2018 Go! faith formation conference inspires hope

In today’s topsy-turvy, chaotic world, everyone can use a few words of hope. And, that’s exactly what the 36th annual Gulf Coast Faith Formation Conference, Jan. 11-13, plans to deliver.

Themed “Go! Build a Future of Hope” the conference is scheduled at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner and open to all those who want to deepen their faith and share an uplifting experience.

“We all need that hope, a hope founded on Christ, since he is our anchor of hope,” said organizer Aline Harbison of the archdiocesan Office of Religious Education.


        Dr. Tim Hogan                             Brian Butler

Top speakers from around the country have been secured for the conference. On Friday, Dr. Tim Hogan will speak on “The Gift of Cultural Hurricanes: Embracing the Transforming Forces of Post-Modern Culture,” who will “leave you with an enthusiasm and hope we all need,” Harbison said. On Saturday, Brian Butler, executive director/co-founder of Dumb Ox Ministries and author of “Theology of the Body for Teens” and “The Bible Thumper,” will speak on “Signs of Hope: Evangelization and Transformation,” showing attendees “how you can build hope in your life,” Harbison said.

Because Harbison heard from past year’s attendees that keynote speakers have made such an impact that attendees needed to digest what was heard, Harbison built in 15 minutes of reflection time between the speakers for 2018.

Clergy day more inclusive

The conference’s Thursday used to be called Clergy Day, designed for priests and religious. Harbison said the conference spread its net more inclusively and renamed the day “Leadership Thursday” to also welcome directors of religious education, directors of parish catechetical ministries, principals, teachers, lay ministers and anyone who considers themselves or wants to be a leader.

      Dr. Joe Paprocki

The 2018 Thursday theme is “Proclaiming Hope: Effective Catechetical Leadership for the 21st Century” and features speakers Dr. Veronica Rayas, director of the Office of Religious Education in the Diocese of El Paso, Texas; and Dr. Joe Paprocki, a catechetical leader and religious educator from Chicago.

Harbison said the archdiocesan synod implementation plan encourages parishes and schools to bring leadership teams and use the conference as professional, personal and faith development. (Money is available from the Office of Religious Education to help schools defray the cost of hiring substitute teachers.)

Harbison said the conference’s structure offers multiple networking opportunities. On Jan. 11, the exhibit hall will be the grand opening and welcoming reception site with music and refreshments. Lunch also has been expanded to two hours, again at the request of participants who wanted more time to access resources and fellowship. Special events are planned during lunch.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond will celebrate the opening Mass Friday at 9 a.m. and give opening remarks. Recently installed Biloxi Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III will celebrate Saturday’s Mass.

Inspiring breakouts

Harbison was intentional when breakout session speakers were selected to embrace hope on different aspects of life. To mention just a few sessions: “Hope in Suffering,” Father Brent Maher; “Hope for the World,” Dr. Joseph White; “Families of Hope,” Katie Almon; “Making Hope Real,” Becky Eldredge; “Becoming a Prophet of Hope,” Jason Romero; “Forming Young People for Holiness and Hope,” Dr. Leonardo DeLorenzo.

Opportunities for all

The conference, originally called the Hofinger Conference, was inspired by Jesuit Father Johannes Hofinger, a renowned missionary, evangelizer, teacher and catechetical leader. Even after attending for almost 20 years and being a long-time planning committee member, Harbison said seeing attendees’ enthusiasm hearing the top-notch speakers and worshiping at Mass together still impacts her.

“It’s like a family reunion, witnessing people making the connections with others they have known in ministry,” she said. “The speakers are at a level you don’t see every day (at a regional conference) and, to have them come and share with us, you can’t help but be inspired. Our volunteers show such Southern hospitality. Just seeing all these people coming together and seeing a crescendo happening from the opening liturgy to the fire of the Holy Spirit igniting us to go forth. That is why it is now called the ‘Go!’ conference. It’s about enjoying the time here and being inspired and then going out and sharing the Gospel with everyone we meet.”

Harbison has procured scholarship money from the Knights of Columbus, which the conference matched, so “anyone in this archdiocese who wants to attend can have the means to do so.”


WHAT: Gulf Coast Faith Formation Conference.

WHEN: Jan. 11-13, 2018

WHERE: The Pontchartrain Center, 4545 Williams Blvd., Kenner.

COST: 3-day pass $130; Thursday only $40; Friday or Saturday $95 a day, through Dec. 1. Add $10 after that. Archdiocese of New Orleans staff receives a 50-percent discount. Scholarships are available.

INFO: www.go4th.faith, 861-6255, aharbison@archdiocese-no.org.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org.

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