Gathered and empowered
Laity hears about their role as co-workers in the Lord's vineyard
By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor
|SING OUT: Janèt Sullivan Whitaker leads the singing at the opening liturgy at The Gathering. (Rick Evans photo)
"We came here today to become more empowered with the power of God's Holy Spirit," said Bp. David Zubik at the opening Liturgy for the 2006 Gathering of the Church of Green Bay. "We came here this day to be more enthusiastic about God's presence in our lives."
And enthusiastic they were as many people danced their way out of the liturgy to the closing song, "Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo," and on to hear some of the 125 speakers leading more than 200 workshops.
Seating in Schuldes Sports Center on the campus of St. Norbert College in De Pere was full for the opening Mass where Bp. Zubik emphasized the theme for the sixth annual Gathering, "Co-workers in the Vineyard," based on Co-workers in the Vineyard of the Lord: A Resource for Guiding the Development of Lay Ecclesial Ministry, a document released by the United States Catholic Bishops in November of 2005. The bishop spoke about the common mission all share in helping to build God's kingdom.
"This, my sisters and brothers," can be for us individually," he said, "as it must be for us collectively, as the church of Green Bay, a defining moment."
Dr. Zeni Fox was among the featured speakers at the 2006 Gathering. Fox, a professor at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Seton Hall University, assisted the bishops in drafting Co-workers in the Vineyard. She presented a workshop about the document which defines and affirms the role of the laity in the church.
"There is now a greater sense that the church is the ordained and the laity together," said Fox. "The document affirms the importance of the role of each person as part of their baptismal calling."
Fox also presented "The Church in Pilgrimage," a workshop in which she reflected on the role of the laity in everyday life.
There is a misconception that the increased role of the laity is heightened by a shortage of priests, she said.
"The laity's role in the church was embraced by Vatican II," she said. "The laity have been called forth theologically to be co-workers with the ordained and vowed religious."
Dr. Michael Carotta, another featured speaker, presented two workshops focusing on ministry to adolescents. He said he was impressed with the number of people at the event.
"The (opening) Mass was inspiring," he said. "It's a good start to the day. I enjoy being here. I'm a New Jersey guy, but I love the Midwest."
In his presentation, "Teaching for Discipleship: The Call, the Challenge, the Difference," Carotta discussed echo boomers, the children of baby boomers, and the call of this generation to discipleship. "Check your assumptions" with this group, he said.
"Forget the sower and the seed," he said. "The seed has already been planted. It has already taken root. The emphasis should be on discipleship."
Carotta, who worked with at-risk youth at Girls and Boys Town in Omaha, Neb., also discussed meeting adolescents where they are in order to "drive them out of their minds," and to create a "holding environment," a comfortable place to engage young people in honest conversation. He offered a warning about "meeting young people where they are."
"That's something I never say because I get nervous about it because we stay there," he said. "We meet them where they are and then we stay there. Although it's absolutely essential to meet them where they are, you can't stay there. There's a bus to catch."
"There are going to be some kids who are not ready for a discussion about discipleship," he added. "We know that today's kids are believers, but are they disciples? Let's do more on
Janèt Sullivan Whitaker not only presented at the Gathering, but also led the music at the opening Mass. She was joined by vocalists and musicians from around the diocese.
"It's an honor for me to be here," said Whitaker, who serves as director of music and liturgy at Corpus Christi Parish in Piedmont, Calif. "I'm glad they were dancing. It's important for the music to energize people and send them forth."