Setting parishes afire in faith: SWLC goes virtual in February

January 12, 2021

A deacon carries chrism during a recent Chrism Mass at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston. The 2020 Chrism Mass was affected by the pandemic last year, which reflects the importance of liturgy in the Church during challenging times, which will be the focus of the 2021 Southwest Liturgical Conference to be held online. (File photo by James Ramos/Herald)

HOUSTON — The 59th annual Southwest Liturgical Conference (SWLC), which will feature a number of Archdiocesan-based clergy and liturgical leaders, will be held virtually from Feb. 2 to 4. The conference comprises 28 dioceses in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, as well as Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Wyoming.

The 2021 theme for SWLC is “As We Await the Blessed Hope: Liturgy in Challenging Times.”

The theme quotes the embolism, a prayer that a priest says after the Lord’s Prayer while celebrating Mass: “Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of Your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Father James Burkart, who is the pastor at Christ the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Spring, is the chair of the conference.

“Our mission is to provide liturgical formation workshops and networking directed toward the parish and diocesan levels,” Father Burkart said in a promotional video.

He said conference leaders had to “rethink” the way the study week was offered due to the pandemic. The new virtual format, Father Burkart said, “offers a number of diverse and fun virtual opportunities for dialogue, presentations and networking that we think will meet our needs perfectly.”

Sandy Higgins, director of Galveston-Houston’s Office of Worship, said the conference offers a view into “broader topics which deepen understanding and foster the Liturgy of the Church.” The virtual gathering will also “address this past year with honesty and with a vision of hope.

SWLC’s legacy

“We have been living through challenging days during COVID,” she said. “Some ministers have not been able to exercise their ministry. This is an important time to seek out this renewal since hopefully we will be able to gather later in 2021 without the current restrictions.”

The annual event “provides a unique experience for ministers to pray, learn, grow and be renewed,” she said.

The SWLC is the longest-running liturgical conference in the country, according to Higgins.

“That fact alone speaks volumes about the quality of the conference and its ability to respond to the topics of the day,” she said.

This year’s keynote speakers include Massimo Faggioli, a theology and religion studies professor at Villanova University; C. Vanessa White, an associate professor of spirituality and ministry at the Catholic Theological Union and an associate director at Xavier University of Louisiana’s Institute for Black Catholic Studies; Diana Macalintal, co-founder and co-director of TeamRCIA; and El Paso’s Bishop Mark J. Seitz.

Workshop leaders also include several Houston-based speakers: Father Burkart, who is also a past president of the SWLC; Julie Blevins and Juan Carlos Moreno, both of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis of the Archdiocese; Father Philip Lloyd, pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Memorial Park; and Father Leon Strieder, associate professor of Liturgy and Sacraments at St. Mary Seminary School of Theology in Houston.

A vibrant, growing Church

Higgins said attendees will have access to events without the expense of travel and will have access to workshop recordings for six weeks after the event.

“We are blessed in our Archdiocese to have a Church that is growing and vibrant and that celebrates the Liturgy with reverence and care,” she said. “Our liturgical ministers and leadership have risen to the challenges of this past year, but we have a lot to address in days ahead. I hope our ministers will seize this growth opportunity and set their parishes afire with the love of the Liturgy.”

Full conference registration is $150, while a day pass costs $50. For more and to register, visit †