New location, format of catechists’ conference a hit

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Sunday, November 6, 2011

New location, format of catechists’ conference a hit

Beata Zagorski and Anna Gasior greet Father Richard Gron, administrator of St. Constance Parish, following his keynote in Polish during the annual Chicago Catechetical Conference at Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace on Oct. 22. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
Marge Garbacz, from St. Symphorosa Parish, collects a ticket for an event from Silbia Romero from St. Mary of Celle Parish in Berwyn. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)

For the first time in several years, the annual Chicago Catechetical Conference took place at a new location with some modifications to its format. These changes were well received by the more than 2,000 attendees for the Oct. 21-22 conference at Drury Lane Conference Center in Oakbrook Terrace.

In recent years, the conference was held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. The more intimate setting of Drury Lane plus the benefit of free parking were a plus, several attendees said. With the money the Office for Catechesis and Youth Ministry saved on renting the facility, they were able to provide lunch to attendees as part of registration.

Drury Lane isn’t available the weekend of next year’s conference so the committee will look for a similar-sized venue for the event, said Regina Bickle from the Office for Catechesis and Youth Ministry.

Deacon Sonny Annoreno and his wife Barbara said they liked not having to pay for parking as they did in the past but would have attended either way.

Barbara teaches seventh- and eighth- grade religious education at Our Lady, Mother of the Church Parish, 8701 W. Lawrence Ave., and her husband is involved in the RCIA program.

Barbara, who is in her 35th year teaching religious ed, said the theme of this year’s conference around moral issues will be helpful as she teaches the Child Lures abuse-prevention program to her students this year.

The veteran religious ed teacher said she appreciates the conference each year.

“I always know that I will hear something that will stay with me when I leave,” she said.

The Catechetical Conference offers spiritual formation for catechists as well as opportunities for certification and recertification. This year’s theme “Your Law is My Delight” focused on the pillar of the church centered around life in Christ.

The conference format includes morning Mass, keynotes in English, Spanish and Polish, and breakout sessions. There were English, Spanish and Polish tracks. Topics discussed in breakout sessions included chastity, family, the Mass, end-of-life issues and youth.

Cardinal George celebrated Mass with attendees on Oct. 22 and addressed issues of religious liberty in his homily.

“People always like the Mass with the cardinal,” Bickle said. “That’s their spiritual leader. They are drawn to that.”

Mary Sue Wielgus comes every year with some friends and makes a weekend of it. They get a hotel room nearby, attend the conference and get time to catch up. The director of catechesis at St. Benedict Parish, 2215 W. Irving Park Road, said this year’s conference reminded her of the importance of teaching the students about social justice.

“We really need to sit down and map out a plan of social action for the kids,” Wielgus said. “We say ‘do service’ but we don’t infuse that into the kids from kindergarten on.”