By Patricia Brennan
The eighth annual University of Dallas Ministry Conference (UDMC) was held this past weekend, drawing over 5200 attendees. The conference has grown rapidly over the years, exploding from a mere 400 people attending in 2006 to becoming the second largest Catholic ministry conference in the United States. The conference is hosted each year by the School of Ministry in cooperation with the Diocese of Dallas. This year, it spanned from the three days from Thursday, Oct. 23 to Saturday, Oct. 25 and was held at the Irving Convention Center. The keynote speaker was the J. Michael Miller, the archbishop of Vancouver.
The conference hosted over 100 nationally and internationally recognized speakers. Lectures and seminars were held over many topics such as formation, the Catechism, and technology and social media. A conference Mass was celebrated on Friday morning preceding the keynote address, and daily Mass was offered on Saturday for those who wished to attend.
An exhibition hall was open throughout the conference, allowing Catholic organizations, such as Catholic Charities and the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), to set up tables and provide information and sell goods to conference attendees. A collaborative cross project was also spotlighted. Those attending could take a small bag of colored stones and add them to the cross, creating a colorful pattern that will eventually be bonded to the cross to create a stained glass mosaic.
UD also had several stations set up in the exhibition hall. In addition to an information booth, the university had an exhibit explaining the plans for the upcoming Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine.
Over the course of the three-day conference, over 200 sessions were offered in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Talks were given by local speakers, as well as by more widely known figures. Musicians also performed throughout the conference at various times.
The 2014 UDMC was the largest one to date. The first conference was held in 2006, after Bishop Kevin Farrell, head of the diocese of Dallas, approached the university asking for assistance in holding a conference. The UDMC is the only Roman Catholic conference held in the Dallas and the Fort Worth dioceses.
UD students were invited to volunteer for the conference and then attend the rest of the event free of charge. Though many of the sessions appeared to be geared towards those involved in Catholic formation, there was plenty to engage the interest of students and youth. Conference director Oscar Carranza encouraged students to attend or volunteer.
“There is a topic of interest there that anyone can find interesting,” Carranza said. “There’s bound to be something that resonates with everyone. We’re the only Catholic university in the area. It’s a community event and we want to give people the opportunity to be a part of the community.”
Many of the sessions were in fact aimed towards young attendees, encouraging them to become more active not only in their parishes, but also in their faith communities.
Musician Cooper Ray, who gave two presentations at the conference, advised his audience to start small when it comes to helping out in a faith community.
“Start locally,” Ray said. “Help out with a retreat team, or perform for your parish. People see me on this big stage getting all these claps, but I didn’t start out like that.”
At any given point, the conference was bustling with activity. The center was filled with people, from the participants making their way to one of the many sessions to the conference staff and volunteers offering help and information to anyone who needed it. Upon entering the convention center, attendees found gift bags with brochures, posters, a schedule and a map waiting for them.
“It’s a wonderful conference,” said Anne Scally, president of Cornerstone Media. “I travel a lot and do a lot of conferences. Of all the ones in the United States and in Canada, this is the most organized and most well-run conference there is.”