‘The Eucharist should be the center of our lives’

COLUMBIA — Participants at this year’s All Ministries Conference learned new ways of “Building Communities of Life” during a day filled with activities that included Mass, a keynote address and workshops.

Bishop Robert J. Baker, the main celebrant for the Mass, emphasized the need to be open and prepared for the Eucharist because that is where ministry begins.

Deidre Hines, a parishioner at St. Anne Church in Sumter, said the bishop gave a challenge with his homily.

“He said the Eucharist should be the center of our lives,” she said. “He gave the analogy of a hurricane and said that there are many ‘hurricanes’ in our lives, but in the center is peace, if God is in the center.”

The conference was held Oct. 15 at the Russell House at the University of South Carolina. Bishop Robert Morneau, auxiliary bishop and vicar general of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., gave the keynote address. He presented “Building Communities of Life and Love and Light: Beginning in the Parish,” in which he offered an over-view of the many workshop topics.

Marsha Hnat, director of religious education at St. Joseph Church in Columbia, was already familiar with Bishop Morneau’s writings and found him to be an equally talented speaker. She felt he modeled ministry in his entertaining presentation.

“I liked the way he incorporated the arts in his talk,” she said. “He did not just read the quote from his notes, he was quoting from his heart. It reminded us all that everything and everyone is part of our ministry.”

Dominican Sister Donna Ciangio, who gave the workshop on small faith communities, incorporated many of Bishop Morneau’s thoughts into her own presentation. The challenges that ministry faces are the same challenges that Sister Ciangio has seen in small faith communities as the director of pastoral services at the National Pastoral Life Center in New Jersey.

She showed a picture of a circle where the people were facing inward and explained that when small faith communities face inward little can be accomplished. She suggested that communities face outward because they can move away from the cultural tendency of being self-absorbed and begin to reach out to others.

Mike Sylvester, youth minister for St. Andrew, St. Francis and St. Paul churches, found the workshop with Mike Patin, “Youth Ministry: New Challenges, Same Commitment,” extremely helpful. Patin has more than 12 years of experience in the ministry at the Archdiocese of New Orleans. He gave an energized talk on the successful endeavors of youth ministry.

“His presentation was real, not just reading a book,” Sylvester said. “He still has such a passion for the youth, and it was great to see.”

Because of the tremendous growth in the Hispanic population in South Carolina, a large number of people attended the workshop on Hispanic ministry given by Maricela Quintana, associate director for administration and planning at the Northeast Hispanic Catholic Center in New York. She sees leadership training among the Hispanic Catholics as the most critical need for states with booming populations. According to Quintana, the churches should have a plan for leadership development so that Hispanics will be able to help one another more effectively without some of the cultural and language barriers that non-Hispanics face in outreach efforts.

Other workshops included “Celebrating the Liturgical Year in the Parish and in the Home” and “Lay Ministry: A Path of Service and Spiritual Growth.”

Father Joseph Wahl, the organizer of the All Ministries Conference, was delighted at the turnout.

“It was very satisfying to see everything come together so nicely,” he said. “I could not have done it without my staff.”