Refuel: An opportunity to draw near to Christ and rejuvenate

Bob Rice (Courtesy photo)

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By Becky Berreth

“If we are enthusiastic and excited about what the Lord is doing in our lives, then the faith becomes contagious to others,” said Bob Rice. “That is when faith becomes a joyful activity for everyone.

“One of my favorite lines from Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium is when he wrote that an evangelizer should not look like he just came out of a funeral! The church has said many times that the first way we evangelize others is through the joyful witness of our lives. I think sometimes we who do ministry within the church can get so caught up in the ‘what of what’ we say that we forget to also give attention to how we say it.”

Rice is this year’s featured speaker at the annual “Refuel — Diocesan Religious Educators Conference” held January 19-20 at the Terra Sancta Retreat Center. He is a professor of catechetics at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and will speak to this year’s theme, “Sharing the Joy of the Gospel,” while connecting the theme to the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment as well as Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.

“This year, in anticipation of the upcoming synod, we wanted to bring in a speaker who could help us prepare and make the most of it,” explained Susan Safford, diocesan director of faith formation.  “At the same time, we wanted the topic to be broad enough to be relevant for those who work in all variety of ministries.”

According to Safford, the conference is based on a long ago youth ministers rally the diocese had sponsored. She wanted something where the presentations were encouraging, informative, and engaging and came at a time during the year when people needed a boost. When she began her work in the Office of Faith Formation and Youth & Young Adult Ministry in 2012, she surveyed the dioceses and found a need to revive the event, but open it to all who minister in the church — in faith formation, youth ministry, music ministry, liturgy, marriage and family, business and administration.

“There was need to bring people together for prayer, support and helpful presentations — to be with the Lord and receive him,” she said. “Everyone who serves the mission of the church, in whatever capacity — anyone who wants to learn more about “Sharing the Joy of the Gospel” — sign up. This is a great opportunity to be re-energized for the call that the Lord has for us, to learn more and grow in our work for the church. It is a chance to be with people from around the diocese for fellowship and sharing of ideas, and especially to be with the Lord in prayer and receive what he wants to give us.”

Safford hopes the conference will give participants an opportunity to draw near to Christ and allow him to rejuvenate and reinvigorate those in attendance for future work in their church.

Rice agreed saying, “My prayer is that everyone who comes will feel energized, educated, and empowered to grow deeper in their faith and be able to joyfully share that with others.

“Plus, I am incredibly good looking. I mean … dang. Just wait until you see me,” he added jokingly.

The conference begins with Mass at 5:30 p.m. on January 19, followed by dinner and the opening presentation. There will be time for adoration and confessions to end the night.  Saturday sessions begin at 8:30 a.m. and will end at 4 p.m. The day will include presentations, prayer, and daily Mass.

Register before December 24 and receive $10 off the $65 registration fee. For more information contact Susan Safford or Susan Thompson at 605-716-5214 or email or