Conference tackles diversity in the Church

March 15, 2011

HOUSTON — "As-salaamu alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakaatuhu," is the Muslim greeting meaning "May peace be, and the mercy and blessings of God, be with you." It was spoken by Dr. Scott Alexander in his keynote address at February's Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Catechetical Conference and set the tone for the annual event.

During his talk about the history of confrontation and conflict between the Catholic and Muslim faiths, Alexander brought to light a story of dialogue and cooperation threading through history, but stamped indelibly in the Second Vatican Council's pronouncements about interreligious relations.

"If we don't embrace language and dialogue, we are falling down in this global world," said Alexander, who made references to the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions taking place. 

Alexander was one of several storied guests invited to speak at the three-day conference, which attracted more than 1,000 people from all areas of Church ministry. They came to sample the dozens of workshops covering everything from marriage building and helping teens pray to preparing for the new Roman Missal and adult faith formation.

"It's about learning and teaching others and being with people who have lots in common and sharing ideas," said Anne Comeaux, director of the Office of Continuing Christian Education for the Archdiocese. The CCE office organized the conference, held for the first time at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Vilma Pardo-Rodriguez, former director of the Prince of Peace Church's Hispanic ministry, talked about being positive and the art of listening to become an effective communicator in her workshop "Effective Communication in the Ministry," conducted in Spanish.

"You have to understand what the other is saying and let them finish and be humble," said Pardo-Rodriguez, a trained psychotherapist. "It's about being a better Christian and practicing your faith."

Dr. Joseph White, director of Family Counseling and Family Life at the Diocese of Austin, presented "Multiple Intelligence for School Leaders," a workshop aimed at educators who want to understand how children learn.

White, a licensed psychologist, said when teachers figure out how children learn, be it visually, linguistically or logically, they can tailor instruction to meet their needs and better engage them.

In her "Creating a Marriage Building Parish" workshop, Teresita Johnson, Archdiocesan associate director of the Office of Family Life Ministry, talked about the responsibility of a parish to ensure successful marriages.

Johnson talked about the impact on children and the necessity for couples to learn how to create a good working marriage.

Comeaux said they selected workshops based on what has worked in the past, level of interest and what would be helpful to those who educate children, teens and adults in the faith. By offering workshops in Vietnamese and Spanish, as well as English, Comeaux said they also wanted to address multicultural issues and the growing diversity within the Church.

For more information about the Office of Continuing Christian Education, visit †