The Mid-Atlantic Congress (or MAC) is in its second day of a three-day conference being held for a second year at the Baltimore Hilton Inner Harbor Hotel. Although somewhat smaller in scale to last year's Congress, it still is packed with two major Master Class Rounds (i.e. workshops) during the day, wrap-arounds, leadership meetings, liturgical celebrations and social networking opportunities.
New this year are three series of guided conversations sponsored by the Catholic Apostolate Center, a newly formed organization under the charism of St. Vincent Pallotti to help coordinate and implement "Year of Faith" and "New Evangelization" activities. The first "Casual Conversation" was held last night after the Key Note Speech with follow up over Friday lunch. The final session will be held Saturday morning on a rolling basis for participants before they leave the conference.
Volunteer facilitators from various ministries assisted in speaking to conference participants acting as the eyes and ears of the conference. Ideally, the project is aimed at discerning what topics or ideas are having an impact, what areas of challenge exists, and most importantly, what areas of collaboration can be built to bring good ideas to areas of greatest need.
Continuing this year at MAC is a desire to be inclusive and multicultural. On the technological side, this means wifi ports throughout the conference area, an ongoing twitterfeed (#MACongress), several workshops devoted to the role of social media in ministry.
But another concrete example was a recent workshop on Latinos and the Transformation of American Catholicism, given by Professor Tim Matovina. One of the first attendees of this talk was a deaf Jesuit from Boston who had done missionary work in Africa who came in with his interpreter. When asked about his background, the interpreter said he grew up speaking Spanish in New Mexico. His only childhood friend was a deaf boy next door, so he learned to speak sign language. It was only years later that he learned to speak English as his third language.
Prof. Matovina's talk called for a turning over of the stereotypical conventions of Hispanics (i.e. 70% are not immigrants) and a re-examination of American History not as European conquest, 13 colonies and westward expansion, but rather Catholic presence through settlements in the South, Southwest and West Coast pre-dating Jamestown or Plymouth Rock. Similarly, there is the hope that this three-day meeting, replete with publishers, active ministers, clergy, and religious personnel, might also contribute to the building up and change in the Church.
MAC comes at an interesting time this year. It is Lent, we are in the midst of papal transition. But we are also atune to changes ahead. As an example, at the end of Prof. Matovina's talk, it was announced the news via twitter that the Papal Conclave would begin on Tuesday.