Faith Formation Conference: ‘Go forth that all may be one’

By Fran Lavelle
KENNER, Louisiana – his year the Go! Conference (Gulf Coast Faith Formation Conference), offered a well-balanced and intentional diversity of subjects and speakers focused on the theme, “That All May Be One.” The Conference planners, including the diocesan directors of the region, work to reach as many ministries within parishes and schools as possible while remaining focused on religious formation. We are constantly looking at relevant topics that are spiritually nourishing as well as practical and hands on.
The first day of the Conference this year was quite different from years past. We offered three unique experiences: Liturgy and Music Workshop sponsored by WLP, a panel on the Interface Between Science and Religion sponsored by the University Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute and Leadership Thursday for catechist and formational ministry sponsored by Sadlier. Participants from the three cohorts began their day with Mass at 9:00 a.m. Each of the major workshops reached out to different constituents from STREAM teachers and administrators in Catholic Schools to parish catechists to musicians and liturgists. Hopefully the participants found, in their own niche, great insights and inspiration to bring home.
Karla Luke, Associate Superintendent, Office Catholic Education, a participant in the McGrath Institute’s session on science and religion, is a former teacher of both middle school science and religion. “This event was not only enlightening but also affirming. It gives ‘permission’ to Catholic school teachers to freely incorporate both Science and Religion into the other’s classes,” said Luke. She went on to say, “Furthermore, it clarified that acceptance of scientific theories and laws do not negate one’s faith; but, consequently may enhance it. The workshop not only confirmed my belief in God the Creator but confirmed the love God has for all creation.”

The idea that science and religion are mutually exclusive was addressed head on. Participants were given the examples of Kepler, Galileo, Boyle and Newton, all devoutly religious scientist who saw themselves as uncovering God’s majestic work through scientific reason. Dr. Chris Baglow, of the University of Notre Dame, shared with the group an analogy from Minicius Felix:
If upon entering some home you saw that everything there was well-tended, neat and decorative, you would believe that some master was in charge of it and that he was himself much superior to those good things. So too in the home of this world, when you see providence, order and law in the heavens and on earth, believe that there is a Lord and Author of the universe, more beautiful than the stars themselves and the various parts of the whole world. Minucius Felix (ca.200 AD)
On Saturday, the keynote speaker, Dr. JoAnn Paradise addressed the cultural roadblocks to creating unity over division. She talked about brain science and development of empathy from the womb. She stated that we are programmed in our DNA, on a cellular level, to learn behaviors through visual perception at a very young age — 0-3 months. Our addiction to digital media, in our culture, has worked to the detriment of developing appropriate human responses. God, she contends, planted in our brains a developmental need for an interconnectedness that technology cannot replicate or replace. One of the human responses not being developed is empathy. As we become less empathetic, we can quickly vilify others who look, think, pray and live differently because we see them as different. She showed a picture of three chicken eggs, one white, one light brown and one dark brown. In the following picture, the three eggs had been cracked and were in a frying pan next to one another. They all looked the same. She used the photos to illustrate that it is now more than ever the important work of the Church to proclaim the gospel, to end division and fully live out Catholic social teaching.
This is a rapidly changing cultural and technological world. Understanding current challenges and opportunities in ministry is essential if ministers, catechists and church members are to continue to share the faith. Creating awareness and strategies to deal with these changes is imperative. Mission accomplished for this year’s conference. We had great liturgies, enjoyed good conversations, met inspiring people, reunited with old friends and learned a lot. Save the date for next year’s Conference, “20/20: His Vision — Our Call” January 9-11, 2020.
“I thank thee, Lord God our Creator, that thou allowest me to see the beauty in thy work of creation.” Kepler.

(Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson.)

