Teachers of the faith gathered at the University of Portland today for the Archdiocesan Catechetical Conference, where they examined faith formation as “a lifelong journey.”
Experts led panel discussions and workshops in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Topics ranged from creating inclusive communities to using social media and technology as tools in the New Evangelization.
Archbishop Alexander Sample celebrated a bilingual mid-day Mass in the campus chapel. He thanked the crowd for their efforts, which he said he considers incredibly important, “essential to the ministry of the church in Western Oregon. “
“You are on the frontlines” of the New Evangelization, he said.
English-language keynoter Leisa Anslinger, director of an Ohio-based resource center to support pastoral leaders, said that 16 percent of Catholics in the United States are engaged and deeply connected to their faith. Catechists need to reach out to the 49 percent who are not engaged, rather than those who are actively disengaged. Anslinger called the last group the “flower people,” those who only come to Church on days when there are flowers.
“We tend to focus on the flower people,” she said. “We’d do better to focus on those who are living their faith.” Those are the ones who build bridges to invite new people into the church, she said.
Jared Dees led a popular morning workshop on inspiring young people to “learn, love and live their faith.” Attendees started by sharing the frustrations of catechizing at the parish level – discipline problems, sporadic Mass attendance, and lack of focus and participation during discussions.
“We don’t just want them to know about God, we want them to know God,” Dees said, summing up a catechist’s purpose.
Linda Jones, a early childhood education teacher at Portland Community College, spoke of developmentally appropriate projects as tools to maintain peaceful classrooms. Eighth-graders need to move, she said, and very little children need to have something to see and touch when they walk into the classroom. As an example she held up the colorful picture book, “Does God Know How to Tie His Shoes?”
Angela Paz and Amie Robertson, catechists at St. Cecilia Church in Beaverton, shared strategies to reach children with different types of intelligences, like linguistic learners or logical-mathematical learners.
“All of us have all of these,” Paz said, pointing to posters depicting each of the many learning styles. “But some are stronger than others. It’s what makes us all unique and beautiful.”
The conference, sponsored annually by the Archdiocese of Portland’s Office of Religious Education, offers inspiration and a chance for parish leaders from around the region to learn from one another.