By Dan McWilliams
The diocesan Ministries Day on Aug. 18 drew 239 people who share the Catholic faith to All Saints Church and Knoxville Catholic High School.
The seventh annual event was open to parents and student youth leaders, coordinators of youth ministry, liturgy and ministry teams, RCIA teams, directors of religious education, adult educators, and catechists and assistants.
Twenty-four workshops were offered, plus a Spanish track. The theme was “God Gives Joy to My Youth.”
Bishop Richard F. Stika gave opening remarks before the day of workshops began.
“When I was growing up . . . when you heard the word ‘minister,’ you’d think of a Protestant preacher,” he said. “When you’d talk about ministry, you’d talk about what the priest is doing . . . . But you never really heard the word ‘ministry’ or ‘ministers.’ That’s a word that has evolved now over the last number of years.
“Even the Vatican about 20 years ago said you know, you have to be careful about that word, that we don’t confuse that word with the work of a priest or deacon, in terms of sacramental ministries.”
Bishop Stika said “the Church is not just about the priests, the bishops, the deacons — the people who are ordained or religious. It’s about all of us doing our part in a very intentional way, to build the Church, to teach, to share the faith. We all look into our hearts to see what is your gift, what is my gift. What can I do to help another person discover Jesus in their life, to help them to unfold the mysteries, to see the beauty of the sacraments? Then when you do that in a very intentional way, that’s ministry.”
The bishop repeated one of his favorite sayings, in his time as the Diocese of Knoxville’s leader, to the Ministries Day audience.
“If you say you are a minister of the Church or you participate in the ministries of the Church, like I’ve been saying for nine and a half years now, you’re the face of Jesus to people,” he said.
Bishop Stika encouraged “you all to know that what you do in the name of Jesus is important in the lives of people. . . . I just want to thank you for being here today and for your willingness and desire to build the kingdom of God in your own unique way.”
Sara Carey was among many attending Ministries Day. She is the assistant director of faith formation at St. Alphonsus Parish in Crossville.
“[Ministries Day provides] a lot of good information; the workshops and whatnot give us a lot of good training to start the school year,” she said. “It’s also good networking, because you get to talk to other people who are in the same ministries and find out what’s going on in different parishes.”
The morning and afternoon schedule makes for “a full day,” Mrs. Carey said, “and it’s a long day for those of us coming from a different time zone. But it’s good — they’ve been doing this for I don’t know how many years, but it’s always really good, and I like that they use a lot of local talent. They find other people in the diocese a lot of times to do the presenting, and I think that’s good because it highlights what’s available here.”
Monsignor Al Humbrecht, pastor of Holy Spirit in Soddy-Daisy, taught a two-hour workshop, which filled to capacity quickly before the day began, on “The Three Great Monotheistic Religions: Commonality and Differences.”
“For me, I think [Ministries Day] offers a special chance with this that I’m doing on ‘The Three Great Monotheistic Religions’ to help clear up some misconceptions that people have, especially about Islam. There’s so much in the news today that is not accurate and does not really reflect the true Islam. It’s a chance to help people with that,” Monsignor Humbrecht said.
Ministries Day also offers “an opportunity to see a lot of people, too, and to see how many people are excited about continuing their own formation,” he said.
Kathy O’Brien, pastoral associate at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Erwin, said Ministries Day “for myself, personally,” means “just getting a few different perspectives. I brought 14 people from our parish here. For them it’s getting some training and exposure to the bigger Church and to what ministry’s all about.”
The other two-hour workshop at Ministries Day was a “Catechist Orientation,” led by Jason Gale, director of the Catechist Formation Program at Aquinas College.
One-hour workshops included one on “Apologetics” and another on “Joy: The Mark of the Christian,” both led by Father Michael Sweeney, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Harriman, St. Ann Parish in Lancing, and St. Christopher Parish in Jamestown. Both of Father Sweeney’s workshops were filled before Ministries Day began.
Additional hour-long workshops included “Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers,” led by Brittany García, coordinator of Pastoral Juvenil Hispana in the diocese; “Connections: Knowing the Faith, Teaching Your Kids, Changing the Culture,” led by Andy Zengel, principal of St. Joseph School in Knoxville; “Discussion Tips for Youth and Adult Leaders” and “Hands-On Help for Catechists,” both led by Arlene Webb, who has served as a religious educator for 44 years; and “Exploring the Vocation of Marriage Through the Lens of Our Family of Origin,” led by Marian Christiana, coordinator of the diocesan Office of Marriage Preparation and Enrichment.
Father Richard Armstrong, assistant director of the diocesan Office of Christian Formation (the Ministries Day sponsor), was the coordinator of Ministries Day, assisted by Susan Collins, director of religious education and youth minister at Notre Dame Parish in Greeneville.
“We were extremely pleased with how the day went,” Father Armstrong said. “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.”
The greatest asset in the diocese “is our own people, and Ministries Day gives us the opportunity to showcase that,” Father Armstrong said. “The vast majority of presenters lives and works in the diocese, and each in his or her own way has contributed to the building-up of the Church here in East Tennessee.”
Ministries Day “is important because it gives those who work for the Church an occasion to deepen their own faith,” Father Armstrong said. “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.”
This year’s Ministries Day attendance was among the best ever.
“There’s an awful lot of enthusiasm today for all the various workshops that we have, and there’s a great variety in the workshops as well,” Father Armstrong said. “There’s something for everyone here today.”