Ministry Conference goes digital with powerful message

Bishop John Noonan speaks to attendees at the opening liturgy of the Ministry Formation Conference at St. James Cathedral Feb. 5. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

ORLANDO | Build relationships and build God’s kingdom. That message resonated loudly during the 2021 Ministry Formation Conference. The conference went digital in light of pandemic restrictions and people from all corners of the diocese participated.

Bishop John Noonan welcomed everyone with evening prayer on February 5. Livestreamed from St. James Cathedral, he spoke of the theme, “I Thirst” and recalled Jesus’ words on the Cross. These words were taken to heart by Mother Teresa of Kolkata, becoming a catalyst in forming the Missionaries of Charity. Bishop prayed participants would be open to see where Christ thirsts to use them in their ministries.

The conference offered presentations from Brother Adam Neri of the Brotherhood of Hope, Mother Adela Galindo – foundress of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and May, and faithful couple Asis and Michelle Lopez.

Alan Cruz is in ministry at Blessed Trinity Parish in Orlando. “I attend every year because we always have something to learn to strengthen our own faith,” he said. “This year did not leave me wanting. Each of the presentations revealed our place in the Church as lay people. Now, we need the courage to the carry on the love of God to others.” He took the theme to heart saying, “It is beautiful to recognize the need we have in our lives for God.”

Parishioners at Resurrection Parish in Winter Garden break out into discussion groups during the Ministry Formation Conference, Feb. 6. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

Cruz said all presentations spoke to him. “Brother Adam Neri shows us the process of getting to God… Mother Adela Galindo shared the love that God has for us and how that expression, not only remains in us, but also goes with us toward the people of God. And Asis and Michelle Lopez had a beautiful testimony about their son, revealing how it is not man that determines our faith, but God.”

Their son was born with medical complications and the couple was told he would not live long. Cruz noted, “They accepted their son as a gift, to receive and love.” Rather than turning away from God, they embraced Him, “helping form them spiritually.” “It teaches us not to rush ahead, but to live in the present fully in God’s love,” he said.

Translated simultaneously into Portuguese, Spanish, Haitian Creole, and English at the click of a button, participants at home or in one of the dozen in-person locations offered, could hear speakers in their native tongue. Vera Alves of Resurrection Parish in Winter Garden said having the conference in various language helps people “realize the message”.

For Alves, the resounding message was, “The power of love and how we need to open up to the love of Jesus; to understand how deep that love is and how transformational it can be in our lives in many different ways.” The Confirmation catechist noted, “It’s a great challenge to help teenagers find this love and have this deep relationship with God and understand how important it is to surrender… They’re still in this war between the ego and the spirit.”

Musicians at Resurrection Parish provide a gathering song to signal the transition from small group discussions to presentations. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

Speakers Asis and Michelle Lopez urged participants to seize the day, stating, “Time is scarce and action is required.” They posed the poignant hypothetical question, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Michelle asked, “Are you living with purpose? Are you living on a mission for God?”

Those questions were a touchstone in the conference. Secretariat Director Daniel Boyd said, after much prayer, his team felt the Lord wanted them “to remind people of His desire to be united with them in love.” He explained that, throughout history, saints have taken this to mean, “He thirsts for all of humanity to be reunited in the love of the Father.” He hoped the conference inspired minsters “to dedicate more and more of their life to Him and go out and tell others about His gift of salvation.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic, February 10, 2021