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Catechetical conference provides fuel for missionary disciples

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Like a fountain overflowing with life-giving water, catechists strive to pour out their love of God into the hearts of their students. But those who give without replenishing their own spiritual reserves can be victims of burnout. 

In an effort to support these missionary disciples, the Diocese of Arlington holds the annual catechetical conference. It’s an opportunity for those on the frontlines of the new evangelization to be reinvigorated through prayers, speakers, workshops and community support. 

“It’s wonderful being around people who are doing the same thing, and to take a chance and pray, and reassess ourselves, and reflect on how the Holy Spirit can work through us to make an impact.” Katy Oskouri

More than 300 people attended the daylong conference at the Sheraton Reston Hotel Nov. 18. 

“I’m always really impressed and edified by the people who are giving up a Saturday to learn and grow in their formation,” said Father Paul F. deLadurantaye, diocesan secretary for religious education and sacred liturgy. “We hope there is a lot of fruit.”

The conference started with Mass concelebrated by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Father deLadurantaye and Father J.D. Jaffe, vocations director. During the homily, Bishop Burbidge asked the catechists to meditate on three words: personal, pressing and perseverance.

“We are here to help each other carry out the work entrusted to us,” said Bishop Burbidge. “If we read reports and other studies of the percentage or the numbers of people who are leaving our faith, even after receiving the sacraments of confirmation and marriage, it is depressing. But we are people of faith and we do not despair in the midst of such news. We do something about it.”

He reminded them that no matter what the response is, God uses all the seeds the catechists plant every day in mysterious and miraculous ways.

Mass was followed by the keynote speaker, Petroc Willey, professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville. 

“To be given a mission is to be given an incredible grace,” said Willey. “For every hour you speak you need an hour to be spoken to. You have to be filled up and then flow over.” He went on to explain that the key to being a missionary disciple is not so much the going out to evangelize, but staying close to God as His disciples. This requires “pruning.”
According to Willey, when God sees His disciples being fruitful He will sometimes send things their way that might seem like an attack, but is in fact God pruning them. This helps His followers go back to the source of our nourishment — Himself.

After the keynote address, participants were able to attend two breakout sessions before and after lunch. They varied from lessons on Scripture and liturgy to classroom organization, activities and planning. 

Samantha Welsh, director of religious education at All Saints Church in Manassas, hosted a workshop discussing low-tech methods of teaching in a high-tech world. She encouraged participants not to feel as if they have to use the latest technology to communicate their message. 

Welsh put word into action as she led her group of catechists in activities such as a saint matching game and a true and false relay race. 

Katy Oskouri, a first grade CCD teacher at St. John the Beloved Church in McLean, enjoyed the session and is excited to start using what she learned. 

“I needed tips on how to do transitions in the classroom and come up with fun ideas to make it more engaging. It was perfect,” said Oskouri. She also appreciated the prayerful aspect of the conference as a whole. 

“It’s wonderful being around people who are doing the same thing, and to take a chance and pray, and reassess ourselves, and reflect on how the Holy Spirit can work through us to make an impact,” she said. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017