More than 200 parishioners from around the Diocese of Knoxville took part Oct. 18 in Ministries Day, a daylong event where diocesan ministry leaders gather with fellow Catholics from the various churches to share ideas on how to more effectively spread the faith.
Thirty presentations in English and Spanish were held for parishioners, with each presentation concentrating on some aspect of Catholic family life and offering thought-provoking material on the family in the new evangelization.
“Many people commented that they didn’t want the day to end, and that the seven or eight choices offered in the four breakout sessions were outstanding and that it was difficult to choose among them,” said Sister Mary Timothea Elliott, RSM, director of the diocese’s Office of Christian Formation.
“Ministries Day is always an important day for the diocese because it brings people together from all parts of the diocese for enrichment in our common faith. Some presentations provide stimulating ideas for leadership in various parish ministries; others deepen spirituality; and all of them provide opportunity to meet and exchange ideas and reflections with people concerned with the same questions and issues,” Sister Timothea added.
Mass was held at Sacred Heart Cathedral to begin the day, and Bishop Richard F. Stika began the conference with an opening address to the participants in the Sacred Heart School gym.
Bishop Stika related his recent trip to the Vatican and his visit with Pope Francis in late September and early October as the Synod on the Family began.
“I have a question for all of you. What’s the whole topic of the synod?” Bishop Stika asked the attendees, with several responding “families.”
“You’re wrong,” Bishop Stika said. “It’s Jesus, isn’t it? Isn’t that why we’re gathering together here today? This is all about Jesus and the Father and asking the Holy Spirit to give us guidance and wisdom and openness in our hearts today. But it’s especially about Jesus.
“In fact, every topic that will be discussed today in one way or another will be connected to Jesus, whether it’s youth ministry or catechetical instruction, whether it’s dealing with culture, liturgy, no matter what it might be. It’s all about Jesus,” he said.
Sister Timothea described Bishop Stika’s remarks as a “rousing welcome and address” that complemented the conference theme of “Families Together in Christ.”
“His talk encouraged all to become engaged in the all-important mission of evangelization of the family, and the family as evangelizer,” Sister Timothea said.
Following Bishop Stika’s opening address, participants attended breakout sessions covering ministries of the diocese, including Christian Formation, Worship and Liturgy, Hispanic Ministry, Justice and Peace, Marriage Preparation and Enrichment, Youth and Young Adult Ministry, and Employment Services and Benefits.
Father Richard Armstrong, assistant director of the diocese’s Office of Christian Formation who helped coordinate Ministries Day, said the event went “extremely well.”
“Each participant I spoke with mentioned that the workshops were very well organized and informative. I saw a lot of smiles and happy faces that day – those are pretty good indicators that the day went well. The presenters were all first-rate and are considered experts in the subjects they taught. The vast majority of presenters also live and work here in the Diocese of Knoxville,” Father Armstrong said.
“The greatest asset in the diocese is our own people and Ministries Day gives us the opportunity to showcase that. Ministries Day is also important because it gives those who work for the Church an occasion to learn more about their faith. Those involved in parish ministries are the ones serving the faithful throughout the diocese; Ministries Day is our opportunity to serve those who serve. Each time we help form one pastoral minister, he or she in turn goes out and forms countless others in the parish. Thus, what we do at Ministries Day has a ripple effect throughout the diocese,” Father Armstrong added.
Sister Mary Charles Mayer, RSM, the diocese’s associate chancellor for pastoral services, encouraged parishioners to take advantage of the pastoral resources available to them through the diocese.
“By accessing the many resources available through the Pastoral Services office, you may find ways to better serve our families and help grow the Catholic faith in East Tennessee,” Sister Mary Charles said. “As associate chancellor of Pastoral Services, it is a great joy as well as my primary mission to help bring these important ministerial support services to every parish in our growing diocese.”
A Spanish Ministries Day program was held simultaneously for Spanish-speaking parishioners led by Alfonso and Margarita Enriquez, founders of the Hispanic Family Ministry in Houston, and Valentin Araya-Mesen, adjunct director of the Office of Marriage and Family in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Some 85 Hispanic parishioners took part in this session of Ministries Day, according to Lourdes Garza, director of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Knoxville.
“I’m really happy with the turnout. I see a lot of new faces and a lot of interest in the topics. The speakers really hit the points on family life,” Ms. Garza said.
Like Ms. Garza, Bishop Stika was pleased with the Ministries Day program and the enthusiastic attendance.
“It provides the opportunity to affirm the tremendous gifts we have in this diocese,” Bishop Stika said. “The basic objective is to know Jesus, and to teach about Jesus you have to know him. And that’s what this is all about.”
The Paraclete Book Store provided supplemental material, with generous discounts, to support Ministries Day.