By Susan Gately - 20 September, 2014
A national Pastoral Conference taking place in Athlone next weekend will draw together bishops, priests, parish leaders and members of movements.
The conference is essentially a “capacity building” event aimed at energising those present and providing formation for them.
The event has been organised on behalf of the Council for Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development and runs from Thursday 25 September until Saturday 27 September 2014 with the theme ‘Growing in Faith Together as Local Church Community’.
In December last year, the Irish Catholic newspaper billed the event as a “national assembly” which would “chart a fresh blueprint for renewal in the Church here,” but speaking to CatholicIreland.net, one of the main organisers of the event, said this was not true.
“It is not a planning event,” said Sr Anne Codd PVBM.
“This event takes place every two years and aims to be a place of enrichment and inspiration for participants.”
She said the Council for Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development would not have the authority to plan for the future of the Church in Ireland although a “planning culture is provided by Share the Good News” (the National Directory of Catechesis), which is at the very heart of this conference.
Essentially however, the event aims to allow participants to be nourished together in faith, to provide a platform for them to share programmes and experiences, and to enhance their skills in evangelisation.
Over two hundred Church stakeholders are booked for the pastoral conference which is offered to people in leadership or other pastoral care positions in parishes or dioceses and members of religious orders and movements.
One of the key note speakers is Fr Gareth Byrne, Head of religious studies in Mater Dei, who wrote Sharing the Good News – the National Directory for Catechesis in Ireland on behalf of the bishops of Ireland.
He will address the conference on the topic: “Growing as faith community in Ireland today” and “Faith development for our emerging Church.”
The second key note speaker is Prof Robert Schreiter, a priest and member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, who has written seventeen books in the areas of inculturation, world mission and reconciliation.
He will address the gathering on ‘Local Church Alive’, ‘Practical Theological Reflections’ and ‘Local and Global Church of the Future.’
Prof Schreiter comes from the United States, and is a professor of theology at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.
“We need formation and learning and time together,” says Sr Anne Codd. “This is one of the only meetings of its kind in Ireland.”
Stressing the importance of the ‘Share the Good News’ directory, she told CatholicIreland.net that the conference takes place within the “vision and thrust of Share the Good News”.
In addition to the main conference at the Sheraton Hotel in Athlone, people involved in groups or ministries can display material at the conference exhibition, and there will be the opportunity for evening workshops.