Congress 2017


Religious Formation Conference 2017 Congress



Hilton Milwaukee City Center
509 W. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53203


Mentoring: A Near Occasion of Grace
Presenter: Mary Pat Garvin, RSM

The Grace of Encountering the Family of Creation:
Lifelong Formation in the Age of Laudato Sí
Presenter: Daniel P. Horan, OFM



Becoming Prophets of Encounter: The Culture of Encounter and Religious Life Today
Presenter: Stephen Bevans, SVD

Encuentro: A Call for Our Time
Presenter: Teresa Maya, CCVI


Being Human and Sexual: An Evolving Understanding
Lynn Levo, CSJ

Recognizing and Responding to Disordered Personalities in Community
Raymond Dlugos, OSA

Encountering Each Other and Those We Serve: An Approach from Cultural Diversity
Juan Molina, OSsT

Religious Formation in the Way of Justice: The Love Language of the Bible
Margaret Mayce, OP


Re-Imaging Formation for Religious Life for the Future: A Sociological and Theological Analysis of Religious Life in the United States Today
Mary Johnson, SNDdeN and Sandra Schneiders, IHM

Registration for RFC Congress 2017 in Milwaukee, WI is now open.


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Mentoring: A Near-Occasion of Grace

Mentoring is a near-occasion of grace! That is, every one-on-one encounter, every dialogue, is always open to God’s presence, to God’s grace!

We have all known the value of mentors in our lives: those graced companions whose single-mindedness and contagious spirit sparked our own longings to follow Jesus in the tradition of our founder and foundresses. Today, the women and men entering our congregations seek mentors of their own, graced companions whose lives of contemplation and action have readied them to “give the gift they have received” with joy, enthusiasm and wise counsel! Likewise, our perpetually professed members seek graced companions so as to be nourished as they daily serve God’s people.

This Pre-Congress Workshop is designed for leaders of congregations, vocation and formation personnel and those responsible for on-going formation programs. Through interactive processes and the lenses of theology and contemporary psychology we will explore various types of accompaniment/mentoring for those who minister in initial formation as well as those who accompany perpetually professed members. Materials will be provided for use within participants’ own congregations.

Topics such as the following will be addressed: the selection and appointment of mentors/graced companions (e.g., vocation and formation personnel as well as those responsible for on-going formation); mentoring and the formative community; the spiritual and psychological capacities necessary to engage in the formative process, both initial and on-going; mentoring during apostolic experiences; mentoring during times of discernment for vows and ministerial placement.

Presenter: Mary Pat Garvin, RSM is a member of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, currently serving on her congregation’s general leadership team. Sister Mary Pat holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the Gregorian University where she was a faculty member from 1994-2001. For twenty years, she worked with conferences of religious as well as with many religious congregations in the United States and internationally, focusing on the preparation of competent women and men religious capable of meeting the challenges facing their congregations, whether through roles of leadership or directors of initial or ongoing formation programs.

The Grace of Encountering the Family of Creation: Lifelong Formation in the Age of Laudato Si

In the spirit of Pope Francis’s encyclical letter Laudato Si and the Religious Formation Conference’s Congress theme of “Grace in the Now: The Gospel of Encounter,” this Pre-Congress Workshop is dedicated to exploring the ways in which we are called as members of the human family to break down the metaphorical borders we have established between us and the rest of the community of creation, borders which have contributed to persistent environmental degradation and the perpetuation of abuses within the human family. Today we are called to encounter the rest of the family of creation of which we are one part. This workshop is intended to help participants examine the theological foundations for better heeding the Christian community’s call to hear both “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” and to offer insight into the lifelong formation of religious committed to justice, peace, and the integrity of creation.

Presenter: Daniel P. Horan, OFM, is a Franciscan Friar of Holy Name Province (NY), assistant professor of systematic theology at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and the author of several books and many journal articles, both scholarly and popular.

Father Horan received his theology from Boston College, his M.Div. and M.A. from the Washington Theological Union.

Becoming Prophets of Encounter: The Culture of Encounter and Religious Life Today

Building on Pope Francis's understanding of religious life as prophetic and on his hallmark phrase, "culture of encounter," this keynote presentation will reflect on the various ways that today's religious need to be formed-initially and continually-to be "prophets of encounter."

