The Gulf Coast Faith Formation Conference Jan. 12-14 at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner will have a distinctly local and regional flavor for the more than 1,000 parish and school catechists, religion teachers, religious and clergy who attend, said Dr. Alice Hughes, executive director of the Office of Religious Education (ORE) for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Eight dioceses from across the Gulf South – New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Houma-Thibodaux, Lake Charles and Alexandria in Louisiana; Jackson and Biloxi in Mississippi; and Birmingham in Alabama – assumed the planning duties for the conference, which will explore the theme “Prayer: The Faith Prayed and Lived.”
“We’ve always wanted to have more of a local flavor of the Gulf Coast for the conference, and now we do,” Hughes said.
Aline Harbison, associate director for catechetical leadership for the archdiocesan ORE, is the lead coordinator.
“The whole conference looks different,” Hughes said. “We’re excited because we have more people registered for this year’s conference compared to this time last year.”
Faith formation, networking
The conference offers those involved in catechesis and evangelization the opportunity to deepen their own Catholic faith and then network with others ministering in those fields, Hughes said. There are three keynote speakers – Benedictine Sister Lynn McKenzie, who will speak on the theme “pray”; Dr. Brant Pitre, “reflect”; and Auxiliary Bishop Fernand Cheri, “witness.”
In addition to dozens of workshops in evangelization, technology, Catholic identity, Pope Francis and discipleship, adolescent/youth catechesis, forms of prayer, spirituality, family catechesis and special needs, there will be an entire track devoted to liturgy.
“A liturgy track is something people have been asking for, and it’s never come to fulfillment until now,” Hughes said. “We also have, at a minimum, two presenters from every diocese that is participating.”
The conference will start with a “leadership day” beginning Jan. 12 at 1 p.m. Dominican Father David Caron, vicar of evangelization for the archdiocese, will speak about spiritual leadership and evangelization. At 2:45 p.m., Dr. Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, professor of pastoral theology at Notre Dame Seminary, will speak on “Connected Toward Communion”; at 4 p.m., Paul Sanfrancesco, director of technology for the Owen J. Roberts School District in Pottsdown, Pennsylvania, will discuss “Cultivating a Faith-Based Digital Community.”
Archbishop Gregory Aymond will celebrate the opening Mass on Jan. 13 at 8:30 a.m., followed by Sister Lynn’s keynote at 12:45 p.m. Sister Lynn is a practicing attorney who lives at the Sacred Heart Monastery in Cullman, Alabama. In her legal practice, she works with children who have been abused or neglected, with juveniles and the disabled.
Pitre, professor of sacred scripture at Notre Dame Seminary, and Bishop Cheri will deliver their keynotes on Jan. 14 at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.
For registration information, go to www.go4th.faith or call Aline Harbison at (504) 861-6255.