‘Proclaim’ conference 2020 now available online

November 24, 2020

A stained glass window at St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica in Galveston depicts the Ascension of Jesus. Dozens of speakers participated in the 2020 Proclaim Conference. (Photo by James Ramos/Herald)

HOUSTON — Despite the challenges of COVID-19 and new technology, this year’s Proclaim 2020 conference was a virtual success for the Archdiocese.

Proclaim organizers began adjusting the Nov. 13 to 14-weekend conference after the global pandemic hit in March. This year’s two-day conference, open to anyone ministering in the Church of Galveston-Houston, including clergy, lay leaders, teachers and ministry volunteers, had to be different. That was decided by May.

“When it became clear that we would not be able to host this gathering in person, I surveyed parish leadership to discern what we should do,” said Timothy Colbert, director of the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization for the Archdiocese.

“Should we postpone until spring, postpone until next November, or go virtual,” Colbert said. “The consensus was to go virtual.”

Organizers also chose to keep the five keynote speakers live, where participants could view them during designated times on Friday or Saturday. Participants used online links to listen and ask questions. More than 40 conference workshops were pre-recorded.

“This required identifying a platform that we could host the conference through, video editing of all the workshops and identifying individuals with the knowledge and skill to produce the event,” Colbert said. “We were committed to serving the dedicated ministry leaders and volunteers of the Archdiocese. So simply put: We dug in, learned new skills and made it happen.”

Those who registered have 90 days to continue to view the videos. Those interested who haven’t registered can still do so at www.archgh.org/proclaim. There are keynotes available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

This year’s theme came from Mark 10:49 when the disciples told the blind beggar Bartimaeus to take courage because Christ is calling him. Within the theme, two more specific lenses of courageous leadership and witness are highlighted.

“I was amazed at how well all the various speakers wove the story into their presentations,” said Angie Pometto, Young Adult and Campus Ministry associate director, a conference organizer charged with promotion and social media.

One of those speakers was Leisa Anslinger, director of the Center for Pastoral Vitality for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and founder of Catholic Life and Faith.
“Leadership takes all sorts of forms,” Anslinger explains in her video.

“As I studied leadership and observed people who I know to be effective leaders, not all are what we might initially have in mind when we think of courageous leadership,” she said. “Not all are self-assured, strong people who appear to have all the answers. In fact, more of the people that I think of as courageous leaders are ones who live their lives in a way that leads others to follow.”

International Catholic speaker Katie Prejean McGrady spoke about “Courageous Witness,” saying it is vital to build and continue to nurture relationships with Catholic youth.
“The work that we do in youth and young adult ministry is not about just introducing concepts and ideas…” she said. “We are in the business of growing in relationship with young people so they can grow in relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Besides Anslinger and McGrady, speakers in the English sessions include Jennifer Carr Allmon, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops; Charleen Katra, executive director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability; and Julie Dienno-Demarest, a spiritual director, author, and educator for adolescents and adults.

In the Spanish sessions, speakers include Sister Norma Pimentel, MCJ, a Mexican-American sister of the Missionaries of Jesus and the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley; Miriam G. Hidalgo, a Catholic writer and speaker; and Peter J. Ductrám, Archdiocesan director of the Academy for the Lay Ecclesial Ministry for the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

In the Vietnamese sessions, speakers include Father Nghi Van Dinh, OP, superior at St. Adam’s Monastery in Houston; Sister Loan Anh, who has served in parishes and schools in Texas; and Father Binh The Quach, C.S.Sp, director of the Donald Nesti Center for Faith and Culture at the University of St. Thomas.

Ultimately, the virtual event was a success and organizers received positive feedback about speakers and workshops. Program goals — to become a living witness to the faith, envision a transformational ministry with new tools to effectively minister, and minister from a Spirituality of Communion — were met.

Proclaim, held every two years, is next scheduled for Nov. 11 to 12 in 2022. Organizers expect an in-person experience rather than virtual if COVID-19 health risks decrease.
“This pandemic has been horrible but a blessing is that use of these new technology tools and formation are so much more accessible,” Colbert said. “It can never replace in-person training, but it has opened up the door to people who couldn’t get a babysitter, get off early from work or get through traffic jams in order to participate. Now, they can get it online.”