It is less than 30 minutes of driving from my home to Bishop Moore on a Saturday morning before sunrise, and I was there around 7:30 AM to get the coffee when it was freshly brewed, get my first classroom set up, and “hang out” with the old guard, friends I have known and worked with from the chancery and parishes over the years. Most of us are showing our years, but the old “fight” is still there. One friend to me, “You look younger.” I replied, “True. But I can’t hear a word you’re saying.” Anyway, I have a briefcase full of notes, business cards and phone numbers to set up lunch dates. They all agreed to be interviewed for future blog entries. So, as soon as the Café credit card gets paid down….
I drew the short straw on scheduling: first session at 10:30 and the last at 2:30. When I ran into my chancery “handler,” one of the first things he said was “I didn’t do the scheduling.” (The jury is still out on that.) This convention, like just about every one of its type including my first NCEA conventions, did not exercise clock management for the opening events—no group ever does, really. Yesterday’s program squeezed a lengthy word service, the bishop’s welcome, the administrator’s welcome, and the keynote address into a 75-minute time slot in the printed program, which turned out to be more of a wish than a fact . This in turn puts great pressure on the first workshop providers to get the day back on the clock—by cutting our own presentations. I lost one-third of my first session, timewise. As my topic was “The Crusades” I looked at the clock, then at my students, and said, “We will attempt to cover four Crusades in 40-minutes.” (Educational footnote: time management is as critical to religious events as it is to football teams. Always have a stop watch in your free hand.)
Editing on your feet in front of a group is quite an adrenaline rush. All of this notwithstanding, I was still able to tell my humorous historical anecdote about Frederick Barbarossa, old “Red Beard,” in the Third Crusade. He was leading his men when they came to a swift and treacherous river that the men were afraid to cross. Red Beard berated them, and then proceeded into the water in armor on his horse. He immediately disappeared. I observed that “when the last air bubble broke the surface, his men lined the bank and cried out in unison, ‘we told you so.’”
As I noted, I had a second presentation in midafternoon, “The Resurrection Narratives,” how to teach them. I had given this presentation before, at the NCEA Convention in the spring. By mid-afternoon, temperature in the mid-90’s, the entire convention was beginning to show some battle fatigue. I had no dramatic drowning stories for this particular group of participants. There was a closing ceremony after the last workshops, but looking at the line of cars heading out, and a very ominous thunderstorm in plain view, I don’t know how many actually stayed. I actually forgot where I had parked my car. It is a seven-hour event in toto, but the participants do get appropriate CEU’s depending on their particular professional needs.
I had a generally favorable reaction to the day. Talking to a number of professional in the exhibition hall and elsewhere, I found agreement that the range of needs among those teaching catechetics and conducting other ministries is very great. Thus, for every person who attended my program on the Crusades, there were 25 who were struggling to grasp basics and draw up class plans. My diocese is quite culturally diverse; in the lunch areas and other common sites there was more Spanish spoken than English, at least in my hearing (bad as it is), but I believe I saw workshops offered in Vietnamese and Creole as well. It crossed my mind a few times how a diocese like Orlando (or many others, for that matter) will maintain an organic unity with the diversity of language, pieties, and world outlook, over the next quarter century or so.
I would be remiss, though, if I did not comment upon youth. As the convention was held on the grounds of our local Catholic High School, its students served as “floor managers” of the day. Each speaker was accompanied by a designated student to the “green room.” On each floor of classrooms in each building there were three students assigned to direct participants to the right sites, and to tend to instructors’ needs. Someone kept bringing me a bottle of water, (thank you! thank you!) and in one visit fixed a glitch in my IPad. They were without exception very kind and quite conversant, actually. They must be doing something right at Bishop Moore, though more than a few had my wife as their elementary school principal, too. Signs of hope. I had time as well to talk with our diocese’s new director of youth and young adult ministry; as it turned out, we were presenting at the same time on the same floor. She was speaking on “millennials” and their pastoral needs; actually, if I had been free, I probably would have attended.
My wife, meanwhile, was assigned to a parish down the road some from our home to speak at all the Masses this weekend on behalf of our diocese’s missions in San Juan de la Managua in the Dominican Republic. Matrimonial loyalty overcame fatigue, and I pulled myself together to join her for her first Mass this AM at 7:30. After Mass I left for the comfort of home and hot coffee; as of this writing at about 1 PM she is getting ready for her last Mass at 1:30 PM, I believe. She was terrific, even if I am biased. Despite the early hour of the Mass we attended together, she had a line of people afterward to get details for future involvement. Very promising.