Convocation to offer many faith formation opportunities

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SMITHFIELD — The 49th annual Diocesan Faith Formation Convocation will be held March 19 at Bryant University.

The daylong event, which begins at 8:30 a.m. with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, will offer learning and fellowship opportunities for catechists and anyone looking to deepen their love and knowledge of the Catholic faith.

“It’s an opportunity for the Catholics of the Diocese of Providence to gather around their bishop in prayer, in this opportunity for ongoing formation in the Catholic faith,” said Ed Trendowski, director of the diocesan Office of Faith Formation.

Last year, more than 1,000 people, many of them catechists, attended the convocation, which annually offers methodology workshops where instructors share ideas to apply in their parish religious education programs.

The convocation will also be held in conjunction with the annual Rhode Island Catholic Men’s Conference, which is organized by the Men of St. Joseph International apostolate. Bishop Tobin and Father John Codega, pastor of St. Brendan Church in Riverside, will be the main speakers at the men’s conference.

Meanwhile, the convocation has plenty to offer for lay Catholics who may not be catechists, but simply want to learn more about the faith and hear informative talks given by accomplished Catholic authors and speakers.

“Because this day falls within the season of Lent this year, we really do encourage people to make this a day of retreat,” said Michelle Donovan, assistant director of the Office of Faith Formation. “For people who maybe haven’t been before and are not sure what it’s about, we invite them to look at it that way, as a day of retreat, because people are familiar with that,” Donovan said. “It really can be a personal day for somebody, to take some time away and grow in their faith.”

In addition to offering workshops for catechists and youth ministers, the convocation will have opportunities for personal enrichment. Speakers will present on a variety of topics that include youth ministry, evangelization, elementary catechesis and using social media effectively as a Catholic.

Michael O’Loughlin, a journalist and author of the book, “The Tweetable Pope,” will be speaking on how Pope Francis’ Twitter account is part of a larger revolution in modern papal communications. Father Christopher Mahar, rector of the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence and director of Ongoing Formation of Priests, will be speaking on God’s mercy and the mystery of suffering.

More than 30 speakers will be presenting on various topics related to the Catholic faith. Trendowski said the convocation organizers try to select as many workshop and discussion topics based on the theme of the current catechetical year. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has declared the current catechetical year’s theme to be “Safeguarding the Dignity of Every Human Person.”

Trendowski said the convocation will also incorporate themes to reflect the current Jubilee Year of Mercy, and added that the event will offer enrichment opportunities for people who work in RCIA ministries and parish evangelization teams.

“We have carefully selected speakers who can meet the different spiritual needs of people wherever they are in their faith journey,” Trendowski said, adding that it is personally encouraging for him to see more than 1,000 people all gathered together for Mass.

“You can feel the energy there, and really you can feel the energy throughout the day, even though people are going to their own workshops and presentations,” Trendowski said. “You can feel God’s presence in the day.”

In between the workshops, which run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., several vendors usually sell religious items and distribute literature about various ministries in and around the diocese.

The Office of Faith Formation, in conjunction with several other diocesan offices, has been planning the convocation for several months.

“It really is an effort of a group of staff here at the chancery,” Donovan said. “There is a lot that goes into the day, but it’s exciting for us to work on it because we know the fruits that the day will bring.”

Said Donovan, “Just the fact that it calls together so many Catholics in our area is a witness to that hunger that people have to enrich their own faith and also learn how they can share that faith well with others.”

For those who attend the convocation, lunch will be included. Tickets will not be sold at the door, and attendants will need to purchase tickets to advance. The deadline to purchase tickets is March 9. To register and to view the full schedule and list of speakers, visit www.discovercatholicfaith.org. For more information, contact the Office of Faith Formation at 401-278-4646.

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