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Church Ministers Conference Encourages Catholics to Embrace Mission

By James Aitchison

CARMEL VALLEY — On Sept. 13 at Cathedral Catholic High School, Catholics from throughout the Diocese of San Diego had the opportunity to renew, affirm, share and celebrate their faith, while working to increase everyone’s parish involvement and commitment to serving God’s people.

The diocesan offices for Evangelization and Catechetical Ministry, Social Ministry, Development, Youth Ministry, Vocations, and Liturgy and Spirituality joined forces to bring back the annual Church Ministers Conference after a six-year hiatus.

The conference schedule included Mass as well as 70 workshops (24 in Spanish, 46 in English) over three breakout sessions. About 780 people pre-registered for the conference, which was open to everyone interested in energizing their parish. The conference theme was “Our Life Is Mission.”

“This year’s theme is crucial as we are called to respond with intention as disciples on mission,” said Marioly Galván, associate director of the Office for Evangelization and Catechetical Ministry.

Guests were able to meet local, diocesan and national speakers as they highlighted key areas to help everyone grow in their respective ministries. Keynotes were given in Spanish by Noel Díaz, founder of the apostolate El Sembrador, and in English by Patrick Coffin, host of the national radio program “Catholic Answers Live.”

At the heart of the conference was a genteel community sure to be remembered for its warm hospitality. Visitors were greeted with friendly nods and sincere welcomes from the conference organizers, event staff and the 45 vendors who set up in the school’s quad area with their exhibit displays and information tables.

“It is nourishing and encouraging to be surrounded by so much support and likeminded people when it comes to fostering a culture of life,” said Christy Hoover, one of the conference exhibitors and the outreach coordinator for Adoption Center of San Diego. “We spend most of our time on the front-lines at family health centers and clinics, educating women who might be facing a crisis or unplanned pregnancy, and those environments are not always welcoming.”

Each diocesan office selected its own speakers and materials for the workshops. In addition, whether it was implementing a successful youth ministry, confirmation or stewardship program, evangelization retreat or vocation discernment, to name just a few of the ministries, parish leaders could benefit from discussing and co-developing best practices.

“It is exciting to see everything come together, from the venue and schedule of events to the caliber of speakers and diversity of workshops,” said Damian Esparza, director of the Office for Development. “I truly believe the success of this event and impact is due to multiple ministries within the diocese coming together to work in collaborative fashion.”

Kent Peters, director of the Office for Social Ministry and the co-host of the radio program “Setting Things Right,” noted the benefits of attending the conference.

“All Catholics, not just those employed in our churches, need to realize this is a call to all baptized — especially if we are to realize our mission that ‘His Kingdom Come,’” said Peters. “Along with becoming more aware of the many opportunities that are available in the community to be of service to the Lord, Catholics attending this conference were able to learn so much about what activism means in our Church, how holy it is, and how important it is.”

Mary Jo Waggoner, director of the Office for Evangelization and Catechetical Ministry, said she had been asked for a long time when the diocese would bring back the annual conference. She explained, “We felt that it was ideal and necessary now so that all Church ministers who work together in parishes can gather in a common experience, with one diocesan-wide conference, building that common goal and community that they share.”

Thanks to the success of this year’s event, organizers hope to continue to grow this annual Church Ministers Conference, beginning with more speakers, more participants, more exhibitors and more excitement next year.

The Southern Cross

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