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Conference Renews Religious Educators

Over 35 presentations on adult catechesis, sacramental preparation, family catechesis, youth ministry, Scripture, and liturgy

Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2008

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STEUBENVILLE, OH—"There are a lot of prodigals out there who need to come home to the Father," Monsignor Stuart Swetland, STD, Msgr Stewart Swetland St. John Bosco Conference 2008 told over 300 religious educators gathered at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, for a week of training and renewal.

Pointing to one group of prodigals, he said, "The second biggest denomination is fallen-away Catholics. They need to know that they are God’s beloved—and we are the ones to tell them just how much they are loved, how much they are missed."

The July 16-20 St. John Bosco Conference for Religious Educators attracted youth ministers, directors of religious education, and RCIA leaders the United States, Canada, and Ghana.

Swetland, a vice president and director of Homiletics and Pre-theology Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg Maryland,told the educators they need to start proclaiming from the rooftops" the Gospel message within their own parishes.

His was one of over 35 presentations on adult catechesis, sacramental preparation, family catechesis, youth ministry, Scripture, and liturgy designed to help attendees more efficiently teach others the truths of the Catholic faith.

In the youth ministry workshop, "The Mission of the Church and the Purpose of Catechesis," Eric Westby, director of Family Catechesis for the Diocese of Phoenix, told attendees that their mission is to catechize.

"When youth are educated about their faith, it helps them to stand against evil. When we've given them this foundation, they go on to college and still live Christ-Centered lives."

He told the youth workers to "become more catechetically grounded" by tapping into resources, such as those found in the National Directory for Catechesis, published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Participants St John Bosco Conference Religious Educators 2008And he urged them to work, plan, and pray often with their parish priest. It’s a delusion to think that you are in charge, or that you alone can run the youth program, he explained. "Just as your pastor is obedient to your bishop, so must you be obedient when you work with your pastor."

Patty Norris of Maderia, Ohio, tapped into her thirty years of experience in parish ministry to lead a workshop on how to catechize people with little understanding of Christianity who have been involved in new age and neo-pagan beliefs.

"We live in a world that has become more and more pagan, similar to the times of the early church, except that we are battling indifference and disbelief in any creator at all," she said. "But, we’ve been given the grace of God to show the truth, and with him, we can do it well."

Norris says that the St. John Bosco Conference "Gives people the tools to feel confident to teach. They receive a catechetical vocabulary and are encouraged to read the catechism, become immersed in Scripture, and build their catechetical knowledge while deepening their spirituality."

One tool for parish ministersSt. John Bosco Conference for Religious Educators 2008 offered at the conference was The Sower Review, a quarterly magazine published jointly by the Maryvale Institute of Birmingham, England, and Franciscan University of Steubenville. The magazine contains articles to help parish ministers deepen their understanding of Church teachings, along with helpful tips for parish ministry (

Franciscan University catechetics professor and conference host Ron Bolster ended the conference, telling participants that they have an important mission. "As catechists, our job is to hasten the coming of God's kingdom on earth by teaching his children about the kingdom."

For audio recordings of the main talks by conference speakers, go to and click on the "Your Kingdom Come!" logo.

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