Its Not Just for Teachers Anymore
For Andrew Gafvert, a 20-year-old college student and Holy Family parishioner, attending the 1999 Religious Education Congress was like going to a pep rally for God, an experience that he said energized his faith.
At Mass, things are traditional and sometimes reserved, said Gafvert, who has been involved in the parishs youth ministry since high school. But the youth really got into the rally. I felt this oneness, being with people who all want to become better people.
Gafverts satisfaction with one event at the conference, the Youth Day celebration, was echoed by many of the 150 Holy Family members who responded to a parish-wide invitation to attend the annual congress at the Anaheim Convention Center in February.
Sponsored by the Los Angeles Archdiocese, the three-day event with 200 workshops and an array of dramatic Masses offered a rare opportunity for Holy Family educators, ministers, parishioners, and youth to both celebrate and reflect on their faith.
Sometimes we tend to get lost in our own little worlds, said Julie Smith, director of Community
Services for Holy Family. But all our worlds came together the preschool teachers, the school teachers, parents, and staff. We were all proud to be with one another and exchange ideas on spirituality and Catholicism.
And the parenting lessons they picked up will help them with the everyday duties of raising children.
Taking advice from a workshop on how to build childrens self-esteem, she is making an effort to constantly compliment and reinforce her sons good behavior. For every one disciplinary action, you need to take four positive actions, she said.
You tend to get caught up in work and school and dinner and the laundry and forget that teaching kids to be good Christians with good character and morals is just as important as everything
they are learning in school, Messina-Doerning said. Kids are not hearing these types of things on Dawsons Creek and Beverly Hills 90210. She is already putting lessons from the conference into practice, she said.
Jim Meagher, 56, who left the Church for 24 years and returned in 1985, has not missed a congress in 12 years. Meagher said that he is drawn to the incredible energy and excitement that surrounds the congress. Also, it provides a quick and valuable source for much-needed adult education courses.
For most people, their church experience is limited to the parish and maybe they havent had Catholic education since grade school or high school, explained Meagher. They may have great faith. But as far as the details of whats going on in the Church, they dont know what fine things are happening.
He said he attended a seminar about marriage, divorce, and re-marriage in the Church, and the nice thing about it was that it was so positive. These are not bad subjects anymore. The information and book he collected will help him in his ministry helping Catholics who left the Church make a re-entry.
Gafvert, who was diagnosed five years ago with a slow-progressing form of muscular dystrophy, was one of several young adults selected to deliver a short homily at a Youth Day mass. He said that he told the crowd of 2,000 that your cross can be a salvation for other people, and used as an example his experience as muscular dystrophy camp counselor.
Because of what has happened to me I could empathize with the kids at camp, Gafvert said, adding that he encouraged others at the Congress to use their own personal experiences to help influence other people.
My problems were a wake-up call for how I can help others.