610 learn from Jesus at Summer Institute

By: By Jennifer Willems

One of the many titles by which Jesus was known is “teacher” and he continued to provide valuable lessons for the 610 people who gathered at St. Vincent de Paul Church and School in Peoria June 12-13 for the 2009 Diocesan Summer Institute.

Helping to spread his Good News to the catechists, directors of religious education, Catholic school teachers and principals, parish volunteers and other interested lay Catholics last weekend were three keynote speakers and 33 workshop presenters.

Sending them forth with handshakes and a recommendation to “learn a lot” was the chief catechist of the Diocese of Peoria, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, who celebrated the opening Mass of the Summer Institute on June 12 at St. Vincent de Paul.

Commending those present for continuing Christ’s work of teaching the Good News and spreading the faith, Bishop Jenky reminded them that their Master Teacher always took time at the end of his labors to be in communion with his Father.

“He does that with us this morning, for we have this time together to be renewed, to be challenged and to be changed,” the bishop said.

Addressing conference participants on June 12 were:

? William Donohue, president and CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. He discussed themes from his new book, “Secular Sabotage: How Liberals Are Destroying Religion and Culture in America.”

? Dr. John Cavadini, chair of the theology department and founder of the Center for Catechetical Initiative at the University of Notre Dame. Among those initiatives is ECHO: Faith Formation Leadership Program, which has benefited central Illinois parishes for the last four years. He talked about “The Relationship Between the Teaching of Christian Doctrine and the Formation of Persons as Christians.”

Giving participants a chance to relax, reflect and do some singing that evening was John Michael Talbot, also known as the “troubadour for the Lord,” who has released more than 50 albums of contemporary Christian music. In addition to his music ministry, he is the founder and minister general of the Brothers and Sisters of Charity at Little Portion Hermitage in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.

Returning to the Diocesan Summer Institute for the third year was Father Daniel Maurer, CJD, and during the intermission of Talbot’s concert he gave a brief update about his work to restore the Catholic Church in the Russian Far East. A collection to aid his ministry enabled him to take $3,060 back to the Mary, Mother of God Mission in Vladivostok.

Those who missed the concert were able to hear Talbot speak about Christian meditation and contemplative prayer during his keynote address on June 13. Many of the conference’s 47 workshops also were repeated.

Nearly 200 of those who attended the Diocesan Summer Institute came for “First Corinthians: The Church and the Christian Community.” This marked the fifth year that Jeff Cavins has visited Peoria to give an overview of one of the Bible studies in “The Great Adventure” series he developed.

Teaching with him this summer was Thomas Smith, who authored the study on First Corinthians. He is an international presenter for “The Great Adventure Bible Timeline.”

On June 13 Cavins and Smith spent the day talking about St. Paul’s attempts to bring the people of ancient Corinth to Jesus and the similarities between that society and today’s society. Smith encouraged his listeners to be “Paul-bearers” to their families and communities.

“Jeff has been a profound influence in jumpstarting Scripture study all around the diocese,” said Father Douglas Grandon, parochial vicar of Sacred Heart Parish in Moline and coordinator of the Diocesan Summer Institute. “It seems like half of the parishes in the diocese are now running ‘The Great Adventure’ series and if you count the other parishes that are joining them for those studies there are probably more than half.”

He noted that many of the people filling the pews of St. Vincent de Paul Church had been pioneers in that effort.

Preaching on the day’s reading from Matthew 5:27-32 at the Institute’s opening Mass, Bishop Jenky said Jesus did not teach the Israelites about marriage by talking about the law, but by describing the covenant of love between God and humanity. The best example of that all-encompassing love is the cross, according to Bishop Jenky.

“He taught, he healed, he encouraged, he embraced and then he took all that is wrong and broken in this world with him . . . to the cross,” the bishop said. “He rose from the dead, he sent his Holy Spirit and indeed, he is still in our midst at this very moment, putting our lives together, loving us and challenging us to imitate him.”

Since that is not possible to do alone, Jesus made himself present in the sacraments that make us his church, comfort us and change us by the power of God’s love, Bishop Jenky explained.

“As we struggle to be open-ended in our love, as we struggle — oftentimes resisting the invitation of God to live in closer communion with him, as we sometimes grow tired of preaching the Gospel or teaching young people the faith, as we sometimes grow tired of doing all the corporal works of mercy, let us let the Lord as sacrament expand our hearts,” he said. “In the strength and comfort of his love, let us more than ever be ready to love in return.”

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