Year of Mercy sets theme for diocesan Ministries Day

More than 250 parish leaders take part in ministry leadership workshops at All Saints Church

By The East Tennessee Catholic

The Diocese of Knoxville’s Ministries Day, now in its sixth year, attracted 256 participants Aug. 20 to All Saints Parish, where parish leaders throughout the diocese gathered to strengthen their faith as they learned new approaches to strengthening the faiths of everyone involved in parish ministries.

The theme of Ministries Day 2016 was mercy, which coincides with the Year of Mercy, and 23 workshops were offered in addition to a Spanish track. The opening address was given by Bishop Richard F. Stika.

Father Richard Armstrong leads a Ministries Day workshop for parish leaders in the diocese.

Workshops featured presenters from within the diocese, including Father Michael Sweeney, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Harriman, St. Ann Parish in Lancing, and St. Christopher Parish in Jamestown; Father Randy Stice, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Athens; Father David Carter, rector of the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Chattanooga; Father John Orr, pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Madisonville; Father Richard Armstrong, assistant director of the diocesan Office of Christian Formation and pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Ukrainian Catholic Mission; Deacon David Lucheon of All Saints Parish; Deacon Tim Elliott, director of the diocesan Office of the Diaconate and Deacon Formation; Deacon Bill Jacobs of Our Lady of Fatima in Alcoa; Sister Mary Timothea Elliott, RSM, former director of the diocesan Office of Christian Formation; Paul Simoneau, director of the diocese’s Office of Justice and Peace and vice chancellor for administration; Alicia Mora; Elena Morales Ayuso; Jorge Saenz; Dave Wells, director of adult faith formation for Sacred Heart Cathedral; Bob Hunt; Marty and Chris Silver; and Annie Nassis, director of youth ministry at All Saints Parish.

Presenters from outside of the diocese were Jason Gale from Aquinas College in Nashville, Tom McCabe from Ascension Press, Carol Nichols from Pflaum Publications, and Michael Trujillo from Catholic Relief Services.

“We were extremely pleased with how the day went. Several workshops filled up to capacity two weeks before the event. Our hope was that participants would enjoy the day, learn a few things, and walk away with a new vigor and zeal for our Catholic faith. All indicators reveal that it was successful,” said Father Armstrong, a conference organizer.

“The greatest asset in the diocese is our own people, and Ministries Day gives us the opportunity to showcase that. The majority of presenters live and work in the diocese, and each in his or her own way has contributed to building up the Church here in East Tennessee,” Father Armstrong added.

Susan Collins, youth minister and director of religious education at Notre Dame in Greeneville, said a workshop on apologetics with Father Sweeney was one of the most popular sessions, as was a two-hour catechist orientation with Mr. Gale from Aquinas College.

“Our local presenters – priests, deacons, religious, and laity – did an excellent job,” Mrs. Collins said. “I saw lots of smiles and heard wonderful remarks about the organization and content of the day. All Saints Parish is a great facility for such an event, and Deacon Tim Elliott offered assistance above and beyond expectations.

“Each session was unique, and each presenter had their own style. Our catechists came away with something new to utilize in their classroom. From Michael Trujillo’s session, where participants went outside for a visual aid on the dignity of our global brothers and sisters, Father Richard Armstrong’s session with the bells and beautiful objects of the Byzantine rite, which is only one of over 20 churches in communion with the Catholic Church, the honor of Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, with Father John Orr, the sanctity of marriage with Father David Carter, encountering the mystery of mercy in the Mass by Father Randy Stice, the slide show on mercy and the end-of-life decisions by Paul Simoneau, to the importance of catechesis with Marty and Chris Silver there was so much for our participants and more. I would personally like to thank all the presenters who took the time to prepare, travel, and pass on the information they are passionate about in the Catholic faith.”

Blanca Primm, who is with the Diocese of Knoxville’s Office of Hispanic Ministry, said Ministries Day also was a success for the diocese’s Hispanic community.

“We had 83 people registered in the Spanish track, and many other parishioners who were Hispanic attended the English breakout sessions as well. At lunch everybody came together at the parish hall at All Saints Church, and you could feel the joy of one community. Even though we spoke more than one language, we felt united by the Holy Spirit in the mission we have ahead of us,” Mrs. Primm said.

“In the Spanish track we had four presentations that illustrated God’s infinite mercy toward His people since the beginning. The presenters were graduate students from our Catholic Bible School four-year program who now are members of our Hispanic Biblical Institute. They were Elena Morales, parishioner at St. John Neumann Church, who discussed the book of Amos, the prophet of social justice; Jorge Saenz from St. Thomas the Apostle Church, who talked about the book of Oseas (Hosea) that shows us God’s unconditional love for His people; and Alicia Mora from St. Joseph the Worker Church, who talked about the book of Isaiah, with a focus on the hope for God’s mercy. Our last breakout session was on how we find God’s mercy in the Mass,” she added.

Father Armstrong sees Ministries Day as invaluable to the formation of pastoral ministers in the diocese and is looking forward to future Ministries Days.

“Ministries Day is important because it gives those who work with the Church an occasion to deepen their own faith. Those involved in parish ministries are the ones serving the faithful throughout the diocese. Ministries Day is our opportunity to serve those who serve. Each time we help form one pastoral minister, he or she in turn goes out and forms countless others in the parish. Thus, what we do at Ministries Day has a ripple effect throughout the diocese,” Father Armstrong said. ■

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