By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published July 26, 2021 | En Español
ATLANTA—Sixteen dioceses are coming together for this year’s virtual Southeast Catechist Conference Aug. 12-15.
The theme for this year’s conference is, “Say the Word,” echoing the theme of the U.S. Catholic Bishops for Catechetical Sunday on Sept. 19.
Hosted by the Office of Formation and Discipleship for 15 years, the annual Atlanta Catechist Conference included local and national speakers who led workshops on spirituality, theology and other topics. Last year, the conference was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The steering committee found great value in reaching a greater number of people and providing them more information through the virtual conference last year, explained Michele McHale-Pickard, an associate director of faith formation in the Office of Formation and Discipleship.
That outreach coupled with ongoing challenges from COVID-19 led to the decision to host the conference virtually again this year.
“It was natural to reach out to our province partners to see if we could pool our resources and expertise to organize together a conference that could serve various dioceses,” said Andy Lichtenwalner, director of the Office of Formation and Discipleship. “We hope the conference can benefit as many catechists, teachers and other ministry leaders and volunteers as possible.”
The Southeast Catechist Conference will represent dioceses from Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey.
Speaker recordings will be available beginning Aug. 12 until the evening of Aug. 15. Presentations are available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Attendees can also live chat with speakers.
A worship page is a new feature of this year’s conference that will include the rosary prayer, a live divine chaplet, worship meditation and other prayer offerings.
“We want this initiative to be covered in prayer,” said McHale-Pickard.
While registration is free for those inside and outside of partnering dioceses, a diocesan support pass is available for $49.99. With this pass, participants can access videos from the conference until May 2022, download audio recordings, replay live sessions and have full access to a virtual Bible conference hosted by Virtual Catholic Conference. Half of the proceeds for each diocesan pass will be sent to the participant’s diocese to support faith formation programs.
Georgia is represented by the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Savannah. From Florida are the Diocese of St. Augustine, Diocese of Orlando, Diocese of Palm Beach, Diocese of Pensacola Tallahassee, Diocese of St. Petersburg and the Archdiocese of Miami. From South Carolina is the Diocese of Charleston, and the Diocese of Raleigh represents North Carolina.
New Jersey is represented by the Diocese of Camden, Diocese of Metuchen, Diocese of Newark, Diocese of Paterson and the Diocese of Trenton. The Diocese of Arlington represents Virginia.
“My hope is that participants will be renewed and inspired by the conference for the sake of their ministries, apostolates and vocations,” said Lichtenwalner. “In particular, I hope this year’s conference can further strengthen our understanding and ministry of catechesis as essential to the church’s mission of evangelization. All the baptized are called to be catechists in some way, and hence all are called to be evangelizers—proclaiming the word through our own words and actions every day.”