Organizers hope new event builds bridges to understanding ministry

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building_bridges_logoBy Connie Berry
Sun editor

The annual Journey of Faith event hosted by the diocesan Office of Faith Formation has been revamped into “Building Bridges … The Journey Continues.” The newly-developed two-day event has collaboration between diocesan ministry offices as its hallmark. It is open to all people in all parishes — those who minister directly and those who simply want to grow in their Catholic faith. Building Bridges takes place Friday and Saturday, Oct. 14 and 15, at Bishop Grimes Prep Jr,/Sr. High School, 6653 Kirkville Rd., East Syracuse. The first day of the event will also serve as a superintendent’s in-service day for Catholic school staff.

Christopher Mominey, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, said he is glad diocesan offices are combining efforts to produce such a broad variety of workshops.

“We are very excited to be collaborating with so many other offices in the diocese as we promote evangelization here in the Diocese of Syracuse,” Mominey said. “This year we were able to pair our superintendent’s in-service day with the new ‘Building Bridges’ idea to create a two-day diocesan-wide gathering of so many gifted teachers, catechists and other lay men and women committed to building up the church here in Central New York. And, judging by the early registration numbers of our Catholic school teachers, it looks like we are well on our way to having a successful two days.”

The workshops [listed completely on pages 8 and 9 following this story] cover topics from teaching the new Roman Missal in the classroom to helping parents connect the family table with the Eucharist and “Proclaiming Our Story through Media and Technology.” Directors of diocesan offices such as Respect Life, Youth and Young Adult Ministry, Social Action Ministry, Liturgy, Formation for Ministry, Faith Formation and others took part in developing Building Bridges and many of them will be presenters at the event.

Cathy Cornue, diocesan director of the Office of Faith Formation, is looking forward to this inaugural program. She cited the cost of presenting a one-day event at a large venue compared to hosting a two-day event at a diocesan school as a huge benefit this year.

“We hope that by having it at a different setting it will be more affordable for people and more people will be able to come,” Cornue said. “We understand the challenges of today’s economy. I understand there is some parish help with costs and we hope it gives people the opportunity to energize the way they love and serve God and neighbor.”

Just as the old Journey of Faith event was filled with workshops, keynote speakers, Mass and the Bishop Thomas Costello Award, this year’s Building Bridges promises the same and more.

The keynote speakers scheduled for Building Bridges are Dr. Patricia M. McCormack, IHM, and John Roberto. Sister Patricia is an education consultant with experience in both the classroom and as an administrator at all levels. She is currently director of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Office of Formative Support for Parents and Teachers in Arlington, Va.

Roberto is president and founder of LifelongFaith Associates, which is dedicated to growing the faith in all generations. He works as a consultant and is the author of books and manuals. Before forming LifelongFaith Associates, Roberto was founder and director of the Center for Ministry Development where he directed the Generations of Faith Project, an initiative funded by the Lilly Endowment to develop lifelong faith formation in Catholic parishes across the U.S.

Building Bridges will begin and end with liturgy. Father Joe O’Connor, diocesan director of the Office of Vocation Promotion, will open the event on Friday at 8 a.m. with Mass and Bishop Robert Cunningham will close the event on Saturday with a 4:30 p.m. liturgy.

The Bishop Thomas J. Costello Award will be awarded on Saturday to Deacon David Sweenie for his steadfast commitment to immigrants, farm workers and the Northern Region Spanish Apostolate. Deacon Sweenie has worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor and underserved for years. The award is given to one who has witnessed to a vision of church and ministry as exemplified by Bishop Costello.

Ministers from across the diocese will join with some from outside the diocese to provide the workshops. Marge Babcock and other parishioners from St. Augustine’s in Baldwinsville will lead a workshop explaining their parish’s “E Team.” The E is for evangelization. Babcock said a core group of a dozen or so parishioners come together a half dozen times a year to plan and brainstorm ways to welcome and invite more people to their parish.

“We were looking at the concept of whole community catechesis,” Babcock said. “We’re looking at ongoing faith formation for all ages inviting people into deeper relationship with Jesus.”

The parish team has taken a long look at how it needs to be welcoming. They have offered retreats for parishioners and for parents and their children. The E Team offered a program called “Get Connected” and reached out to those who had not been attending church to come back.

“We have a parish tradition that two times a year we have ‘nametag Sunday,’” Babcock explained. “At the beginning of a new school year, a new catechetical year, we offer a ‘new beginnings’ weekend at our church.” The church also offers coffee and donuts after Mass so that parishioners get an opportunity to mingle and socialize.

Babcock said the workshop offered by St. Augustine’s E Team will highlight what has worked for them at their parish knowing that other parishes will want to try their own projects, saying, “There’s no one formula for every parish.” The E Team has proven to be one  of the most enjoyable parish committees she’s ever been a part of, Babcock said.

Paul Welch, director of the Office of Social Action Ministry for the diocese and a past Bishop Thomas Costello Award winner, is thankful for the expansion of the Journey of Faith into Building Bridges. The change means he will be able to share information on Catholic social teaching in a wider context, he said.

“The Gospel spells out clearly the way to eternal life. It involves reaching out to the poor and hurting,” Welch said. “This is a mandate for all Catholics, not just to a select few who sit on the human development or peace and justice committees of the parish. Matthew 25:31 states clearly it is through serving the poor and hurting that we will encounter Christ.”

Welch will lead a presentation on Matthew 25 for the Building Bridges event.
Another important facet of Building Bridges is an introduction to the music that will accompany the New Roman Missal, which will be unveiled at the start of Advent this year.

For Cornue the theme this year signifies collaboration.

“It’s about building bridges — between ministries, among parishes — and bridges of faith to God,” she said.

Register for Building Bridges online at  https://sites.google.com/a/syrdiocese.org/events/home-1. Cost for registration before Oct. 7 is $25 for one day or $40 for two days with lunch provided. After Oct. 7 registration is $30 for one day and $50 for both days. Call (315) 470-1431 for more information. Complete packets with all materials, your name tag, workshop location and lunch choices will be ready at the event.

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