By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald
Seeking ways to cultivate unity in today’s mixed up world? Find inspiration Jan. 10-12 at the 2019 Go! Gulf Coast Faith Formation Conference at the Pontchartrain Center, 4545 Williams Blvd., in Kenner.
Themed “Go Forth: That All May Be One,” taken from the Gospel of St. John (17: 20-21), the conference aims to foster a welcoming presence in the Catholic Church through its keynote speakers and break-out sessions.
“We decided to focus on those who are disenfranchised or who don’t feel like they are part of the church,” said Aline Harbison, director, Gulf Coast Faith Formation Conference, and associate director of Catechetical Leadership with the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Office of Religious Education. “We need to first ask ourselves, ‘Where are we are on our faith journey?’”
Harbison said conference speakers will reach out to those who don’t feel included in the church, perhaps due to being disabled, impoverished, suffering from racism or even abuse.
“We are all the body of Christ,” she said.
Something new, uplifting
The conference opens on a Thursday, which was formerly a clergy day but now has become more inclusive with a pre-conference music performance and educational liturgy session in the morning and a “leadership afternoon.”
World Library Publications is sponsoring performances by Catholic music composers Lorraine Hess, John Angotti, Craig Colson and James Wahl. Hess is the conference’s musical director and composer of the “One Lord, One Faith” theme song. The composers will share their work and offer best practices for catechetical leaders and liturgical ministers.
“People who work with music in parishes and schools will benefit as well as those who enjoy music,” Harbison said. “They will go through parts of the Mass and show new ways of doing music and how to correctly choose music for the different parts of the Mass. So, it’s a workshop and a concert all together. It’s really going to be beautiful.”
Leadership Thursday afternoon explores the journey of a spiritual leader and will reveal how to incorporate Catholic identity into one’s daily work. The grand-opening/Happy Hour of the Exhibit Hall follows.
Another new attraction on Jan. 10 will be a daylong (9 a.m.-3 p.m.) seminar presented by the McGrath Institute for Church Life of the University of Notre Dame, “Teaching at the Interface Between Science and Religion.” Mass and lunch are included.
McGrath Institute professors will address topics on science and religion. Speakers include: Stephen Barr, Ph.D., professor of physics and astronomy, University of Delaware; Chris Baglow, Ph.D., director, Science and Religion Initiative, McGrath Institute for Church Life, University of Notre Dame; and Cory Hayes, Ph.D., senior professor of philosophy and theology, St. Joseph Seminary College.
Schools are invited to send science and religion teachers.
Harbison said this session was inspired after a fifth grader she met at a school asked, “How can I believe what I hear in science class and religion class?”
“I thought, ‘Fifth grade, and they are already questioning this?’” Harbison said.
Keynoters focus on theme
On Jan. 11, Jason Angelette will speak on “First We Come, Then We Go! Fostering Unity in a Divided World.”
“We have to have a relationship with Christ ourselves, then we can foster unity in the world,” Harbison said about the talk.
Breakout sessions on Jan. 11 include what catechists need to know; being a welcoming community; the Ignatian way; the Catholic Church and immigration; discussions about St. John Paul’s “feminine genius”; faith and beauty; oneness in the church amid diversity; becoming a peacemaker; how sacred music can heal; engaging youth as missionary disciples; reaching Hispanics in the church; “Theology of the Body”; and having empathy for the poor.
On Jan. 12, keynoter Ann Paradise will discuss living the theme of “That They May Be One” in our divided world and divided church.
Saturday’s breakout sessions include how to create engaging and dynamic parish religion programs; how the Eucharist continues the faith of the apostles; proclaiming faith through social media; the spirituality of aging; talks on the local church’s substance abuse ministry; connecting faith taught in school to home and getting parents involved in sacramental preparation; using love and mercy as bridge builders; the beauty of art in the Catholic Church; discovering and answering God’s call; invitational evangelization; and how Catholic youth can change the world.
Harbison said the conference theme is timely, considering everyone today is suffering in some way.
“Whether someone had experiences with the church or with poverty, immigration – all the things happening in the world – how can we find some purpose and how can we work to help others who are part of the body of Christ?” she said.
The conference is not just for people in catechetical ministry in churches and schools, Harbison said.
“It’s all about helping people support their personal journey and formation (with relevant issues) so they can grow in faith and happiness by becoming more a part of the body of Christ,” Harbison said. “It’s a positive, uplifting opportunity from the keynotes to the breakouts … to give people hope in a world where there’s lots of suffering and brokenness.”
Three-day registration is $155; Thursday-only leadership afternoon with lunch is $55; Thursday Faith and Science Institute is $65; Friday or Saturday only is $100. The pre-conference event and Exhibit Hall Happy Hour Jan. 10 are included with any conference registration. Knights of Columbus scholarships are available. PayPal, credit cards or checks are accepted. For conference details, go to https://go4th.faith/2019conference-schedule/ or call 861-6255 or email email@example.com.