Local participants at the recent Alive in the Spirit Conference have seen some familiar faces on screen – and not just those of the hosts.
During the three day virtual experience, nearly 700 participants across Australia and Oceania were able to watch over 30 workshops, with 15 of them presented by members of the faithful in the Diocese of Parramatta.
Annie Pinto, parishioner of Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown, explained to Catholic Outlook that her initial reaction to being asked to present a workshop was ‘no’.
But by surrendering her prayer to the Holy Spirit, a driving force of the conference itself, she said, “it gave me the courage to see that the time for sitting out was over, and now I had to start using my gifts.
“I think the Holy Spirit put in some major overtime hours working with me whilst I discerned my decision.”
Annie hopes that her presentation Facebook: an unlikely ally in faith sharing, will encourage people to be more intentional in growing in faith and sharing their faith on the social media platform.
“The Church has always used contemporary media to spread the Good News. We need to move from the upper rooms where the disciples were preaching to our modern, digital landscape,” she explains in her workshop.
For Blue Mountains couple Vic and Liz O’Callaghan, the Alive in the Spirit Conference “offers the opportunity for doors to be opened to all who are church.”
In their workshop, the couple speak about their work in hosting Listening Circles, which provide safe and sacred spaces for people to share how they have been impacted by the child sexual abuse crisis.
“We appreciate the opportunity to share the Listening Circles experience with people in parishes across Oceania,” they say.
“Many have discovered that gathering in a safe place and being listened to by others is a surprisingly spiritual experience.”
The team at the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations saw the Alive in the Spirit Conference as an opportunity to share about dialogue with believers of different faith traditions.
“The various workshops showcase that the church’s mission is multi-faceted. We show that interreligious dialogue is one of those dimensions of mission,” they explain.
“This virtual conference invites us to reconnect, renew and reimagine our community and mission with the Spirit.”
The team hope that participants will watch their presentation and become more empowered to engage in interreligious dialogue.
“Our hope is that the Alive in the Spirit conference encourages members of the church to reach out to the wider society in compassion and love.”
Some of that compassion and love should be extended to our local natural environments, says Catholic Earthcare’s Sue Martin.
Sue, an avid social justice advocate from St Madeleine Sophie Barat Parish, Kenthurst, wanted to be a part of the conference to see “where the Holy Spirit is bubbling within our faith community.”
Presented with members of the Catholic Earthcare parish network, the presentation introduces people to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ and also provides tips and tools to incorporate caring for our common home within our liturgies, resource efficiencies and engagement across parishes and schools.
“To understand our need to be reconciled with God, with each other, and with creation, it’s a big ask.
“Sharing our Earthcare parish journey with fellow pilgrims is an honour and we hope it will inspire more Earth care within our Catholic community,” Sue said.
Other presentations by members of the Diocese included creating community in a virtual world by Our Lady, Queen of Peace parishioner Lisa Bright, creating safe parishes by Head of Safeguarding Tracy McLeod-Howe, as well as Head Formation for Mission Sr Grace Roclawska csfn, who spoke on the spirituality of ageing.
Presenters commented on the wide variety of workshop areas covered, and the importance of hearing others’ perspectives
“For me, the diversity of opinions bring richness and this is what I am looking for – to hear those who might be thinking differently than I do,” said Sr Grace, adding she was waiting to see which workshops the Holy Spirit would guide her to.
Those who attended the Alive in the Spirit Conference still have the opportunity to re-watch the keynote addresses and watch every workshop until 31 December 2021.
Registrations are still open for those wishing to experience the Alive in the Spirit Conference. Once you have registered, you will have access to the whole site, including the workshops, prayer spaces and catch-up sessions until 31 December 2021.
To register as an individual or as a group, visit aliveinthespirit.com.au