I attended my first catechetical conference when I was in high school. I was most excited about it because I was to attend with a girl from the parish that I wanted to ask out on a date; luckily, she said yes, and we’ve been married since 1982!
Aside from that little romantic angle, I recall also being excited about the conference itself and felt very affirmed that the parish wanted me to attend. Fast forward a few decades, and now I make a living out of speaking at such conferences. Those who know me know that, when I speak at conferences, I also make the time to attend presentations given by others. I am always interested in learning new insights!
As a catechist, you have many opportunities to learn and grow in your ministry and in your own spirituality. One of the most productive and enjoyable experiences within that context is attending catechetical conferences, workshops, and seminars. Here are a few tips to make this experience as successful and enjoyable as possible.
- Ask your parish catechetical leader and/or diocesan catechetical office to keep you informed of catechetical conferences.
- In addition to your own diocese, explore the possibility of attending a regional conference where numerous dioceses combine resources to attract bigger-name presenters that you might not otherwise get a chance to see locally. Some of the most popular regional conferences are the Mid-Atlantic Congress, the Gulf Coast Faith Formation Conference, the University of Dallas Ministry Conference, the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the St. John Bosco Conference, and the California Catholic Ministry Conference.
- Ask your parish to cover the costs if possible. The Church “owes” you formation to help you live up to your calling as a catechist. If this is not possible, make it a part of your own stewardship plan.
- Ask fellow catechists to make recommendations about presenters they may have heard or read before.
- Team up with some other catechists to make it a group experience, and plan to eat breakfast or lunch together as part of the day.
- After you’ve identified speakers you are interested in hearing, do some online research on them to learn more about their ministry, their backgrounds, books they’ve written, articles published, websites on which they write, and so on.
- Search for topics that are most applicable to your area of ministry or address an area of formation in which you hope to deepen your understanding.
- At the conference, gather as many handouts as possible and take notes or take pictures of “slides” (with the speaker’s permission) that include important information that you want to retain and reflect on later.
- Talk to other attendees about their impressions and insights concerning the same or other presenters so that you share and gather as much information as possible.
- If possible, stick around to talk to the presenter in person to ask questions and to clarify aspects of his or her presentation.
- Schedule/take advantage of time to visit the exhibits and publishers (especially Loyola Press!) to look for resources that can serve you in your ministry and to talk to/ask questions of professional educators and catechetical ministers. It’s important for you to know that at most conferences, the presenters are sponsored by publishers, and those same publishers often underwrite the costs of the conference, so it is important to support them, especially when some—such as Loyola Press—are not-for-profit ministries.
Attending catechetical conferences, workshops, and seminars can be an outstanding way to grow as a catechist, deepening your knowledge and skills in order to more effectively proclaim God’s Word.
What other advice can you offer about attending catechetical conferences, workshops, or seminars?