Students offer gifts to nursing home

JACKSON – St. Richard Catholic School’s annual service project, Manhattan Mall, is one of the yearly endeavors that speaks to the Catholic Social Teaching of the school’s option for the poor and vulnerable, and to the works of mercy that are at the root of our Mercy Sisters’ heritage. Manhattan Nursing and Rehabilitation Center sits across the street from the school. Many of the residents are not able to leave the nursing home and shop for Christmas presents for their children, grandchildren or even fellow residents and staff, so the sixth grade brings the stores to them. The stores, which are supervised by the sixth graders, are divided into different sections and each resident will receive Manhattan Mall “money” to shop for five gifts each. Once the residents have purchased their items, they have the option of having them gift-wrapped for their loved ones. The hope is for the residents to be able to personally buy gifts for their family and friends, which allows them to feel independent.

Youth Enthusiastic about National Catholic Youth Choir

COLLEGEVILLE, Minnesota – When Perry Leffler (NCYC Alum 2015) of Jackson St. Richard Parish went to Minnesota for a youth choir camp, she knew there would be lots of singing. What she found was so much more: fun, friendship, and faith. “[This camp] definitely strengthened my faith,” she said. “I like how we came to camp not knowing anyone leave it as close friends.”

COLLEGEVILLE, Minnesota – St. Richard Parish member Perry Leffler, front row, far left, toured with the National Catholic Youth Choir in 2015. This year, there is a new scholarship available for a student who wishes to join. (Photo by Marc Leffler)

The National Catholic Youth Choir, which meets on the grounds of Saint John’s Abbey and University in central Minnesota, is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2019. Since the choir’s founding in 2000, more than 300 young Catholic singers have participated in the summer camp. They have all shared a powerful experience of singing sacred music, studying the Bible and their Catholic faith, learning some music history, and making new friends to play sports and recreate with. “It’s a positive, joyful experience of being Catholic that really speaks to young people,” said founding director Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB.
During the camp the choir members pray with the Benedictine monks and sisters, participate in experiences such as the Rosary or Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and end each day by chanting Compline. After the intense music rehearsal on campus, the choir goes on tour to sing at parish liturgies and offer concerts of sacred music. “
Membership in the selective choir is by audition. To make it easy for applicants from across the U.S., the entire application process is done online. All young singers with note-reading ability and choir experience are invited to apply. For the 20th anniversary it is expected that the choir will be larger than ever – and they will be joined at the final Mass by dozens of alum singers from the past 20 years!
Thanks to the generosity and support of Bishop Joseph Kopacz, a young chorister from the Diocese of Jackson is eligible for a $250 scholarship toward NCYC camp and choir tour.
“The NCYC provides opportunity for every person to grow spiritually, intellectually, and socially into faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. I am so very happy to have taken part in it,” said Remy Mumby (NCYC Alum 2016) from Lansing, Michigan
For information about the choir, including how to apply, go to Applications are due in mid-March.

(Story submitted by National Catholic Youth Choir)

St. Nicolas visits St. Patrick

MERIDIAN – On the Feast Day of St. Nicholas, St. Patrick School students left a shoe outside their classroom for St. Nicholas to fill. The children received a candy cane, chocolate coins and a prayer card. Shown are first graders Hayden Thompson, foreground, and Chance Glass as they discover what St. Nicholas left for them. (Photo by Celeste Saucier)

