About 100 members of the Catholic Church in Vermont gathered for the first diocesan Pastoral Ministries Conference Sept. 28 at Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee.

The gathering of catechists, directors of religious education, administrative assistants, musicians, parish council and committee members, deacons, pastors and others was a result of the 2018 Synod in the Diocese of Burlington, which concluded that engaged and empowered laity are a key component to maintaining and building vibrant Catholic parishes in the Green Mountain State.

Keynote speaker Ron Huntley, from Divine Renovation, focused on how parishes can move from “maintenance to mission” by recognizing each member’s talents and abilities and working together to provide the most attractive and effective ministries.

Huntley brought enthusiasm, hope and vision to the gathering; one participant described his presentation as “inspiring and still realistic.”

“Ron reminded us of the primacy of the Gospel mission to ‘go and make disciples’ and shared examples of how that powerfully can happen in a parish setting. He spoke about how our parishes can become vibrant, creating an amazing culture of invitation, bringing people to the life-transforming encounter with Jesus Christ,” said Deacon Phil Lawson, the executive director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese.

The day included breakout workshops on “Energizing your parish with the RCIA,” “An email isn’t going to cut it: Communicating effectively with religious education families,” “Supporting the family as an oasis in today’s cultural confusion,” “Breathing new life into your bulletin,” “Engaging today’s youth in the Church — Creating churches that are inviting, engaging and missionary,” “Getting started with the ‘R’CIA,” “Blessings of age — Recognizing and encouraging the contributions of our seniors,” “The unthinkable loss and anguish of suicide and the role of the parish community,” “Engaging youth in liturgical practices and prayer activities” and a panel on “How your religious education program can build community and a vibrant parish.” The workshops were led by diocesan, Catholic Charities and parish staff and volunteers.

Deacon Lawson said, “It was a very uplifting day that left all of us both better equipped and inspired to carry on the work of the Church here in Vermont, especially in the areas of evangelization and vibrant parishes.”

The Diocese plans to host the day-long opportunity for Catholics throughout the Diocese to gather for formation, prayer and networking each year.

When asked what they learned and what they would like to share about the day, participants exclaimed, “Each of us has a role to play!” “Revitalization is possible!”

To learn more about the Diocesan Synod and its outcomes, go to vermontcatholic.org/synod.

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