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Congress draws hundreds of catechists, parish leaders

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

By David Eck

SIDNEY DEANERY — As they have for more than three decades, religious education teachers in the northern reaches of the archdiocese gathered Sept. 19 to network, share resources and attend workshops at the Northern Area Congress for Parish Leaders and Catechists.

More than 250 people attended the 34th annual congress, which featured about three dozen different workshops, exhibitors, displays from various archdiocesan offices and a keynote address by Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk. Participants came from as far away as Columbus and Cincinnati to attend the event, held at the Upper Joint Vocational School in Piqua.

Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk talks with University of Dayton students at the annual Northern Area Congress for catechists and parish leaders. (CT/E.L. Hubbard)

During a lively 45-minute address, Archbishop Pilarczyk spoke of simple phrases that help make up happiness: “Please,” “I’m sorry” and “thank you.” The archbishop, sitting at a table, joked and smiled as he spoke primarily of gratitude and being thankful to the Lord for His blessings.

“The practice of gratitude is an important virtue of the individual Christian believer and an important piece of spiritual equipment for teachers to inoculate into the hearts and minds and lives of their students,” he said. “Gratitude is important because it teaches us about God and how we are supposed to relate to Him.”

Gratitude also shows that we aware of God and dependent on Him.

“We can’t make it on our own,” the archbishop said. “We need resources that can come into our lives only from the generosity of God.”

The audience gave the archbishop standing ovation when he finished speaking. To commemorate his 50 years as a priest and 35 years as a bishop, archdiocesan officials gave him a scrapbook filled with letters, cards and photos.

Workshop topics included the sacraments, prayer, Catholic social teaching, Easter vigil, creative activities, stewardship and church history.

“There was never a time I didn’t walk away from here without valuable resources and ideas,” said Alice Altstaetter, coordinator of religious education at St. Joseph Parish in Wapkaoneta, who has attended the congress many times.

In a special workshop, Archbishop Pilarczyk met with about 30 students in the Forum for Young Catechetical Leaders at the University of Dayton. The program is for students who are interested in leadership in the church after graduation.

“Your job as catechists is to represent the church and to represent the Lord,” Archbishop Pilarczyk told them. “Your job is to teach your students about the Lord. What the Lord does and what the Lord wants.”

For about an hour the archbishop took questions from the students. They asked about things like his job, prayer, fasting, the saints, teaching and catechetical leadership.

“I appreciated his honesty,” said Sheila Heaton, a UD student from Chicago. “He treated us as if we were on an equal playing field.”

David Eck can be reached at [email protected].

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