Local parish leaders inspired at regional Congress

July 29, 2019 at 12:37 p.m.


By Scott Alessi | Correspondent

Nancy Lucash believes that the secret to being a successful educator is simple – never stop learning.

“We can’t always do things the same way we used to do them just because they worked for many years,” said Lucash, the coordinator of religious education and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in St. James Parish, Pennington. “To me, you can always learn something new from people who are in the same ministry you are in.”

That’s why Lucash was eager to attend the inaugural Mid-Atlantic Congress for Pastoral Leadership, held March 8-10 in Baltimore, where she had an opportunity to learn from some of the leading experts in parish ministry. She was among 39 representatives of parishes and schools in the Diocese of Trenton and nearly 1,400 people from across the country to participate in the conference.

Keynote presenters included Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., new president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services Carolyn Woo, and popular author Jesuit Father James Martin.

For Lucash, a key theme of the conference was the importance of working with families. She said the workshops she attended helped her to better understand the needs of today’s parents and how to adapt various aspects of parish ministry for different generations of Catholics.

“It inspired me to come back and rethink the programs that we do and how we are ministering to everyone in our parish,” he said. “It was almost like a pep rally for parish leaders where you leave with the strength to really go back and make a difference.”

The emphasis on involving parents more deeply in their children’s catechesis was also a highlight for Cathleen Sheridan, director of religious education in St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford.

“The key in this new evangelization is that the parents need to be involved,” Sheridan said.

Sheridan added that the theme of the congress – “Witnessing Hope” – was evident in all of the sessions she attended, with the focus being on positive trends that are improving and strengthening parish ministry.

“Every workshop there, that was the message,” she said. “It offered us hope for the future.”

The trend that most interested Sharon DeSipio, leader of the Family Faith Formation program in St. Francis Parish, Long Beach Township, was the incorporation of social media and new forms of technology in religious education. DeSipio, who attended along with three other staff members from her parish, said she is looking forward to introducing some of the new web-based resources she discovered at the congress in her parish.

“It will be gradual, but you have to do it if you are going to reach young people,” she said. “It provides an alternate way for the kids to learn, so we have to look at all the avenues that are out there.”

In addition to the many inspiring workshops, Michael Fabian, associate director of the diocesan Ministry of Catechesis and Evangelization, said that perhaps the greatest benefit of the congress was the opportunity to meet and informally exchange ideas with parish ministers from around the country.

“One of the real values of these conferences is to get together with other people who are doing the same kind of work so that you can learn from them,” he said. “Oftentimes you might be agonizing over how you’re going to do something and then you meet someone who has being doing it already for three or four years, and they solve your whole problem for you.”

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By Scott Alessi | Correspondent

Nancy Lucash believes that the secret to being a successful educator is simple – never stop learning.

“We can’t always do things the same way we used to do them just because they worked for many years,” said Lucash, the coordinator of religious education and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in St. James Parish, Pennington. “To me, you can always learn something new from people who are in the same ministry you are in.”

That’s why Lucash was eager to attend the inaugural Mid-Atlantic Congress for Pastoral Leadership, held March 8-10 in Baltimore, where she had an opportunity to learn from some of the leading experts in parish ministry. She was among 39 representatives of parishes and schools in the Diocese of Trenton and nearly 1,400 people from across the country to participate in the conference.

Keynote presenters included Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., new president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services Carolyn Woo, and popular author Jesuit Father James Martin.

For Lucash, a key theme of the conference was the importance of working with families. She said the workshops she attended helped her to better understand the needs of today’s parents and how to adapt various aspects of parish ministry for different generations of Catholics.

“It inspired me to come back and rethink the programs that we do and how we are ministering to everyone in our parish,” he said. “It was almost like a pep rally for parish leaders where you leave with the strength to really go back and make a difference.”

The emphasis on involving parents more deeply in their children’s catechesis was also a highlight for Cathleen Sheridan, director of religious education in St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford.

“The key in this new evangelization is that the parents need to be involved,” Sheridan said.

Sheridan added that the theme of the congress – “Witnessing Hope” – was evident in all of the sessions she attended, with the focus being on positive trends that are improving and strengthening parish ministry.

“Every workshop there, that was the message,” she said. “It offered us hope for the future.”

The trend that most interested Sharon DeSipio, leader of the Family Faith Formation program in St. Francis Parish, Long Beach Township, was the incorporation of social media and new forms of technology in religious education. DeSipio, who attended along with three other staff members from her parish, said she is looking forward to introducing some of the new web-based resources she discovered at the congress in her parish.

“It will be gradual, but you have to do it if you are going to reach young people,” she said. “It provides an alternate way for the kids to learn, so we have to look at all the avenues that are out there.”

In addition to the many inspiring workshops, Michael Fabian, associate director of the diocesan Ministry of Catechesis and Evangelization, said that perhaps the greatest benefit of the congress was the opportunity to meet and informally exchange ideas with parish ministers from around the country.

“One of the real values of these conferences is to get together with other people who are doing the same kind of work so that you can learn from them,” he said. “Oftentimes you might be agonizing over how you’re going to do something and then you meet someone who has being doing it already for three or four years, and they solve your whole problem for you.”

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