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'Co-workers' conference reinforces pastoral leadership


Father Michael Keating delivers his keynote address "Excellence in Pastoral Leadership: The Nature of True Leadership" at the fifth annual Co-Workers in the Vineyard Conference April 20 at Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Newton. Pilot photo/Christopher S. Pineo

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NEWTON -- Lay pastoral workers and clergy of the Archdiocese of Boston dedicated a day to strengthening leadership in faith communities and addressing vital challenges facing the Church locally.

The Theological Institute for the New Evangelization's (TINE) Masters of Arts in Ministry (MAM) program of St. John's Seminary hosted their fifth annual Co-Workers in the Vineyard Conference under the theme, "Excellence in Pastoral Leadership" for 175 participants on April 20 at Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Newton.

TINE vice-president and MAM director Aldona Lingertat said the conference addressed some issues of immediate concern in the archdiocese and the state of Massachusetts. This was done in the spirit of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' document entitled "Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord," which discusses collaboration of the clergy and laity in parish life.

The conference focused on local issues with guest-talks regarding pastoral planning and proposals to legalize physician assisted suicide in the state, Lingertat said.

"We think it is important to make sure that the theory is applied," Lingertat said.

"At this gathering you want to make sure that the theoretical, the inspirational, starts getting integrated into the actual issues that are important in the parishes and in our pastoral life," she said.

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley opened the 2012 conference by celebrating Mass for the group.

In his homily, the cardinal expressed his gratitude to the gathering for their participation in the conference and thanked the organizers.

"Today, preaching the Gospel, teaching the faith, is fraught with sacrifices, hardships, and challenges. At times we have to suffer for announcing the good news of the Gospel," the cardinal said.

After the Mass, Father Michael Keating, associate professor of Catholic studies and director of the Habiger Institute for Catholic Leadership at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., delivered his keynote in which he outlined a path to face the challenges of proclaiming the Gospel in today's society.

In his address, "Excellence in Pastoral Leadership: The Nature of True Leadership," he said true leadership follows the model of Jesus Christ, in being a guide toward good for the followers, as opposed to false leadership, which focuses on the leader as elevated above the common good.

He also stressed the role of leadership under the idea that "everyone is following someone."

"All leadership in pastoral care is participation in the leadership of Jesus Christ. It does not come from us. It has no source within us. It is a participation in another's leadership," Father Keating said.

His talk had three parts. He talked about a principle of leadership based on God's teachings through Christ, gave a definition of true leadership moving others toward goodness, and set forth faith, character, vocation, gifts and skill as the five foundations of true leadership.

Participants who spoke with The Pilot said they were particularly moved by Father Keating's teaching on faith as a core part of leadership.

"The most important thing he said is that without faith you cannot evangelize. It is the most important thing you have," Carol Crino a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist in Wellesley.

In the second session, Msgr. William Fay, chairman of the Pastoral Planning Committee, presented attendees with an update of his committee's work.

Msgr. Fay spoke about the recent consultative sessions regarding the plans to unite parishes under Pastoral Service Teams, groups of priests and laity with joint pastoral councils, to address the needs of the archdiocese in keeping churches functional.

Msgr. Fay addressed some of the things the commission learned through feedback from the people of the archdiocese. First he said 67 percent of those who participated and gave feedback on the plan said the Church is moving "either in the right direction or near the right direction."

"There was wide agreement that we are near or on the right street, when we talk about looking at trying to make the assignment of pastors to multiple parishes something that works," Msgr. Fay said.

The commission learned that "the strengthening of evangelization in the archdiocese is where we should be putting our efforts," he added.

"In fact, it is bringing the Gospel to others and bringing others to Christ that should be at the very heart of everything that we are doing," he said.

He said the commission learned that parishioners care about pastoral assignments regarding the new arrangement.

During the lunch break, participants discussed questions provided on a sheet by organizers for feedback after the conference.

After lunch, cabinet secretary of Faith Formation and Evangelization Janet Benestad gave an update on the efforts in Massachusetts to oppose the November ballot initiative supporting physician assisted suicide.

"The point is, once you endorse suicide it is almost impossible to contain," Benestad said.

After the talk, participants broke into three groups for breakout sessions on topics regarding pastoral leadership for laity.

"For the breakout sessions we tried to get even more specialized," Lingertat said.

MAM professor Celia Sirois spoke about the influence and leadership of St. Paul in her talk "Biblical Insights for Pastoral Leadership."

She said she centered her talk on what she called "the master story"; the story of the life, death and resurrection of Christ as related by Paul.

"I think that has to be the cornerstone of any pastoral ministry that we can imagine," Sirois said.

Father Terence P. Curley took on the subject of the New Evangelization in times of grief and crisis in his talk "Bereavement and New Evangelization."

"Father Terence had a wonderful suggestion of how evangelization is done at moments of grief and loss. He wanted to accent that. I hear that a lot. For instance, hospital healthcare ministers tell us that that is where you meet the most un-churched or non-practicing Catholics," Lingertat said of Father Curley's presentation.

Angela and David Franks joined Aldona Lingertat to address evangelization in their talk "Lay Leadership for Evangelization."

"To be a leader in evangelization, in the lay state, requires that one allow himself to be transformed by the heart of Jesus Christ, taken in to that heart -- which loves us to the end on the cross and does not hold himself harmless above our suffering -- so that in his love we can become true leaders by being the servants of all," David Franks said.

Lingertat said keeping the conference focused on important issues facing the Church currently fit in with the need to provide a diversity of topics at the conference.

"We are just thrilled to be able to offer this, since the seminary and the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization are created to educate. This is our chance to reach out and offer these opportunities for education and discussion to the larger archdiocese," Lingertat said.

The Secretariats of Parish Life and Leadership and Faith Formation and Evangelization co-sponsored the conference and Lingertat thanked Our Sunday Visitor Institute for funding the event.

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