LEWISTON — Nearly 250 Maine Catholics gathered in Lewiston on Sept. 27, with a similar goal: finding ways to contribute individually to improving the community and life of their respective parish.
With the theme “Go Forth, Transform All Things in Christ,” the Parish Life Conference, held at the Ramada Inn on Pleasant Street, was attended by clergy, leaders, teachers, parish life coordinators, family life ministers, volunteers and other representatives from Maine parishes.
“We gather for a wonderful day of reflection and learning on the ways in which we can enrich the life of the parishes where we serve,” said Bishop Deeley during his homily at a special morning Mass celebrated at the conference. “We have heard the message of the Gospel, and we want to bring it to others. Why else would we be here? We believe that the message of the Gospel brings light, life and joy. Your effort to bring this to life in our diocese is a gift.”
The conference featured national Catholic speakers and 14 workshops covering a wide variety of themes designed to strengthen foundations of faith and promote vibrant parishes.
“As I’m sure all of the presenters at the conference will say today, we need to see ourselves as the people who focus on bringing the Good News of the Gospel to all we encounter, including those with whom we work, with whom we minister, with whom we pray, and with whom we live,” said Mary Carol Kenzia, an author and editor at Franciscan Media, who discussed practical and contemporary ways to take the Catholic faith into the world.
Additional workshops focused on other important aspects of parish life, including strategies to enliven religious education; addressing challenges to marriage preparation; strengthening marriage in parishes; utilizing technology and approaches to engage a new generation of Catholics; creating anti-bullying environments; practices for active participation in parish music programs; and the role of the parish community in helping those who are searching for Christ.
Kathy Hendricks of William H. Sadlier Inc., which offers catechesis and sacramental preparation materials that faithfully present the teachings of the Catholic Church, delivered the conference’s keynote address, titled “Hope, Hospitality, Happiness: Keys to Transform All Things in Christ.”
“It’s not by proselytizing that the Church grows, it’s by attraction,” said Hendricks. “Each of us, no matter our role in the parish, have a particular call to bear witness to the Good News of Jesus. In this way, the transformative message of joy grows and spreads. As transformers in whatever ministry you are involved in, you bring a hopeful, hospitable and happy message of love, forgiveness and mercy into a world so desperately in need.”
“Today, as you come together, you seek ways to meet those needs and help others to hear a message which will bring great meaning and joy to their lives,” said Bishop Deeley to the gathering. “What you have caught, you pass on. That is the evangelization to which we are called. May God bless the work of each of us so that we might inspire and strengthen one another. Dark as the days may seem at times, may we know that the light of Christ is with us. May the grace of God lead us to a better appreciation of Jesus’ presence in our lives so that we can, indeed, go forth to transform all things in Christ.”