Becoming a "prophet of encounter" begins with encountering ourselves in wonder, humility, and possibility. It grows as we encounter both the world's beauty and cruelty. It is rooted in the realization that, before we encounter God, God encounters us. It matures as we encounter others “as Jesus did, not just seeing but looking, not just hearing but listening, not just passing by, but stopping with them" (Francis, Sept 23, 2016). Prophets of encounter eschew the "culture of indifference" so prevalent in the world today and seek to witness clearly to the gospel, offer a word of hope in our difficult times, and never hesitate to confront oppression and injustice.

Presenter: Stephen B. Bevans, SVD, is a priest in the religious missionary congregation of the Society of the Divine Word and Professor of Mission and Culture, Emeritus, at Catholic Theological Union, where he has taught since 1986.  He served as a missionary to the Philippines from 1972 to 1981 and has lectured and taught all over the world. Father Bevans is the author, co-author, editor, and co-editor of seventeen books, has served as President of the American Society of Missiology, and is a member of the World Council of Churches' Commission on World Mission and Evangelism.

Responders: Javier Aguilar-Rivera, OSA; Christin Tomy, OP; Nicole Trahan, FMI

Encuentro: A Call for Our Time

Religious Life in the United States stands at the threshold of a profound transformation. This keynote address will explore Encuentro as the call which holds the promise for the future of our life form in the Church and our world. To answer this call, religious communities need to address the issues that emerge when we encounter the "other", the unnamed "isms" which distance us from the places of Encuentro. Holding the tension of Encuentro will open the possibility for Pope Francis' hope of a reconciled diversity that will "Wake up the World".

Presenter: Teresa Maya, CCVI, has been a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, TX, since 1994. Her ministry has been in education and she has served as a teacher, a history professor, and an administrator. Her passion is for the formation of ministers for Hispanics/ Latinos in the United States.

Sister Teresa earned her B.A. at Yale University, her M.A. at the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley, CA, and her Ph.D. at El Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City. She is currently serving as Congregational Leader for her religious community and is President-Elect of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

Respondents: Daniel Madden, OSA, Romina Sapinoso, nSC, Matt Wooters, SJ

Being Human and Sexual: An Evolving Understanding

In order to foster the health and well-being of newer members, it is imperative that formators are knowledgeable about human and psychosexual development. Our understanding of being human, our first vocation, as well as what it means to be sexual has expanded due to the integration of insights from spirituality and psychology. In this seminar, we will focus on some fundamental understandings (e.g., aspects of being human, meeting human needs, the importance of intimacy, and the centrality of relationships). In addition, we will explore how sexual diversity and technology are integral to the lives of potential newer members. These understandings are essential for each formator’s ability to accompany authentic discernment of any vocation, especially a vocation to a celibate life in community. This seminar will be offered once and will consist of two parts.

Lynn M. Levo, CSJ, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, is a licensed psychologist, lecturer and consultant. She received her Ph.D. from the University of New York at Albany, completing her clinical training at The University of Kansas School of Medicine. Currently a consulting psychologist in private practice, she offers workshops and presentations throughout the United States and internationally.

On numerous occasions, Sister Lynn has shared her gifts with RFC and in 2015 was the recipient of the Conference’s Mary Emil Penet Award, in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the initial and lifelong formation of vowed religious.

Recognizing and Responding to Disordered Personalities in Community

An individual is said to have a personality disorder when he or she displays a long-standing pattern of thinking, perceiving, and responding emotionally and behaviorally to normal life situations in abnormal ways. Designed to protect the individual from internal stress and pain, they disrupt his or her relationships with others and tend to cause inordinate discomfort in all those around him or her.  These disordered patterns of emoting, thinking, and behaving can cause tremendous disruption to community life and do great harm in ministry.  Since changing these long-standing and pervasive destructive patterns is extremely difficult, a community is best served by early recognition and separation from an individual with a personality disorder.  If that does not occur, enormous efforts will be required from all members of the community to contain the disruption and mitigate the damage that a personality disorder can cause.  In this workshop, the presenter will describe the signs of some of the most toxic personality disorders in community life, provide suggestions for how to respond when those dynamics appear and describe how they must be managed to limit their harmful effects. This seminar will be offered twice.

