More than 1,000 attendees and an additional 400 online viewers participated in this year’s live-streamed San Fernando Regional Congress, held Sept. 22 on the campus of Bishop Alemany High School in Mission Hills.Centered on the theme “Dare to Ask and Receive,” the event drawing catechists and parish ministers from 44 parishes in the archdiocese’s San Fernando Pastoral Region opened with morning praise offering Scripture readings in English, Spanish and Korean, as well as online video greetings in Tagalog, Japanese, sign language and a Ghanaian dialect. Acknowledging the challenge of being a catechist in a world where God is often “missing but not missed,” Msgr. Jarlath Cunnane, pastor of Our Lady of Grace in Encino, spoke in his morning reflection about the importance of sharing one’s “good news” story of how God has worked in their lives.“All evangelization begins with that personal experience of God, the God that’s been good to me and to you,” said Msgr. Cunnane. He pointed out how Jesus expressed his willingness to fulfill the leper’s request in Matthew 8: “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”“Our call, first and foremost before anything else, if we’re going to dare to ask and to receive, is to know that Lord... who not only has the power to heal us, but who does say to us, ‘Of course I want to. Be healed,’” added Msgr. Cunnane.In her welcoming remarks, Religious Sister of Charity Edith Prendergast, archdiocesan director of religious education, said the vocation of a catechist is to witness the good news of Jesus “in our families, in our homes and in our parishes.” She added that the Year of Faith (which begins this month) “is a wonderful year of renewal, of really making a connection with our God.”In her talk, “Building and Encouraging Transformational Parish Communities,” (among 83 English- and Spanish-language workshops and the first of three presentations live-streamed from the gym), Sister Prendergast said parish transformation requires passionate and competent leaders who have the vision to “choose mission over maintenance.”Essential ingredients to accomplishing parish transformation, added Sister Prendergast, include establishing life-long faith formation, becoming catechizing parishes where catechesis is the responsibility of the whole community and fostering discipleship among parishioners. “We’re called to life-long conversion to Christ by the gifts of the spirit,” said Sister Prendergast. “In forming adults in the faith we must have the courage to confront ‘cultural Catholicism,’” to call people out of spiritual complacency and onto a deeper spiritual path.In his homily at the closing Mass, San Fernando Region Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Wilkerson said that Jesus “challenges us to preach his message,” even if it is opposed in a world where the powerful do not take kindly to those who dare to speak out for justice on behalf of the poor and exploited.“We need to be the best and the most courageous servants of Jesus Christ that we can be, no matter what the cost,” said Bishop Wilkerson. “Let us ask that we might be filled with Jesus Christ, and let us receive that gift that he so willingly wants to give.”Summing up her experience of this year’s San Fernando Regional Congress, Ursuline Sister Marie Ellen Kuhel, pastoral associate at Blessed Junípero Serra Church in Lancaster, said she was touched by its prayerfulness and inspiring workshops.“The [workshop live-streamed] speakers I heard on the Year of Faith were enthusiastic, sharing things in a new way to get us enthused about going out to live [the faith], to know how to be [spiritually] hungry and to help feed others,” said Sister Kuhel.“The highlights for me were just taking everything in,” said Bernadette Purnell, a Padre Serra parish catechist who also assists with organizing children’s liturgy. “It was just amazing and such a unique experience.”Michelle Byun, who was among 16 young adults attending from the Sung Sam Korean Community’s (Los Angeles) Sunday school teaching staff, said her group that was led by Patrick Son, parish DRE who served on the congress’ environment team, came to get a feel for what other parishes do for and with their young adults.“The highlights for me were the talks we had in all of our classrooms,” said Byun. She found the workshop “Acceptance of our LGBT (Lesbian/Gay/Bi/Transgendered) Sisters and Brothers: A Catholic Discussion” very enlightening. “It kind of opened my eyes to more understanding of how the Catholic Church accepts LGBT people. That was most interesting to me,” said Byun. “I got some really great ideas,” said Donna Ioppini, who shared that the talk she attended on adolescents and sexuality was very helpful in her work with confirmation students at Incarnation Church in Glendale. “I got some good ideas on ways of starting the dialogue” with Catholic youth about the church’s teachings on sacred sexuality, noted Ioppini.Attendees, commented Margaret Sardo, San Fernando Region coordinator for religious education, come away from the congress with renewed enthusiasm for their ministry. “All the energy that comes out of congress is really the highlight — all the enthusiastic and smiling people who go back on fire,” said Sardo.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/1005/sfcongress/{/gallery}