Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 27, 2000
Personal faith development at core of conference
By LELLA BLUMER
Special to the WCR
Living the Eucharist took on new meaning for close to 1,400 Catholics at Alberta's second provincial Catholic Education Conference, held March 17-19 in Calgary.
More than 50 speakers from across Alberta and North America explored topics ranging from social justice, biotechnology and reconciliation to youth ministry and spirituality in the classroom.
The program was varied enough to suit everyone, and the focus on personal faith development was important, according to Doreen Judge, a teacher at St. Michael's School in Medicine Hat.
"We need a good understanding of our faith in order to be able to teach it effectively," said Judge, who attended the first conference in Edmonton in 1998. Since then, she's been waiting for the second conference to become a reality and encouraging others to attend.
Organized by the Alberta bishops, Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association, Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women's League, and Calgary Catholic local of the Alberta Teachers' Association, the event was hosted by the Calgary Catholic School District.
The idea is to bring the Catholic community together for an educational and faith development experience every two years in alternate locations to enable as many people as possible to attend.
One highlight of Catholic Conference 2000 was the one-day youth conference held March 18 at Bishop Carroll High School, attended by more than 800 students from across western Canada.
Although Catholic Conference 2000 was billed as a Catholic education conference, its focus was broader than what is happening in Catholic education, said conference director Janina Diodati.
"The focus was on enlightenment. It was intended to be an educational conference, not a conference about Catholic education."
During the Mass on Sunday, Calgary Bishop Frederick Henry emphasized the significance of the Eucharist in speaking of who we are as God's people.
"The role of worship is precisely to deepen our sense of identity.
"We must remember we are God's people and we must do the things that reflect our history; we must tell the story over and over and over again.
"The Eucharist is for our sake and we desperately need it. We need strength because we are confused, we are forgetful, we need encouragement, and we need to be reminded who we are and what it's all about."
The focus on community was a highlight for Dina and Vince Gallant, both Catholic school principals in Calgary.
"Connecting with people from across the province is important," said Vince, while Dina agreed: "Building community is what we're all about".
The sentiment was shared by Val Colburn from St. Vincent de Paul School in Calgary.
"It was very moving to have the community together," she said. Although she expected more of a focus on education, Colburn found the focus on her personal faith development refreshing.
Ella Ell, former president of the Alberta-Mackenzie Catholic Women's League, said she was determined to come to this year's conference.
"The conference in Edmonton was the best I had ever been to, so I wouldn't have missed this. It's a wonderful celebration of community."
Trustee Bob McGee from the Evergreen CSRD west of Edmonton was also drawn to the conference because of his experience at the first one.
"It's important to maintain the standard of this conference," he said, adding that next time he hoped more parents from his district would be able to attend.