Presenter: Ray Dlugos, OSA is an ordained Augustinian Friar from the Villanova Province.  Currently the Vice-President for Mission and Student Affairs at Merrimack College in North Andover, MA, he holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the State University of New York at Albany, NY.  Formerly he served at Southdown Institute, initially as a staff psychologist and later as Chief Executive Officer.  Father Dlugos has given many workshops and retreats to clergy and religious on a variety of themes related to the healthy and holy integration of psychology and spirituality. 

Encountering Each Other and Those We Serve: An Approach from Cultural Diversity

In this seminar participants will experience an approach to encountering others in religious life and ministry that enhances and builds on cultural diversity. Through reflection on examples of particular experiences, they will learn about and practice the dynamics of cultural encounters with diverse populations. Imagine, for example, encountering a Colombian priest, the pastor of a culturally diverse parish, who celebrates Masses in three languages, or a Nigerian sister ministering in a primarily African-American urban parish, or a Filipino pastor who speaks several languages and pastors a primarily Spanish speaking one. And you happen to be the American-born provincial or formator who speaks only English! How do you empathize, connect on a personal level, communicate, understand and be understood? And how can you have a meaningful experience of community? This seminar will be offered twice, once in English and once in Spanish.  

Presenter: Juan Molina, O.Ss.T., a member of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity, is currently director of the Collection for the Church in Latin America at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Prior to ordination, Father Molina earned his M.A. and M. Div. at the Washington Theological Union; his Ph.D. in economics is from Fordham University. He is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.

Religious Formation in the Way of Justice: The Love Language of the Bible

Daniel Maguire’s description of justice, the Love Language of the Bible, has clearly been reflected by Pope Francis’ appeals to respect the God-given rights of all Creation. In Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, Francis speaks of the “inseparable bond between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society and interior peace” and, addressing the UN General Assembly in September 2015, challenged world leaders to respect the intimate connection between human rights and the rights of the natural world and to craft global policies accordingly. His message challenges us as well in our efforts to foster this same recognition among those who seek the path of vowed commitment in religious life today. Perhaps more than ever, we are called to probe the deeper meaning of vowed life in light of the signs of our times, including our polarized political context and the reality of structural evil. Are we committed to mentoring others in their exploration of vowed commitment in ways that challenge them to engage with this context in both word and action, acknowledging that justice is an indispensable aspect of the love language of God? Perhaps more importantly, are we willing to be challenged in this way ourselves? This seminar will be offered twice.

Presenter: Margaret Mayce, OP, a Sister of St. Dominic of Amityville, NY, represents the Dominican Leadership Conference at the United Nations, bringing the rich Dominican tradition to this work. She has served her Congregation in both vocation and formation ministry and, while a member of its Leadership Team, was a member of LCWR’s National Board.

Sister Margaret holds an MA in International Political Economic Development from Fordham University, NY as well as certificates in Pastoral Spanish and in Preaching from the Mexican American Cultural Center, San Antonio, TX, and Aquinas Institute of Theology, St. Louis, MO, respectively.

Re-imaging Formation for Religious Life for the Future: A Sociological and Theological Analysis of Religious Life in the United States Today

During the course of this Post-Congress Workshop, presenters will offer participants the sociological and theological “big picture” of religious life that they (and many others) have been discerning with the help of many Congregations and leadership groups as well as the best tools of sociological and theological analysis, suggesting some ways we could undertake the re-imagining and re-organizing of formation programs, and provoking conversation on what could possibly be a new phase of initial and on-going formation for and in religious life in the United States. The Sister Formation Movement, born of a massive re-imagination, brought Religious Life through the upheaval of the ‘60’s and prepared it to be the primary “receivers” of the Council. Is a similarly radical and widespread reorganization of formation for Religious Life needed now as we face and begin to deal with the vastly changed globalized culture of the 21st century and the culture of the Church in the second half century of its reception of Vatican II?

Presenters Mary Johnson, SNDdeN, and Sandra Schneiders, IHM, are well known to religious. Both are respected scholars who have lectured and published widely within the United States and abroad.

Presently Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies as well as Co-Director of the Billiart Center for Social Justice at Trinity Washington University, Sister Mary’s most recent research, with colleagues from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, involved a study of sisters born outside the United States now living or working here.

Author of the masterful trilogy Religious Life in a New Millennium, Sister Sandra has contributed to a range of RFC programs over the years. In 2005, she was awarded the Conference’s Mary Emil Penet Award for her outstanding contribution to the initial and lifelong formation of vowed religious. Currently she is professor emerita at The Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University.