By Dave Jolivet
FALL RIVER — In their ongoing efforts to keep diocesan faithful informed and enlightened, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., and the diocesan Office for the New Evangelization have announced a Parish Leadership Convocation, scheduled to take place on September 10 at St. John Neumann Parish in East Freetown. The event will run from 9 a.m to 2 p.m. It will be open to all who exercise a role of leadership in a parish, priests, staff, and volunteers.
Bishop da Cunha told The Anchor, “During the last 50-plus years, following the Second Vatican Council, one of the things that has become prominent in the teaching of the Church, and has been clearly stated in many post-conciliar documents, is the recognition that all Christians, from their baptism are called to be a missionary disciples. That means we are called to follow Jesus and are entrusted with the responsibility to be witnesses to our faith in the modern society. In countless documents in the last half century, the Church has recognized and emphasized the important role of the laity in the mission of the Church.”
David Carvalho, diocesan Secretary for the New Evangelization told The Anchor, “In the past, the diocese has offered a time and a place for folks who work in ministries like Faith Formation, RCIA, Youth Ministry, but we realize there are many parish leaders who serve in voluntary roles, yet are leaders nonetheless. We want to offer all parish leaders, regardless if they are employees or volunteers, the opportunity to gather, be inspired, share thoughts, learn new techniques and to be able to network with other parishes.
“At the beginning of each school year, all school faculties and staff attend a formation meeting to get ready for the new school year. We want to be able to offer that same type of dynamic for parish leaders as well. We are hoping this can become a regular yearly event.”
Carvalho said that this convocation shows how the diocese is committed to sharing talents and resources, to prioritize the formation of those who carry out the mission of the Church, and to unify and strengthen the faithful in the Diocese.
“We want to minister to those who minister to others,” Carvalho added. “For many, there isn’t the chance to meet and share thoughts and ideas and form a network.”
“In order to be able to exercise this call to be witnesses to their faith and to be missionary disciples, we need to have more formation in the faith,” the bishop told The Anchor. “This convocation of leaders on September 10 is an opportunity for all our faithful to come together to reflect, pray and engage in the discovery and embrace of that call of their baptism to be instruments of evangelization right here in our midst.”
He said that the hope is that it is a continuation of sorts of the spring diocesan Women’s and Men’s Conference. “Each spring diocesan laity meet. With this Parish Leader Convention taking place on the cusp of fall, it helps keep people across the diocese connected.”
The scheduled guest speaker is Deacon Bob Rice, PhD. Deacon Rice is a permanent deacon of the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio, and is a professor of Catechetics at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
The husband and father of seven is a well-known international speaker, podcaster, author and musician.
Deacon Rice earned his PhD in Theology from Liverpool Hope University in England. While there he researched Catholic youth and youth ministry and evangelization.
His published writings include the Discipleship Quad Guidebooks, and a novel about St. Peter, “Between the Savior and the Sea.”
He co-hosts a weekly podcast, “They That Hope,” with Father David Pivonka, TOR, the President of Franciscan University.
Additionally, he has several music recordings on CD and can be found on Apple Music, Spotify and other online music sources.
He often leads worship for thousands of people yearly, particularly at the Steubenville Adult Conferences.
Bishop da Cunha will also address the gathering. On a pamphlet promoting the event, the bishop says, “Regardless of where you may be in your journey of faith, I ask you to come forward and allow the Lord to use you as his instrument. Say yes to God’s call to bear witness to Him!”
“The job of ministering to the faithful in the pews and beyond is a hard job right now,” Carvalho told The Anchor. “We want this convocation to ensure parish leaders have all the support and resources they need. It’s important for leaders to know they are part of a community, regardless of the type of ministry.
“This should be the largest gathering of laity in the diocese since the recent opening of the Eucharistic Revival event in June at Bishop Connolly High School.
“It’s been a difficult three years since the pandemic first hit, and we want to assist parish ministers in performing their jobs well and efficiently.”
The deadline for free registration for all Diocese of Fall River registrants is August 19. After that, the cost will be $20. The fee is $30 for non-diocesan registrants. Registration includes the presentation by Deacon Rice, Bishop da Cunha’s address, resources and materials, exclusive early access to new platform, refreshments and lunch.
To register, visit https://form.jotform.com/yyafamily/parish-leader-convocation