SF Congress: ‘Lifted and Transformed’ for ministry
From opportunities to meet fellow catechists in a church pew set up outside in a ball pen to hearing a live-streamed workshop on using technology for ministry, more than 1,500 people — including nearly 100 youth track attendees — participated in a diverse range of faith formation workshops and activities.
Father Thomas Baker, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Lancaster, set the tone with the morning’s keynote talk centered on the congress theme of “Lifted and Transformed.”
Noting that it was the feast day of St. Matthew — the first century tax collector turned apostle who died a martyr — Father Baker pointed out that the early disciples lived their faith very profoundly. “They lifted and transformed the world, did they not? This is our responsibility today to be like those early disciples – to lift and change the world,” said Father Baker.
Changing the world for Christ requires discipline in our spiritual life, he added. “You’ve got to make time to pray [and] learn about Jesus more and more. If we don’t know Jesus, we’re not sharing Jesus. If we’re not sharing Jesus, what difference does it make?
In her welcoming remarks, Margaret Matijasevic, archdiocesan Office of Religious Education’s coordinator for the San Fernando Region, said that the theme of being lifted and transformed “is the work of the church: ordinary gifts of ordinary individuals transformed into beauty, stillness and presence.
“This work,” she continued, “is found in all sorts of moments that you all participate in, in what you do with your families, parishes and larger communities, lifting and transforming the most ordinary of moments into an encounter with the Divine, through the giving of your time to others, the prayerful thoughts you extend and the openness of your own hearts a little more each day to more fully embrace God’s love of you.”
Integrating technology in ministry
Transforming a world where technology has become pervasive was the topic of Dr. Charlotte McCorquodale’s afternoon workshop, “Is There An App for That?” Assuring those present as well as the live-streamed audience that “There’s an App for everything today,” McCorquodale, archdiocesan technology consultant and founder of Ministry Training Source, talked about the importance of integrating technology into ministry in the age of social media where 62 percent of adult US Catholics have a Facebook page and 58 percent of Catholics under age 30 share content such as pictures, articles and comments at least once a week online.
“How do we get people engaged in uploading content that’s Catholic and that supports our Catholic values and our formation?” asked McCorquodale, noting that a quarter of Catholics online don’t identify themselves as Catholic in their profile.
“I don’t think they’re doing that because they don’t want to acknowledge it – I have a feeling they just don’t think of that,” said McCorquodale. “It doesn’t occur to some people to make that part of their online identity – that’s the kind of shift we need to make.”
Effective faith formation today, she added, acknowledges the new social operating system of society, which is more focused around the individual and how the individual networks way beyond their physical surroundings. “We have got to figure out ways as a church to be part of those networked realities,” said McCorquodale.
Every parish, she noted, should have a technology committee with a majority of young people on it who are “digital natives” who can contribute their online expertise to a technology parish plan.
To make traditional parish bulletins more evangelical and dynamic, she suggested having an “Internet Links” section to Catholic websites. Parish websites could have a link to a Catholic “video of the week” and, because people are so visually-oriented now, parishes should look into having a YouTube channel, according to McCorquodale. In addition, she encouraged parishes to open Twitter and Instagram accounts frequented by young people.
McCorquodale also cited useful Catholic websites featuring videos for youth ministry that included www.bustedhalo.com and www.wingclips.com . She noted that daily Bible readings are available at www.dailybible.americanbible.org and that daily Mass can be found at www.catholictv.com .
In closing, she offered five tips for ministry success in today’s technological era: focus on families; use technology tools; consult the tech experts (often the younger generation); advocate for the use of social media in ministry; and stay up-to-date with technology.
“We’re seeing a wonderful new day in the church,” said San Fernando Region Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Wilkerson in his homily at the closing Mass. “We are the disciples of Jesus, on fire with God’s love. We are the ones who run after those who need God’s love, care and concern. We need to touch their lives, we need to lock eyes with them for they are the people who God loves and they are the ones that he sends us after.”
Religious Sister of Charity Edith Prendergast, archdiocesan director of the Office of Religious Education, said she felt this year’s San Fernando Regional Congress was a great gift and a blessing as everyone she talked to said they loved their workshops.
She noted, “There was a lot of enthusiasm and participation in my class [on Catechesis For and By the Eucharist]. People were very open and wanted to contribute and seemed to be full of life and fire to go back into their parishes and to be able to share all that they got today.”