By George Gregory
Special to The CS&T

RADNOR – “Go forth and transform all things in Christ” was the theme of the archdiocesan Catholic Life Congress that drew more than 1,200 participants to Archbishop John Carroll High School in Radnor Nov. 14.

Catholic Life Congress is an annual presentation of workshops designed to assist teachers, administrators, musicians, lectors and volunteers of all Church ministries to better serve the needs of their parish communities. While many workshops pertain to formation, others place their focus on evangelization, sensitivity to cultural needs and ministering to persons who are challenged or disabled.

The day began with the celebration of Mass by Auxiliary Bishop Robert P. Maginnis. “In order to transform the world and renew all things in Christ, we, ourselves, must be renewed,” he said in his homily.

After Mass, the keynote address was presented by Joseph Paprocki, the national consultant for faith formation at Loyola Press in Chicago and author of numerous books on catechesis and pastoral ministry. “To embrace God’s Word is to commit to a new way of seeing,” he said. “As disciples of Jesus and ministers of the Church, we are called to experience this transformation and to invite others to do the same.” He went on to explain five specific ways Catholic Christians can live out this transformation through a sense of sacramentality, commitment to community, respect for the dignity of human life, reverence for tradition and a disposition to faith, hope and justice.

“The choirs that sang for Mass were so uplifting, and the keynote address was tremendous,” said Laura Mehlmann, a third grade teacher’s aide at St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Norristown.

Mark Gonzalez, director of religious education at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish in Philadelphia echoed her enthusiasm about Paprocki’s address: “The keynote speaker presented important aspects of our Catholic faith in understandable terms, so that we, in turn, can teach it to the children.”

Among the workshops offered at the congress was a presentation titled “Spiritual Cardiology” given by Sister John Sheila, I.H.M., a professor of theology at Immaculata University. Her focus was on how to transform ourselves from deadly sins to saving virtues. “I want my attendees to come to a deeper understanding of key dispositions that lead us into sinful actions,” she said.

Father Matthew Guckin, school minister at Bishop Shanahan High School in Downingtown, offered a presentation on redemptive suffering titled “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?”

“Suffering can unite us to Christ in a way that prosperity cannot,” he said. He also emphasized that it is in weakness, as seen on the cross, that we become truly strong.

James and Susan Banks, sixth grade teacher and aide, respectively, at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Limerick, also attended the Congress.

“Our own four children have a good relationship with the Church,” Susan said. “We hope to take what we’ve learned here and pass that same relationship on to our students, giving them the enthusiasm to learn and practice their Catholic faith.”

The organizing committee reported that attendance this year outstripped last year’s with more than 1,200 people from across the Archdiocese present.

George Gregory is a parishioner of St. Cecilia Parish in Coatesville.