UDMC, a clarion call to participate in the Year of Faith for more than 5,000 participants

Joan Kurkowski-Gillen


North Texas Catholic

For the more than 5,000 people who filled the Irving Convention Center Oct. 26-27, the 6th annual University of Dallas Ministry Conference was a clarion call to participate in the Year of Faith.

Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell enthusiastically addresses the audiance gathered for the two-day seminar on discipleship at the University of Dallas Ministry Conference co-hosted by the Dioceses of Dallas and Fort Worth. (Photo by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen)

“Today is a great beginning, not just for our conference, it’s a great moment to begin this Year of Faith,” Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell enthused before an audience composed of educators, lay ministers, parish staff, and clergy who gathered for the two-day seminar on discipleship. “And there is no more appropriate way to initiate this year called by the Holy Father than to reflect on our Catholic faith, traditions, and how we live the faith in our communities.”

In Porta Fidei, his Apostolic Letter issued Oct. 11, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI asked Catholics around the world to spend the next year experiencing a renewed conversion to Christ. The Year of Faith began Oct. 11, 2012 on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and continues until Nov. 24, 2013. Studying Vatican II documents, the Catechism, lives of the saints, and more ardent devotion to the Eucharist, are paths to developing a closer relationship to God, the pontiff suggests.

Many conference speakers and workshop presenters encouraged participation in the movement and offered tools on how to bring faith to the forefront of church life.

“Wherever we are in our faith journey, we’re asked to begin anew during this Year of Faith,” explained Cardinal Roger Mahony in a keynote address launching the conference. “We’re asked to appreciate the gift of faith, to deepen our relationship with God, and to strengthen our commitment to share the faith with others.”

The cardinal emeritus of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said issues raised during the 2012 presidential campaign forced people to reflect on the nature of faith and what is central to Catholicism. Faith is often thought of as solely an affirmation of religious doctrines, but the speaker expanded that definition.

“Faith is standing firm, being resolved, and standing true,” he added “To have faith is to abandon yourself without reserve and with boundless confidence into the arms of God whose faithfulness is as certain as life.”

As parishes plan Year of Faith activities and engage in the new evangelization, the cardinal urged lay ministers to follow the lead of Pope Benedict who considers the first Christian community of Jerusalem a source of inspiration for modern man.

“Don’t we love the Acts of the Apostles proclaimed during the Easter season?” he asked the crowd. “That’s because we’re reminded of that special belief in our risen Lord Jesus and being formed into a community of believers — the Church.”

Initiating a fresh encounter with Jesus Christ is a challenge in today’s culture but can happen in unexpected places and with unfamiliar people. The cardinal said he experiences Christ in the face of the immigrants. Retired since February 2011, he now spends time working for immigration reform and the rights of 11 million undocumented people who live in the shadows of U.S. society.

“Every time I meet one of these wonderful people, I feel deeply a fresh encounter with Jesus Christ,” he said. “And our offer of hope and understanding to these people allows them to encounter Jesus Christ in us.”

Sponsored by the University of Dallas and the dioceses of Fort Worth and Dallas, the 2012 Ministry Conference presented 134 breakout sessions in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Held for the first time inside the Irving Convention Center, the new venue provided the modern amenities of electronic signage and wireless Internet. The layout also allowed multiple gathering spaces for viewing liturgical art displays and enjoying musical performances.

According to Danielle Schumer, communications manager for the UD School of Ministry, “It (the ICC) brought warmth, energy, and community to the conference. More than 100 companies filled the Exhibit Hall and brought countless resources to help teachers, catechists, religious educators, and lay Catholics evangelize the faith.”

Schumer called the 2012 conference a “huge success” noting “the liturgies, especially the closing Mass, saw the largest attendance to date.”

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Conference attendees benefited from a variety of workshops with topics ranging from an examination of the Nicene Creed to athletics as ministry. In his presentation, Lucas Pollice, former director of Catechesis for the Diocese of Fort Worth who now lives in Denver, called the Year of Faith a blueprint for the New Evangelization.

“The Holy Father is telling us there’s a crisis of faith and we need to do something about it,” Pollice explained. “It’s preparing us in the Church to increase our faith so that we can then go out and initiate the New Evangelization. Before we can be evangelizers, we have to be re-evangelized.”

Catholic author Lisa Hendey’s workshop, “Saints for Slackers, Seekers, and Sinners,” introduced listeners to well known, little known and newly canonized saints. Increased awareness of saints is a Year of Faith objective.

“When we think of saints, we think of extremely holy, devout people,” Hendey said. “But the truth is Christ called many different types of people to sainthood.”

During the Year of Faith, the U.S. Catholic bishops are promoting 10 saints American Catholics can use as examples of dedication and service. Included on the list are St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who started the first free U.S. Catholic school and St. Frances Cabrini, the first U.S. citizen canonized.

“You’re here today because you want to shake up, challenge, and inspire the people around you who are — in their own right -- saints in the making,” Hendey added.

Toni Corbett, a theology teacher at Nolan Catholic High School, conveys what she learned at the conference to her students. The veteran educator teaches a senior level course on the New Testament Gospels of St. John and St. Paul.

“One of the workshops explained how the Creed is a living text and not just a list of facts,” Corbett explained. “I always learn something interesting I can share with my classes.” 

For the more than 5,000 people who filled the Irving Convention Center Oct. 26-27, the 6th annual University of Dallas Ministry Conference was a clarion call to participate in the Year of Faith.