Parish Conference Stirs up Faith and Fervor
A parish-based conference helps passive parishioners become more active in their faith.
"The Y B Catholic Conference is a wonderful opportunity to reawaken and deepen the Catholic faith among your parishioners. It offers the local parish different ways of connecting to the wider mission of the Church."
Fr. Michael Monette, Pastor,
St. Luke the Evangelist Parish, Plaistow, NH
The need it meets
Adult parishioners need ongoing faith formation, but they also need to be confirmed and encouraged in their Catholic faith in order to actively stay plugged in to parish life. This conference not only teaches them but also motivates them to be enthusiastic Catholics.
Where it came from
Fr. Michael Monette was in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, asking the Lord what He wanted to do with the parish. He saw the need to stir up the faith and fervor of the people, and the idea of organizing a conference came to mind as a way to let God's grace act. Fr Monette was ordained to the priesthood in 1999 in Manchester, NH.
How it works
At St. Luke the Evangelist Parish, the Y B Catholic Conference sponsors a well-known Catholic speaker who comes to preach on a topic that he and the pastor both agree will be beneficial for the parish. The event is open to anyone.
The conference starts on Friday evening from 6 - 9 p.m. and continues on Saturday from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. The general layout of events includes:
- a total of 3-4 talks from the guest speaker
- question-and-answer sessions with the speaker after every talk
- time for prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
- time for browsing the book tables and socializing
- lunch provided on Saturday
- opportunities for confession on Saturday from 3:00 - 4:00 p.m.
- a concluding Mass on Saturday at 4:00 p.m.
So far, the parish has hosted:
* Steve Ray, a Catholic apologist, author, and speaker
* Fr. John Paul Joyce, from a new congregation called The Intercessors of the Lamb
* This upcoming October, the parish will host Roy Shoeman, a convert from Judaism and the author of the books "Salvation Is from the Jews" and "Honey from the Rock."
The hosting parish can charge whatever registration fee is needed to cover essential costs. If the parish wants to use the event as a fundraiser, this fee can be increased.
St. Luke the Evangelist Parish hosted the first conference in 2006 with 120+ people in attendance. The parish has held it every year since then.
These yearly conferences teach people about their faith and give them a desire to continue learning from good resources.
Fr. Monette observed that some people have entered or returned to the Church. After the first conference, one non-Catholic man who had been attending Sunday Mass with his wife for years finally made the decision to sign up for RCIA.
The follow-up after the conferences has also given good results:
After Steve Ray came as a guest speaker, some of the parishioners went on one of his pilgrimages to the Holy Land, which was a life-transforming experience of faith for them. Parishioners who bought Steve Ray's books and DVDs found a practical way to extend their own faith formation beyond the conference.
After Fr. John Paul Joyce, parishioners started up an Intercessors of the Lamb prayer group and began meeting regularly to pray for priests.
- Promotion of the conference through Church bulletins, local TV and radio stations, announcements after Mass, etc. For promotion, it's good to have registration flyers with an interesting blurb on the speaker and a clear layout of the events and schedule.
- It is crucial to get a good speaker who will help the people grow deeper in their faith.
- The book table is a key means to lead parishioners to quality resources that can help them to continue growing in their faith.
- The lunch on Saturday is a simple but important element.
How to implement it
- Assemble a committee and assign tasks to each person.
- Book a speaker and set the theme with them.
Fr. Michael Monette is pastor of
St Luke the Evangelist.