By Beth Lenegan
2017 Conference Planning Task Force Chair
In April, chaplains from across the country will gather in New Mexico with the desire for renewal. Each year we are inspired, we feel connected, we learn about ourselves as ministers, and we come to understand the current needs of those we minister to. This gathering happens in the framework of prayer, hospitality, and fun.
The 2017 conference planning task force identified four underlying topics that our plenary speakers will explore: living tradition, sacred stories, God always with us, and continually transformed. And all of our four plenary speakers — Dr. Dianne Bergant, CSA, Dr. Megan McKenna, Dr. Emmanuel Lartey, and Dr. Raymond F. Reyes — will address some aspect of those topics in their own fashion.
Dr. Dianne Bergant, CSA, will begin our conference exploring the living traditions of our church that lay the foundation of our Christian faith. Stories from Scripture and of contemporary fellow travelers will be examined in order for us to see the journey God has set forth for each of us. Sr. Dianne is the Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Old Testament Studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She was president of the Catholic Biblical Association of America and has been an active member of the Chicago Catholic/Jewish Scholars Dialogue for the past 30 years. For more than 25 years she has been the Old Testament book reviewer of The Bible Today. Sr. Dianne will inspire us to revisit the stories of our past in order to carry the work and ministry of our Church into the future.
At our second plenary session, we will learn “The Art of Storytelling and Story Listening” with Dr. Megan McKenna. The stories of the past will be interwoven with our present stories as well as the stories of those to whom we minister. Dr. McKenna will explore how we continually develop our own story on the road we travel, while we engage in the stories of those we minister to as well as a global story. She is a native of New York City and has lived in and visited North and South America, Europe, and Asia. She works with indigenous groups, in base Christian communities, and with justice and peace groups as well as parishes, dioceses, and religious communities. Dr. McKenna is an internationally known author, theologian, storyteller, and lecturer. She is a lover of words: the Scriptures, stories and tales, poetry, images, and phrases spoken aloud, written down, and spun to make meaning and how these both convert and transform us and bring meaning and hope to the world.
On Sunday, Dr. Emmanuel Y. Lartey will take us on a journey reminding us that we do not minister in isolation and that God is always with us — ahead of us and beside us. Dr. Lartey comes from Ghana, West Africa. He holds degrees in psychology and statistics from the University of Ghana and a Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham (U.K.) in pastoral theology, religion, and health. He is currently the L. Bevel Jones III Professor of Pastoral Theology, Care and Counseling at Chandler School of Theology, Emory University in Atlanta. In addition to 24 chapters in edited volumes and over 16 articles in peer-reviewed journals, Dr. Lartey has authored among others Pastoral Theology in an Intercultural World (2006) and Postcolonializing God: An African Practical Theology (2013).
Our final plenary speaker, Dr. Raymond F. Reyes, will share how, with the presence of God and burning hearts, we continually grow and are transformed along our own road to Emmaus. Dr. Reyes currently serves as the associate academic vice president and chief diversity officer for Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. He has 33 years of experience in Indian education and professional development training, and has delivered workshops and seminars addressing multicultural education; emotional intelligence; diversity and organizational change; cultural competency in counseling psychology; the principles and practices of “sacred hospitality”; and team building using laughter, humor, and play.
Each of these plenary speakers will challenge the community of chaplains gathered in New Mexico to go forth and travel their own Emmaus journey, companioning others on the way until we meet again.
Beth Lenegan, BCC, is director of pastoral care at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY.