Speakers set for Ozark Liturgical Conference, Aug. 2

ROGERS — The “new evangelization” is more than a catch phrase and the first-ever Ozark Liturgical Conference hopes to breathe life into these words for participants.

With easy access to parishes in Arkansas as well as dioceses in Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, the conference will be held on the campus of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Rogers Saturday, Aug. 2 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m., and Judene Kuszak anticipates a healthy attendance for the event.

Kuszak, parish director of religious education and a key organizer, said the location and caliber of speakers will likely attract individuals who may not have entertained the idea had the location not been accessible.

“Our mission is that the average lay person can attend and learn more about our role in the liturgical life of the Church through worship, music and education. It is the first of its kind in our diocese and the deanery,” Kuszak said.

Lourdes Montgomery, parish music director and another key organizer, has attended several of these conferences in Miami and around the nation and always felt one could be done in the area on a smaller scale. Her contacts with different music composers around the United States were invaluable in putting the agenda together.

“The conference will give participants an opportunity to enjoy the music of published musicians and songwriters as well as to grow in the joy of the Gospel,” Montgomery said. “These composers are giants in the world of liturgical music.”

Key presenters highlighting the conference include Bishop Anthony B. Taylor, speaking on “The Joy of the Gospel” and Father Juan Sosa, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Miami, president of the National Hispanic Institute for Liturgy and advisor to the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship on the topic of the new evangelization. Their presentations will be given in Spanish and English.

Following the keynote speakers, workshops will be led by other notables, Abbot Jerome Kodell, OSB, Scripture scholar from Subiaco Abbey, and Cackie Upchurch, director of Little Rock Scripture Study.

Other speakers leading workshops are Msgr. Richard Oswald, director of the diocese’s Office of Divine Worship, Msgr. David LeSieur, St. Vincent de Paul pastor, Ed Lemerise, Enrique Castro and Fathers Shaun Wesley, Jason Sharbaugh, Alejandro Puello and Juan Guido.

Also headlining the event are distinguished musicians Bob Hurd, a teacher, composer and liturgist whose music is featured in hymnals in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and Australia, and Estela and Rodolfo Lopez, a husband and wife team internationally recognized for their music and compositions.

Janet Vogt, who arranges and edits music for piano students of all levels, as well as teaches and composes children’s plays, will also be presenting at the conference. Organizer Montgomery, who is an arranger and composer, will also present.

Following keynote presentations and workshops, the day will culminate with Mass.

Father Juan Manjarrez, associate pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Rogers, and Father Shaun Wesley, pastor of St. Joseph in Fayetteville, both served in advisory roles planning the conference and agreed the uniqueness of the conference is not only that it is local, but that its purpose is to better understand the gift of the liturgy.

“We need to become conscious and active participants in the Mass,” Father Manjarrez said. “By exploring every part of the Mass, we can more deeply understand it. We can teach others how to do things, but we need to teach the theology behind it.”

Father Wesley agreed.

“This is right here in our backyard, and we are tapping into local resources and professionals from across the country to help us all in our liturgical knowledge and experience,” he said.

The conference team has aspirations the event will mature into an annual happening in the future.

“The more the conference grows, the more we will be able to expand our horizons of topics and presentations to cover all facets of liturgical life,” Father Wesley said.

Tickets are $45 a person for advance registration and $55 at the door. For more information or to register, contact Therese Rohr at (479) 636-4020.

Alesia Schaefer

Alesia Schaefer has been a Arkansas Catholic reporter and columnist from Northwest Arkansas for more than 10 years. A member of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Rogers, she works as admissions director and cross country coach at Ozark Catholic Academy in Tontitown.

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