Archbishop Miller explores ‘Beauty and the Sacred’ at upcoming liturgical conference, Jan. 23 to 26

January 15, 2019

A tour prior to the Southwest Liturgical Conference will visit the area's most unique worship spaces, including the Chapel at St. Mary's Seminary in Houston. Photo by James Ramos/Herald.

HOUSTON — Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB might be a familiar name to many in the Houston area. The Canadian archbishop was previously the president of the University of St. Thomas, a Catholic university founded by the Basilian Fathers, the same order that Archbishop Miller served with prior to later assuming his leadership duties with the Vatican.

At the upcoming Southwest Liturgical Conference (SWLC) Study Week, “Encountering the Sacred: Beauty and the Liturgy,” Archbishop Miller will serve as the opening keynote address and will focus on setting the tone of the week’s conversations towards an “understanding [of] what is meant by beauty, sacred beauty, and how ... different liturgical expressions contribute to a more complete understanding of the Paschal Mystery,” according to organizers.

Archbishop Miller joined the theology faculty at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, in 1979 and subsequently served as chair of the Theology Department and dean of the School of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary. In 1990, he was named St. Thomas’s vice president for academic affairs and in 1997 he became the university’s president. From 1992 to 1997 he worked in Rome at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

The goal of the conference is to unpack the beauty of the Word of God, beauty in ars celebrandi, and beauty in visual and aural arts.

By careful attention to the reverent, beautiful celebration of Holy Mass, parish Liturgies will draw the faithful more deeply into the experience of God, according to Sandy Higgins, Office of Worship director and an organizer of the upcoming study week.

“The Planning Committee quickly settled on ‘beauty and the Liturgy’ as a timely topic,” Higgins said. “We see this topic as one that will create a lot of conversation. Is beauty in the eye of the beholder or does beauty in the Liturgy call us to a deeper reality? This study week topic will be both lively and enriching.”

Among those encouraged to attend the SWLC study week are priests, deacons, Liturgy and music directors, RCIA teams, Building Committee Members, Liturgical and Music Ministers, Liturgical Environment teams, Catholic school teachers and catechists, and the faithful who wish to deepen their knowledge and love of the Liturgy.

“The Southwest Liturgical Conference Study Week is the longest running liturgical conference in the United States, which is a testament to the quality of education and liturgical experience it provides,” Higgins said. “Houston hosts the study week every eight to 10 years.”

Higgins encourages individuals and groups interested in learning more about the study week to visit for more information.

“[The] richness of these days of learning with prayerful Liturgies, challenging keynote presentations, a wide variety of workshop opportunities, as well as exhibits, tours and concerts ... invite us to experience beauty in a variety of ways,” she said. “I view this study week as a gift to the local Church.”

Special tracks will be offered for those involved in the building or renovation of a church or those who are involved in the purchase of art for the church in collaboration with the Association of Consultants for Liturgical Space.

With the closing of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate, the SWLC offers a track of formation for RCIA teams to understand and implement the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. This track will be led by Nick Wagner and Diana Macalintal from TeamRCIA.

Speakers for the SWLC study week include Archbishop Miller; Bishop Steven J. Lopes, Denis McNamara, Johan van Parys; and Sister Rosemary Esseff, OP.

“The workshop presenters, several of whom have been keynote speakers in the past, will unpack the keynote presentations through panel discussions and workshop presentations,” Higgins said, “challenging us to grow in our knowledge and love of the Liturgy.”
For more information and to register, visit