‘Holy Fire’ retreat ignites faith of middle schoolers from 10 dioceses

By Theresa Laurence
NASHVILLE, Tenn (CNS) – More than 1,800 Catholic middle school students and their chaperones from 10 dioceses danced and prayed their way through an interactive retreat event at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Nashville, the largest of its kind ever staged in the diocese.
“I’m still in awe,” said Bill Staley, director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Nashville.
The daylong event Dec. 1, which included a mix of high-energy musicians and inspirational speakers, along with quiet moments for eucharistic adoration and prayer, was well-received by the youth, their parents and chaperones who attended.
Holy Fire, produced by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, is developed in collaboration with host dioceses, like Nashville as well as Chicago recently. Both events have been extremely well attended by thousands of young people.
“We had over 10 dioceses in all, including representatives from across Tennessee and three of four dioceses in Kentucky,” Staley told the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Nashville Diocese. Groups also traveled from Birmingham, Alabama, north Georgia and Evansville, Indiana.
“I feel really good to grow this event into something great,” said Staley, who is already thinking about hosting a two-day event next year.
“It was a great experience and we can’t wait to go back next year,” said Cindy Sabatino, director of religious education at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, who brought a group of 30 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to the event.
One of the high points of the day for Sabatino and her group was adoration. “Many of them had never experienced adoration like that” among such a large group of peers, she said. “They can be intimidated to pray in front of their peers,” she said, but here they were encouraged to let their guard down and “just be with the Lord” in the moment.
The entire experience of being with so many Catholic young people for a full day of Catholic musicians, speakers and prayer was new to many Holy Fire participants, young people and their parents alike, Staley said.
“Many parents joined for the whole day,” he said. “A lot of them didn’t have an experience like this (in their own childhood), which is a wonderful benefit of the program.”
Holy Fire is the newest evolutionary step in the Diocese of Nashville’s annual confirmation preparation for middle schoolers, and now reaches beyond the students preparing for the sacrament.

Father Andrew Bulso, a priest of the Diocese of Nashville, Tenn., carries the monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament during Mass for about 1,800 middle school students and their chaperones at the Holy Fire retreat event Dec. 1 at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Nashville. (CNS photo/Theresa Laurence, Tennessee Register)

Partnering with the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry enabled Nashville’s youth ministers to stage a much larger-scale event than they could have done alone, complete with professional sound and lighting designs, big screen video and multimedia presentations.
Holy Fire’s mission is “to set young people ablaze with the love of Christ and inspire them to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in the world, to embrace their baptism and engage with the relevant and powerful Gospel of Jesus.”
Speakers and performers from the day included: Joe Melendrez, Noelle Garcia, Dom Quaglia, Sarah Hart, the Cimorelli Sisters and the Sarah Kroger Band. Throughout the day, participants also had the opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, renew their baptismal promises, and talk with exhibitors, which included the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, among others.
Nashville Bishop J. Mark Spalding, who drove back to Nashville from Cincinnati just in time to make the closing remarks at the Holy Fire Mass, encouraged the young people to be examples pointing towards Christ, “to bring the love of Christ into your home and community.”
“I think the bishop’s message was very meaningful,” said Sabatino, encouraging the youth to go forth and have a positive influence. “He’s young, he’s motivated, he inspires the kids.”
Overall, Sabatino said, her group wasn’t sure what to expect going into the day, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Holy Fire “put them in a place where they could open their hearts to Jesus,” she said.

(Laurence is a staff writer for the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville.)

Teen-led Search retreat offers vocational support

GALLMAN – The Diocesan Fall Search Retreat took place November 9-11, at Camp Wesley Pines. sixty-five juniors and seniors from across the diocese participated in the weekend retreat either as Searchers or Staffers.
Search is unique in that it is a retreat “for teens; led by teens.” Modeled after the Cursillo movement, search has been an active ministry for youth in our diocese for the last 15 years. The retreat is sponsored by the Diocesan Office of Youth Ministry but St. Richard parishioners, Ann and Jeff Cook have been the longtime volunteer adult coordinators
The Spring Search Retreat is set for March 1-3, 2019 at Camp Wesley Pines. Juniors and Seniors can register for the retreat via Space is limited. For questions, please contact Abbey Schuhmann in the Office of Youth Ministry – or (601)949-6934.

GALLMAN – Graham Hlavac and Father Nick Adam prepare for the closing Mass on Sunday afternoon.

Presentation coordinator, Catherine Cook welcomes the Searchers and leads the opening session of the retreat.

(L-r)Will Foggo, Flowood St. Paul; John Payne, Ellie Heilman and Leila de Gruy, all of Jackson St. Richard; Olivia Artigues, of Starkville St. Joseph and Jack Dowdle of Pearl St. Jude get to know each other during small group time. (Photos by Abbey Schuhmann)

Youth perform parable skits during the retreat.