By Susana Soto
RIVERSIDE—The Department of Ministry of Educational Services hosted the Diocese’s second Faith Formation Conference on October 5-6, drawing more than 1,800 to the Riverside Convention Center to learn and dialogue about a variety of topics and issues under the umbrella of catechesis.
It was a collaborative effort between the offices within the department including the Office of Catholic Schools, the Office of Ministry with Young Catholics, the Office of Catechetical Ministry, the Office of Charismatic Renewal, and the Office of Evangelization and Adult Faith Formation. In honor of the 40th anniversary year of the Diocese, the conference was themed “Beacons of Hope ~ Portadores de Esperanza,” to fully embody this year’s diocesan theme of “Filling Lives with Hope ~ Llenando Vidas de Esperanza.”
The second ever Faith Formation Conference featured compelling speakers, as well as talented musicians and artists who helped in the continued formation of Catholic school teachers, young adults, catechists, and other Catholic ministers in the diocese.
The event began on Friday, October 5 with the Office of Catholic Schools offering a day of formation for currently employed Catholic school principals, teachers and staff. A total of 565 Catholic educators took part. They shared a day filled with formation and fellowship that will aid them as they continue to educate the next generation of Catholics.
The Office of Ministry with Young Catholics followed up with an evening of praise and worship including a special message from Bishop Gerald Barnes that inspired the young adults to live their life with hope and become leaders in the Church. There were more than 200 attendees and representatives – including priests, seminarians, and religious sisters - from all six vicariates of the Diocese. There were also various young adult ministry exhibitors at the mixer ready to provide everyone with information, flyers, and invitations to all upcoming young adult events in the Diocese. The opportunity to hear testimonies from their peers as well as amazing music from a group comprised of members from Anthem Rising (St. Martha, Murrieta), Fiat Music (Sacred Heart, Rancho Cucamonga), Seen and Heard (The Holy Name of Jesus, Redlands) and Chris Estrella Music Ministry allowed for this evening to be truly inspiring. After getting to meet and converse with several other Catholic young adults, the attendees were also able to partake in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and engage with Christ through Eucharistic Adoration.
After closing out Friday evening with an overflow of excitement and hope, the Office of Catechetical Ministry started off Saturday morning with Mass celebrated by Bishop Gerald Barnes. The day brought more than 600 catechists to view a slew of workshops, “TED”- style Talks, a film showcase and, for the first time ever, an art gallery featuring local diocesan artists. This year’s presenters spoke on themes relating to becoming digital disciples in the modern world, learning to minister to Gen Z, our role as Catholics in addressing climate change, and other topics. One of the most anticipated events was the film showcase presented by Eddie Perez, on the beloved Disney film “Coco.” Perez illustrated that the movie not only features several core Catholic teachings, but helps explore the beauty of these traditions and our faith overall and allows us to prepare for All Souls Day.
For the first time ever, the Office of Catechetical Ministry reached out to several local artists who graciously agreed to participate in the Hope Gallery. The artists include the Diocese’s own David Meier, Director of the Office of Construction and Real Estate, who works in relief sculpture and whose works hang in several parishes throughout the Diocese. Meier’s rendition of St. Francis of Assisi passing on a spiritual version of Laudato Si to the encyclical’s author, Pope Francis, hangs in Bishop Barnes’ own office. Vivian Imbruglia, an iconographer who takes on private and public commissions, has her most recent work, an icon made of 24 ct gold, with precious stones and a third class relic of St. Oscar Romero, hanging in the now renamed St. Oscar Romero Parish in Eastvale. Dara Handy contributed several pieces from her current collection, including beautiful landscapes and a modern interpretation of our Holy Mother Mary breastfeeding the child Jesus which comes from a marriage of theological and philosophical ideologies with truth and beauty. The fourth and final artist was Gian Vital, wife and now mother of six children whose mission is to spread the message of love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus through her passion for art. One of her most beloved pieces was a rendition of the Stations of the Cross, hand painted on the insides of matchboxes, with reflections or prayers on the back of each one.
To close out the conference, the Office of Charismatic Renewal offered a special praise and worship night with a healing service open to all. With the help of musician Jon Carlo and Dr. Elizabeth Kim, PhD, the over 400 attendees received a mass influx of inner, physical, and spiritual healing. Overall, this year’s Faith Formation Conference called each and every participant to share the richness they received with their own parishes, neighborhoods, and families and to become beacons of hope.
Susana Soto is Administrative Secretary in the Diocesan Office of Catechetical Ministry.