CALEXICO — “I love the enthusiasm.”
That’s how Mario Coronado described the conference the San Diego Diocese presented on April 22 for the Imperial Valley’s faithful, particularly those who serve their parishes, schools and ministries.
He and his family, which included his wife and three children, had traveled from their home in Brawley to Vincent Memorial Catholic High School, where the conference was held.
“The atmosphere was very friendly and accommodating,” he said during the lunch break, adding that he appreciated the fact that the event was bilingual. “We’re not excluding anyone.”
Around 230 people, including 86 youth, attended the conference, which had as a theme, “United in Christ / Unidos en Cristo.” The conference opened with at 9 a.m. Mass celebrated by Father Efraín Bautista, from Corpus Christi Parish in Bonita. Cardinal Robert W. McElroy had planned to preside, but he had to travel to the Vatican.
The conference, which ended at 3 p.m., included a keynote address by renowned speaker Brother Moisés Gutierrez, OFM, and two sessions, each consisting of 13 workshops in English and Spanish. The subjects included “The 5 Cs for Building a Successful Marriage,” “Genuine Accompaniment: A Journey with Young People,” and “Let it be Known that God Exists! New Crafts and Activities for Module 2.”
Coronado and his wife, Janine, and their 12-year son, Santiago, had attended the latter workshop, led by Gaby Peña, a master catechist at the diocese.
“I loved that the workshop was not only for adults, but also for him,” she said, pointing to her son. “He loved it.”
The couple’s two other children — Isabel 14, and Isaiah, 16 — participated in a separate track for youth led by youth and young adult ministry leaders from parishes across the diocese.
Iris Muñiz was at the conference along with 11 other members of her parish, St. Joseph’s in Holtville. In the past she had traveled to San Diego to attend workshops for liturgical ministers, she said.
“The workshops here at very interesting,” she said. “It’s nice we don’t have to go so far.”
The workshop instructors included directors of the diocesan pastoral offices, formation leaders, educators, and veteran lay leaders. They included Victor Carmona, PhD, a professor of theology at the University of San Diego; Lee Williams, PhD, director of the Marital and Family Therapy Program at USD; Koren Ruiz, an accomplished singer-songwriter and director of Hispanic Initiatives at Oregon Catholic Press; José Martínez, teacher, musician and founder of the podcast “Sacred Heart Narratives”; and Brian and Gloria Wong, long-time ministry leaders in the Valley.
The diocese had presented the inaugural conference in the Valley in November of 2018. The plan was to host it every two years. However, the pandemic and its after-effects delayed the return until this spring.
Conference-goers visited informational tables during breaks and lunch. A total of 23 organizations and companies shared their goods and services in the area outside the school’s new and remodeled buildings. Sister Lupita Hernández, SJS, the principal, worked tirelessly alongside her staff, in temperatures that reached the mid-90s, to assist the organizers and participants.
Janine Coronado saw the conference as reinforcing the faith of her children, “and maybe their peers’ faith, too.”
Her husband summed up the family’s experience simply:
“This has been a blessing.”