April 18, 2002
By Deacon Tom Picciano/ SUN contributing writer
Youth ministers from all over New York gather for Southern Tier conference
The meeting of Youth Ministers from around New York State two years ago in Vestal was very successful. The sessions were standing room only. Later this month, the conference is being held again in the Southern Region at the Holiday Inn-Arena in Binghamton. But this time, there’s plenty of room to accommodate large groups, small sessions, and there’s a separate place to eat. “Challenged to Grow — Cultivating the Vision of Catholic Youth Ministry in New York State” is a joint effort of the eight dioceses of New York State. Sister Eileen McCann, CSJ, diocesan director of Youth Ministry expects another active conference April 26-28.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity. A national caliber conference held on a statewide level,” Sister Eileen said. “It’s a chance to be renewed in our noble youth ministry.” The keynote speaker is Tom Zanzig, a 30-year veteran of working with Catholic youth. Zanzig served as a director of religious education before joining St. Mary’s Press more than two decades ago. He’s the author of two popular texts, Understanding Catholic Christianity, and Jesus of History, Christ of Faith. Zanzig has also developed junior and senior high school religion curriculums as well as a confirmation program.
A frequent presenter at conferences, Zanzig finds the upcoming Bingham-ton appearance to be “quite a challenge,” as the speaker for three presentations. The first address will focus on reflections of what he’s learned in the field over the last three decades. Then he will focus on the “in-between times,” which will sum up the vision of adolescent catechesis. He said the foundation is there, “but in terms of making vision a reality and doing the catechesis that we’re called to do, we’re still struggling with it.” The final session will look at the future trends in adolescent catechesis.
As important as the addresses are, Zanzig wants to spend time listening during breakout sessions. Zanzig hopes to draw on the experience of those in attendance, because he notes that many of them will have as many years in youth ministry as he does. “I want to learn as much as I share with them,” he said. “I hope to listen as much as talk. That’s not necessarily a trait I’m known for.”
The conference also includes more than two dozen other workshops or discussions on what are called “Hot Topics.” One of the presenters is Danielle Cummings, diocesan director of communications. Cummings is looking forward to sharing. “Gatherings of people who have a common ministry are essential to the strengthening of that particular ministry. Each person brings his/her own gifts and talents that serve as a great resource for others. Conferences like this provide an opportunity for sharing strategies, teaching techniques and best practices,” Cummings said.
Cummings will present a session to raise awareness of ways the media can shape behavior both positively and negatively. Her presentation will also discuss ways media messages often contradict the Gospel message and will offer creative ways to use the media to teach that message. Another presenter is Kathleen Lorenc, coordinator of Youth Ministry at Our Lady of Angels in Endwell. Her focus will be on scouting and youth ministry. “Scouting IS youth ministry! The motto, ‘Girl Scouts — where girls grow strong,’ is all about helping each girl grow to be the best woman she can be,” Lorenc said. “Our faith teaches us to model our lives on Jesus Christ: ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ So each young woman who comes to us searching for ways to live her faith and to grow strong deserves the opportunities and mentoring that comprehensive youth ministry has to offer.” Lorenc notes that the entire three-day conference will be valuable to those who are active in youth ministry.
“It is not all about pizza parties and lock-ins,” she said. “Every component needs attention, and therefore, we need to be updated, and ‘in-serviced’ in order to keep up professionally with the field and with our colleagues.” Sister Eileen added that the conference will help with networking. “It’s really important to give youth ministers the chance to see that they’re not in this alone,” she said. “It gives them a chance to connect with others who are doing similar things.” The Syracuse Diocese not only is host to the youth ministers, but also is providing a lot of support for the conference. The conference is coordinated by Cathy Clark, parishioner of the Newman Center at SUNY-Oswego. Denise Garrett from Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Syracuse, Chris Mominey of Christian Brothers Acadamy’s campus ministry and Ron Gaetano, a consultant with the East Utica Youth Ministry Project will also present at the conference.
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