Fourth PACE Conference Held in Charleston

By Martina Hart CHARLESTON—The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston held its fourth PACE (Parish Administration & Collaborative Education) Conference at St. John XXIII Pastoral Center in Charleston Oct. 17-18, bringing together more than 100 staff members and volunteers from parishes and schools throughout the diocese as well as 18 members of the chancery staff to lead breakout sessions. “We have always believed that it was important to continue to do these conferences to find new and creative ways to share information with those who are returning,” said Chad Carter, chancellor of the diocese, “but also again to repeat some of the basics for those who may be new to their positions in parishes and schools so that they have a strong foundation on which to build great success.” Participants were able to choose from a variety of topics during five breakout sessions. In addition, Sarah Hart, internationally known composer and Grammy nominee, led several sessions and presented an evening of music and prayer. “There are always demonstrations on ParishSOFT (a database for tracking parishioner membership) and QuickBooks (accounting software), just because that’s the main tool used by the diocese,” said Sheila Kerekes, secretary at the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston, who has seen the benefits of implementing those tools in her parish and throughout the diocese. The workshops she found particularly helpful this time were the one on parish/school employee handbooks, to be in line with legal and diocesan standards, and “When disaster strikes,” relating to handling church property issues, how to proceed in emergencies, etc. Cindy Barone just started as secretary at St. Michael Parish in Wheeling two months ago and attended PACE for the first time. “The ParishSOFT classes were excellent,” she said. They enabled her to learn what is expected of her and how to use online resources to continue her training. The interactive presentations and time during meals provided opportunities to share ideas and to network with others. “You have time to kind of mingle with other parishes and talk about things that they do differently,” Kerekes explained. “Each session has key points and then everyone kind of has their input on how their parish does something. Sometimes you get ideas at another parish, how they’re doing something that might work well for your parish.” Susan Board, bookkeeper at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Moundsville, agrees: “I think certainly the information part is valuable, but to me the most valuable thing is the networking that enables us to talk and finding out how they’re finding solutions to their day-to-day practical stuff that goes on in all the different parishes.” Cathy Carnahan, administrative assistant at St. Leo Parish in Inwood, attended for the fourth time. “I always go away with something,” Carnahan said. She attended “a whole lot of online stuff because that’s where everything is now,” covering topics such as online marketing and how to properly and effectively use social media. “I think people have come to look forward to (PACE),” Carter added. “They also walk away feeling refreshed and renewed in whatever position they hold, realizing that all of us are called to be missionary disciples and to evangelize in whatever work we are doing in the church, even if it seems that it’s something minor, that still has an impact on the work of the overall church and hopefully allows people to come closer to Christ in our communities.” For next year, the diocese is planning to hold only one PACE Conference in the fall which is to take place at St. John XXIII Pastoral Center Oct. 24-25, 2018.