INSPIRE held its annual Summer Day Away Event on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Designed as a day of informal formation, conversation, and team learning, the goal is for parish teams to spend time together out of the workplace. Dress code is casual, “picnic” dress, and Pastoral Leadership Teams are encouraged to share a boat ride, concert, dinner, or a play together in the city after the convocation. The general theme of the day was how to more carefully understand and invite parishioner participation in the mission and work of the parish.
The morning session was guided by Dr. Eileen Daily from the Institute of Pastoral Studies (IPS) and INSPIRE Assistant Director Mark Bersano. Its focus was on renewing parish life in the digital age. Strategies and resources for forming people in faith with the use of technology were explored, including outreach to young people through blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. Dr. Daily stressed the idea that the message of the Church must always come first, and the method of delivery and media format, though secondary, must absolutely be considered to successfully reach an intended audience. In today’s world, delivery of the message through digital media is especially important when reaching out to young persons. Mark Bersano unveiled and demonstrated the new INSPIRE web site, www.inpsireproject.org, to exemplify the use of these technologies.
Dr. Daily also introduced a new mobile app (art/y/fact.Xn) that she developed to explore and deepen one’s understanding of Christian art. The app, which works on on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, is a portable guide for interpreting themes and historical contexts in art, relating them back to theological principles, and offering opportunities for reflection and meditation. Convocation participants were able to experience the app through interpreting different depictions of the crucifixion.
The afternoon session invited participants to get a better sense of the faithful in Catholic parishes. Lucas Sharma, a Loyola University Chicago sociologist, spent substantial time interviewing parishioners in two very different Chicago parishes. He gained important insights into the positive impact parishioners have on the mission, viability, and identify of the parish. Panelists Sharma, Dr. Diane Maloney of the Institute of Pastoral Studies at LUC, and INSPIRE visiting professor Dr. William A. Clark, SJ gathered the audience for discussion and interaction on inviting parishioner participation. Dr. Maloney meditated the conversation, while Dr. Clark reflected on INSPIRE’s learning in light of Sharma’s research findings.