Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 6, 2000
Calgary conference organizers enthused
Education, youth conferences hope to attract 4,000
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
The Catholic Education Conference 2000 is more than a school board affair, it has something for everyone.
"People can come together and they can begin to be energized and have this deep understanding of their faith," said Archbishop Thomas Collins, who spoke at a news conference in Edmonton Feb. 24.
"The workshops and talks offer a deeper understanding. They can take that, think about it, reflect on it in the coming months. This is really why it's a Catholic education conference. It's an education for everyone."
Collins was joined by Ron Patsula, chair of the Edmonton Catholic School Board and Lois Burke-Gaffney, president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association, one sponsor of the March 17-19 event. The conference is hosted by the Calgary Catholic School District.
"This is quite a significant event," said Philip Vircoe, chair of communications for the conference. "One of the reasons is because it's in the jubilee year."
Guest speaker Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles has had significant influence in the areas of social service and social justice.
He has been involved in various political issues; providing guidance during Los Angeles' Rodney King crisis, helping to settle farm workers' labour disputes; and sparking a national debate on the morality of just war prior to the Gulf War.
Mahoney will open the conference at the Max Bell Centre, a place Vircoe said will be big enough for the "throngs of people coming."
Organizers expect about 2,500 adults and 1,500 youth at the conference, which is entitled Living the Eucharist. They also expect it to be one of the largest Catholic jubilee gatherings in the country.
Organizers said the first conference in Edmonton two years ago, which drew more than 900 people, was mistakenly viewed as an event targeted towards teachers and education.
"The word education is a bit of a misnomer," Vircoe said. "It's really for everyone."
Burke-Gaffney added, "This is a conference for Catholic people, not just teachers. It's a time of renewal in our faith."
The most prominent addition to this year's conference is a youth conference running parallel to the adult event. Speakers like Pamela Stenzel whose talk Sex Has a Price Tag will not only attract the youth with its title, but also give them a topic they can relate to, said Burke-Gaffney.
"A lot of the young people will have a chance to discuss things like this in their own environment with their (peers)."
The one day youth conference also includes speakers such as local youth conference favourites Fathers Sylvain Casavant and Paul Moret and religion teacher and mountaineer David Rodney who climbed Mount Everest in 1999. The youth talks include discussions on racism, sexuality, relationships and the importance of the Eucharist.
The conference is expected to draw a larger crowd than the previous one in Edmonton partly because it takes place in the jubilee year and therefore has turned into an extra-special event, said Vircoe.
The adult conference include speakers such as Bishops Raymond Lahey of St. George's, Nfld., and Frederick Henry of Calgary and Archbishop Marcel Gervais of London, Ont. Other speakers range from Fathers Erik Riechers and Ron Rolheiser to Harry Lafond, chief of the Muskeg Lake Cree nation in Saskatchewan.
Collins said the variety of speakers come from throughout Canada, but a large portion of them are also Albertans who can speak on "issues of daily life that personally affect us."
Burke-Gaffney added, "These are people who are well known for their work in social justice, their work in their community. For many of us, we would have to travel a long distance to hear some of them talk.
"You have them all gathered together in one place here."
For more information on the conference contact the ACSTA's Edmonton office at (780)484-6209.