
He said that criticism should not stop Christians from speaking out. He used the recent determination of Pope John Paul II’s interreligious meeting in Assisi, Italy, to bringing all faiths together to discuss peaceful resolutions over violence despite some criticism for his actions.
“We must avoid ‘pie-in-the-sky’ Catholicism that ignores the Gospel truth saying ‘yes’ on Sunday but not following through the rest of the week, not taking the time to study Scripture and not willing to confront the moral challenges of the day” said the bishop.
“For the pie-in-the-sky Catholic, the truth has so many sides it can never be known or applied in their everyday lives,” he said. “But for you who would take the time to come to this conference, you are like the young man in a recent Sunday’s Gospel reading who first said ‘no’ to the master, but then went into the vineyard to do the master’s work.
“As committed practical Catholics even in our day and time you will find ways of building bridges of unity, harmony and peace in the world in which we live.”