Linda Smith & Adam Brill, News Editor & Contributor
University of Dallas’ sixth annual Ministry Conference took place at the Irving Convention Center last Friday and Saturday, centering on theme of the year of faith and featuring a wide array of talks, exhibitions and events.
The conference began with a keynote speech from Cardinal Mahony. One of his opening lines was, “Today we begin anew.” The conference centered on the theme of the year of faith, as Oct. 11 marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. The theme worked to help enable those who have faith to share it with others.
Participants carried a bit of wisdom from Cardinal Mahony throughout the weekend: “Faith is a multidimensional stance that a person takes in life. It is both God’s gift and our response, and they can’t be separated.”
The event featured sessions specifically designed for teachers, Catechists, and general Catholic audiences, including talks on faith, parenting, social justice, and even athletics as ministry. Sessions were offered in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese, and the conference hosted over 100 exhibitors, a liturgical art display, and musical performances by well-known and up-and-coming Catholic artists.
Freshman David Flynn said, “It’s great to learn and hear so much here.”
UD faculty members from several departments, including physics, history, theology and art, were among those who presented talks at the conference.
History professor Dr. Thomas Jodziewicz presented a talk entitled “Catholic and American.” He was impressed with participants’ desire to learn more about the faith in an historically applicable way.
“The audience at my talk was eager and attentive, and more ‘seasoned’ than my young students at UD,” Jodziewicz said. “[It was] a different audience, then, but a wonderful experience.”
Dr. Diana Raiche, assistant professor at the School of Ministry, presented her talk, entitled “RCIA Adapted for Children,” twice for the conference. She thought the conference did a good job of making the Catholic presence felt in Irving.
“UDMC gave a profound, public witness to the Catholic faith at the Irving Convention Center on Friday and Saturday when nearly 5,000 people demonstrated firm faith in Jesus Christ,” Raiche said. She then described an encounter with a parking attendant at the event.
“One of the parking attendants volunteered this information after giving me directions on where to park: ‘I did not know there were so many Catholics in this area. I am a Presbyterian.’ He may have been even more amazed that not only Catholics (the overwhelming majority) but also participants from other ecclesial communions were also present to hear Catholics present on a variety of faith topics.”
A closing Mass concluded the conference. With both Bishop Kevin Farrell of the Dallas diocese and Bishop Kevin Vann of the Forth Worth diocese present and songs sung in English, Spanish and Vietnamese by a choir composed of singers from local parish choirs, the closing Mass shared the culture of the Dallas and Fort Worth dioceses that had filled the talks and events of the past two days.
The Mass was also a farewell for Bishop Kevin Vann, who has been transferred to Orange County, California to serve the church there. At the end of Mass, he was presented with a banner signed by every person at the conference, saying that he would be missed. Emotions ran high, prompting a standing ovation and many tears throughout the room.
Education professor Barbara Khirallah, who presented a talk entitled “Data-Driven Instruction: A Powerful Paradigm to Drive Academic Excellence in Catholic Schools,” showed a special appreciation for the School of Ministry’s efforts to organize this event with the Dioceses of Dallas and Fort Worth.
“I was surprised to hear that our Ministry Conference is only one of two large ministry conferences in the United States, the other being the L.A. Conference,” Khirallah said. “I feel a great deal of pride that ‘my’ university is willing to commit its resources and talents to supporting this event in collaboration with the Diocese of Dallas and the Diocese of Fort Worth. I do believe that when Catholics gather to share their faith and share their talents – that there is love!”