The City of Brotherly Love is certainly a fitting gathering place for those who carry out the Gospel message of “helping the least among us.”

More than 300 staff members who work for Catholic Social Services’ agencies or organizations that serve the poor and disadvantaged will participate in a regional Partners in Excellence Conference sponsored by Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) July 29-30 in Philadelphia.

CCUSA is the national office for Catholic Charities agencies and affiliates nationwide that serve more than 10 million people every year regardless of their religious, social or economic backgrounds.

The last time Catholic Charities USA held its annual conference in Philadelphia was 1992, so staff members from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Secretariat for Catholic Human Services welcome the opportunity to be involved with this regional conference.

“It’s an honor to be chosen as a site for this conference,” said Ed Lis, director of Catholic Mission Integration for the Secretariat for Catholic Human Services. “I think we have a great lineup of workshops that offer plenty of variety for people, no matter what their particular role is within a Catholic Charities agency.”

Lis anticipates that about 95 people from Catholic Human Services agencies within the Archdiocese will attend the conference.

He added that participants will primarily be coming from the Camden, Metuchen and Trenton Dioceses in New Jersey; and the Allentown, Scranton-Wilkes Barre, and Harrisburg Dioceses in Pennsylvania.

The main advantage of the regional conference is the reduced cost and travel time, compared to the annual conferences that Catholic Charities USA hosts in various cities, Lis said.

Another benefit is being able to network with those who do similar work in dioceses nearPhiladelphia.

“This is an opportunity for people from neighboring agencies to gather and get to know one another,” he added. “Our biggest hope is that there will be some relationships established or strengthened through those interactions that will continue beyond this conference.”

ThePhiladelphiaconference will be the fourth regional gathering that Catholic Charities USA has offered, and there are six more conferences planned for this fall and next spring, according to Jean Beil, senior vice president for programs and services for CCUSA. She added that a grant from an anonymous foundation has helped to make these conferences very affordable. The registration fee for the two-day conference is $50.

In addition to the professional development and networking opportunities, Beil said the conference will focus on helping staff at local Catholic Charities agencies gain a “better understanding of our Catholic identity and mission and that this is intrinsic to what it means to be a Catholic organization that we would have this concern for the poor and vulnerable.”

Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, will speak about the organization’s Catholic identity, history and foundation in the opening plenary session, she added.

CCUSA’s Campaign to Reduce Poverty inAmericawill also be highlighted during the conference. “Many of our local agency staff don’t know how the work they’re doing in the local Catholic Charities or Catholic Social Services agency is connected to the larger campaign,” Beil said. “We want staff to see themselves as part of a bigger story that came to this country in 1724 and has grown and continues today.”

While CCUSA provides speakers for the conference, several members of the archdiocesan Catholic Human Services staff will also give presentations. Workshops include “Serving the Nutritional Needs of Children and the Hungry in our Community”; “Community Preservation – Preserving Church Presence Through Adaptive Reuse”; “Sanctuary Model of Trauma-Informed Care”; “Introduction to a Parent Cafe”; and “Creating a Continuum of Care for Seniors.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput is scheduled to celebrate Mass July 29 at 5:30 p.m. in the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

For more information, visit the event’s website.


Elena Perri is a freelance writer in Havertown.