2007 CONVENTION Update
Our convention will take place October 19-21
in Providence, RI. Between now and then, I have been asked to keep
VOTF informed about the convention. VOTF is a distinctive
organization that does not readily fit into any existing
category in the life of the Church. Our conventions
reflect that distinctiveness. This convention, like
the others before it, will have its own distinct style
and reason for being. In this way, our convention is
not typical of other national gatherings labeled “conventions.” For
example, when the American Heart Association holds
its convention, it follows a form and structure that
has been in place for decades. Many of us go to annual
professional conventions; they too have a regularity
and formula. VOTF is still its formative years; we
are still developing.
Our past conventions display this. They each reflect
the character of VOTF as well as its emerging identity.
Our character is located in our mission and goals.
Our identity is located in the actions we take towards
that mission. At Indianapolis we sought to discern
central plans of action that would take us forward.
While we will have a program that involves various
actions, in Providence our main purpose is to celebrate
and to reflect. We have shaped a program around the
over-arching theme of a birthday party. At such a
party, people gather to celebrate the present, to
remember the past and to look forward to more birthdays
in the future. We have created a convention with
this in mind.
The convention committee has been working on our gathering.
In our early phone calls we talked and listened to
each other’s ideas about themes and speakers.
As we did that we kept asking “who” is
celebrating – Who are we? When we peeled away
all the various layers of our identity, we came to
our root, core identity as disciples of Jesus Christ.
During this process we discussed our prior conventions.
We noticed that when VOTF members gather, they want
to learn and discuss and they also want to pray. We
have created a program that involves both.
During a series of meetings, we collected ideas for
the convention theme then asked the committee members
to take the ideas back to their affiliates and VOTF
constituencies for feedback. After a long process we
decided upon the theme “Disciples in Action.” This
theme allows us to include both education and prayerful
We will begin on Friday October 19 with workshops
that will be presented by our Working Groups. These
workshops are designed to display and celebrate the
kind of work that has been going on in VOTF. They are
also designed to inspire others as well as to provide
the basic tools for implementing similar activities
across VOTF. We open this way to celebrate who we are
and where we are and have been. After the Workshops
we will have refreshments and fellowship before we
move to our Keynote speaker Richard McBrien. Professor
McBrien is a long-time supporter of VOTF. Both Jim
Post and Jim Muller approached him for advice when
they were considering how to respond to the crisis.
There are few theologians who know as much about the
life and theology of the Catholic Church. Fr. McBrien
will reflect upon where we have been and also upon
the challenges of the present and future for VOTF.
On Saturday morning our President Mary Pat Fox will
address the gathered community with her birthday reflections.
Dr. Edwina Gateley will follow her talk. Dr. Gateley
will share her insights about the spirituality for
disciples who wished to be active and engaged. Judge
Michael Merz will also address the convention; the
Judge will converse with us about his work on the National
Review Board for the USCCB. After lunch we will have
several sessions, where panelists address various topics
around our theme of discipleship. Saturday will end
with our Liturgy and then a vigil and walk along the
river in Providence. At this season of the year Providence
lights the river with fires that make their way out
to the sea. We will build upon the symbol of moving
light with a procession of our own.
Our Convention Implementation Team from Indianapolis
has been working on our next action with the up-coming
convention in mind. They are developing resources on
the conscience. It is the adult, carefully formed conscience
that animates the life of disciples. We encourage you
to look for that action from the CIT to prepare for
October. We also follow in the wisdom of good Pope
John XXIII who asked that the whole Church pray each
day in the time before Vatican II convened. We ask
for your prayers as well