PACE Conference Gathers Parish, School Personnel

Martina Hart Photo
Mike Rasz from Envoy Benefit Solutions speaks at the PACE Conference in Charleston.

By Martina Hart
CHARLESTON — The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s annual PACE (Parish Administration & Collaborative Education) Conference was held at St. John XXIII Pastoral Center in Charleston Oct. 23-24 bringing together over 120 participants who work or volunteer at parishes and schools throughout the diocese.
“We expanded the conference by half a day so we could accommodate more breakout sessions for people,” said Chad Carter, chancellor of the diocese. The over 30 workshops were facilitated by members of the chancery offices as well as outside presenters. They covered five general areas: Financial management and recording, marketing and technology, pastoral and formational topics, development and mission advancement, as well as ParishSOFT (the database used for tracking parish membership) and general administration.
“We try to offer sessions that would be beneficial to somebody who is new in their position and just starting out but also to people who have attended PACE before, who have been at their position for a while and want to go on further in their knowledge of the processes and the procedures that work for them,” Carter said. Bishop Mark E. Brennan and the choir of Charleston Catholic High School joined PACE participants for the celebration of Mass.
“It’s been a wonderful experience,” said Lawrence Bandi, President of Central Catholic High School in Wheeling, who attended PACE for the first time. “I feel like I’ve had a fair amount of time with the diocese. You feel like you know stuff, but you come to one of these and actually learn a lot.” He participated in several sessions on development, including fundraising and website design. He also appreciated networking with other people, getting to share commonalities, problems and solutions.
“I always look forward to attending the PACE conferences,” said Gina Boggess, parish catechetical leader at Sacred Heart Parish in Princeton, who came together with their office manager. Being located in the southernmost part of the diocese, she pointed out, makes participating in diocesan events rather difficult.
“As an employee, the majority of our communications and work relationships throughout the diocese are established by the telephone or email,” Boggess explained. “The PACE conference provides us with a wonderful opportunity for face to face encounters, to share our faith and grow in our ministries with other Catholics throughout our diocese.”
Carolina Leachman, director of Religious Education and Youth Ministry at Ascension Parish in Hurricane, agreed. “I love the opportunity to meet people that are up in Wheeling and kind of put a face to people that we speak with, that we network with,” she said, adding that “I love the opportunity just to see that we’re all kind of on the same page and going in the same direction with what we want to do together as a whole diocese.” Molly Linehan-Belcher, director of Campus Ministry at Charleston Catholic High School, also appreciated spending time with professionals working at the diocesan level. “They offered perspective on a range of ideas, including hospitality, the papal exhortation on young people and grant writing,” she said. “I’m not sure where I would have had these conversations had it not been at the PACE Conference.” Debbie Davis, parish secretary at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Wheeling, said she had learned a lot attending the conferences over the years, especially in regards to using parish administration tools such as ParishSOFT. “I enjoyed the Mass and the Taizé prayer service each time we come too,” she said. “It’s a wonderful experience.”
Next year’s PACE Conference is scheduled for October at the pastoral center.