Lifelong Learning

Sept. 7-13, 2006
VOL 125 NO. 29
Lifelong Learning
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
Diocesan Religious Education Office to sponsor Journey of Faith Conference

Sister Katie Eiffe, CSJ, Diocesan Director of Religious Education, is expecting a crowd of almost 500 to attend the spiritually enriching 2006 Journey of Faith Conference Saturday, Sept. 30. The 12th annual conference will be held at the OnCenter in Syracuse. The theme of the conference this year was drawn from the theme for Catechetical Sunday and from the call of the “National Directory for Catechesis” that all catecheses be centered in the person of Jesus Christ. The theme for 2006 is drawn from Christ’s question to his disciples — “Who do you say that I am?”

“That’s Jesus’ call to us,” commented Sister Katie. “The Journey of Faith highlights the positive. In a time when the church is continuing to struggle, this gives us an opportunity to celebrate what we have. “Over the years, Journey of Faith has proven to be an opportunity for the church of Syracuse to celebrate our faith — and to be enriched personally and professionally,” said Sister Katie. “Journey of Faith is geared primarily but not exclusively to the catechetical community and ministry, but we also try to provide workshops for those who minister in other areas: music, pastoral ministry, social justice ministry, RCIA, family life, youth ministry and many other areas. Beyond that, Journey of Faith is an opportunity for all adults to come together to be enriched in their own faith journey and to celebrate.”

Father John Hurley, CSP, director of the North American Paulist Office for Reconciliation and former executive director of the Secretariat for Evangelization of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, will offer the keynote address. In 1998, he completed a major project of the Committee on Evangelization, “A Time to Listen … A Time to Heal, A Resource Directory for Reaching Out to Inactive Catholics.” Beginning in 1987, he coordinated a three-year national study of the RCIA. In October 2000, “Journey to the Fullness of life: A Report on the Implementation of the RCIA in the United States” was released. Father Hurley has also published several articles in various religious journals.

Father Hurley said he is looking forward to his visit to Syracuse and welcomes the opportunity to speak at the Journey of Faith conference. “For over 10 years I have welcomed the opportunities to speak before diocesan conferences,” stated Father Hurley. “Evangelization is the mission of the church and all that we do, regardless of our titles, must be seen through this lens of evangelization. Pope Paul VI said in Evangelii Nuntiandi that ‘The Church exists to evangelize…it is her deepest identity.’” Father Hurley said in his keynote speech, he would address the cultural issues that are affecting the dramatically changing church.

The Journey of Faith weekend will kick-off with a concert featuring internationally known recording artist ValLimar Jansen on Friday, Sept. 29, at St. Margaret’s Church in Mattydale at 7 p.m. Jansen is a highly regarded singer and cantor. She has performed and toured professionally throughout the U.S., Switzerland, France, Germany, Belgium and Japan. She played the role of Beneatha with the Broadway touring cast in the European premier of Raisin. She also co-authored a musical about the life of Ethel Waters that received a special commendation from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Jansen is a college professor, a leader of worship and prayer, and a workshop presenter at conferences across the U.S. In fact, she is leading a workshop at this year’s Journey of Faith Conference entitled “Passion for the Journey,” in which participants will explore what makes them feel truly alive. They will determine what gives them the “joy of the Lord,” which they need to walk life’s journey with conviction and passion.

This year, participants will be able to choose from 30 different workshops offered by various national, diocesan and local workshop presenters. Father Tim Taugher, pastor at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Binghamton, and Jack Gilroy, retired Maine-Endwell High School teacher will present the workshop “Evangelizing Our Youth in Forming a Conscience in Peace and War.” Father Taugher and Gilroy are concerned that the youth of today, who are living in a culture that is all too accepting of war, are not forming a conscience that is rooted in the Gospel’s message of peace and love. The workshop will explore how youth can form a conscience that is rooted in the Gospel and in church tradition. “We should be able to give them the resources and direct them to the right resources they need to make the right decision,” Father Taugher said. “We have something very rich and positive to give them. Christ is the giver of peace. We need to be getting this news out to them and not be afraid to share it.” Father Taugher is concerned that young people are making life-changing decisions that affect them emotionally, spiritually and physically, without examining the issues from a spiritual basis. Gilroy agrees with Father Taugher in believing young people need to form a conscience that is rooted in the Gospel. As a former teacher, Gilroy said he has a history of encouraging students to not be hypocritical about war. He asked, “Why do Catholic Christians seem to accept Jesus’ message of love and justice and yet push it aside when the government orders them to kill others?”

James Krisher, director of the Spiritual Renewal Center in Syracuse, will lead a workshop entitled “The Beauty of God and the Desires of the Human Heart.” This workshop will reflect on the human experience of beauty and how it reveals the face of God. Participants will consider the longing which beauty at once satisfies and arouses in them, and how it leads to the One who is the source of all beauty. “We’ll examine how that experience not only gives us a taste of God, but also a longing,” Krisher said. A long-time participant in the Journey of Faith Conferences, Krisher said he is pleased to be leading a workshop this year. “I always enjoy the Journey of Faith Conferences,” he said. “I enjoy meeting everyone and I also enjoy their enthusiasm.”

Sister Maureen D’Onofrio, CSJ, pastoral associate at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse, will be leading a workshop entitled “Discipleship for a Priestly People in a Time of Priest Shortage.” Even though the priest shortage is escalating, the number of Catholics is increasing and the number of lay ministers being certified is rising, Sister Maureen said, there’s no need to worry. She advocates the church being lay-oriented and one of shared and collaborative ministry. “There’s a common mission for all of us to be church,” Sister Maureen said.

During the course of the workshop, topics such as pastoral outlooks and striking a balance between male and female spirituality will be explored. “We need to hear more from the women of the church,” said Sister Maureen. Russell Connors, Ph.D., a professor of theology at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn., will present the workshop “Christian Morality: Making Room for Fidelity and Creativity.” This workshop will attempt to answer such questions as: How strict is Christian morality meant to be? Is there room for flexibility in Christian morality? When answering these questions, not only will the nature of the Gospel and Catholic moral teaching be considered, the moral experience itself will be reflected upon. The suggestion will be that fidelity and creativity are key values. A special feature for Journey of Faith will be the presentation of the third annual Bishop Thomas Costello Award, which will be given to one who has ministered with courage, with vision and in a collaborative style. The award was instituted in honor of Bishop Costello’s Golden Jubilee, and is now an annual award.

Journey of Faith got its start in 1991, when the Religious Education Office sponsored a two-day “Religious Education Congress” at Le Moyne College — the first catechetical congress in the diocese since 1976. The congress incorporated the Bishop Harrison Institute, which had been an annual one-day professional updating for parish directors of religious education and catechists. The participants, in their evaluations of the event, overwhelmingly suggested that a similar event be held every year.

Consequently, in 1995, the first annual Journey of Faith Conference was held at Le Moyne College. The theme was “Tending the Fire,” and Bishop Thomas Costello was the keynote speaker. The first event included 24 workshop sessions. In 1996, the event shifted to the OnCenter and has been held there ever since, as it allows ample space for the event.
In 1997, the event grew to include a concert on the preceding Friday evening — David Haas, who also shared the keynote address with Arthur Zannoni, presented the first concert. The theme for the event that year was “Jesus Christ: Yesterday, Today and Forever.”

The conference is open to anyone. For more information about what workshops are offered, registration or concert tickets, contact the Diocesan Religious Education Office at (315) 470-1431.

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