The 40th annual Spring Enrichment will be held May 13-16 at The College of Saint Rose in Albany. More than 130 courses, workshops and lectures will be offered, with a special focus on the Year of Faith, the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Albany Diocese is also marking the third and final year of the Amazing God evangelization initiative with this year's Spring Enrichment theme, "Filled with the Spirit."

Spring Enrichment is open to all and includes certification courses for catechists and youth ministers, presentations on faith formation, keynote addresses and more. The full workshop schedule appears in this issue (see pages 11-14) and can also be found at For information, call the diocesan Office of Evangelization, Catechesis and Family Life, 453-6630, or email

The Divine Mystery in the Heart of Creation (May 14, 4 p.m.)
Care for the environment is part of Catholic social teaching, but "the very fact that it's at the end of [most] lists says something," said Sister Linda Neil, CSJ. She's a theology and environmental science teacher at Catholic Central High School in Troy and has a master's degree in earth literacy.

"Is the earth an afterthought?" she continued. "Of course people are important, but the thing is, where are we going to live? We have one earth. You take care of your home and then your home takes care of you."

Sister Linda's workshop will concentrate on reconnecting with the earth, the gospel of creation and Jesus' attitudes toward it and the divine mystery working in people's lives. She'll use photography, artwork, Hubble telescope images and scriptural readings and explain each of the eight Beatitudes in an eco-spiritual context. "Blessed are the merciful," for example, can be used to extend mercy to all of creation.

"Blessed are the persecuted" should not just apply to persecution of other humans, she said: "Can we push back the barriers and include the whole web of life?"

Sister Linda said that scriptural encouragement of care for creation starts at the beginning, when God instructs humans to till the soil and care for earth so it can provide for them (Gn 3:17). "The human is not separate from creation. We need to care for creation in the mandate of God."

Bible readers may miss subtle points that have ecological significance, Sister Linda said. For example, honoring the Sabbath should mean giving the land a break, too: "When we press creation, when we're out there drilling, tearing, cutting up seven days a week, that doesn't give creation a chance to rest."

Catholics need to reconnect with the mystical tradition of acknowledging the earth's teachings and sacrificing to preserve and save it, she said.

"In this time of ecological crisis, we're invited to be children of the universe [and see] the enormity of what God has created. Because we see ourselves as the apex of creation, we have a hard time with that. If we treated the earth as our home and not just a thing to take stuff from, wouldn't that make a difference?"

Lessons of Redemption, Hope and Grace from Les Miserables (May 16, 1 p.m.)
Sister Rosemary Cuneo, CR, remembers her introduction to the "Les Miserables" story: She tuned in for a made-for-television adaptation as a teenager in the 1960s.

"It really touched my life," she said. "The seeds of a vocation started to blossom with that movie."

Since then, Sister Rosemary has studied Victor Hugo's 1862 historical novel, seen every movie based on it and caught the musical on Broadway and at Proctor's Theatre in Schenectady. When the latest film came out, she took a group of parishioners from St. Henry's parish in Averill Park, where she's pastoral associate for parish ministries, to see it.

Her Spring Enrichment course will explore its plotlines of redemption, sacrifice, grace and the human condition. She hopes to help workshop participants see their own lives in the characters and "to help people see the richness of living our faith, even in difficulties.

"I see so much in 'Les Miserables,'" Sister Rosemary said, citing "humankind's inhumanity to humankind and the choices that we make when life hits us" and "the influences that we make on each other's lives."

The story follows the character ex-prisoner Jean Valjean as he reintegrates into 19th-century France and breaks parole, leading to a decades-long hunt by policeman Javert. It also deals with the social unrest that leads to a student revolution (the Paris uprising of 1832).

In the first act, the Bishop of Digne is the only character to treat Valjean kindly and even lies to the police after Valjean reoffends, inspiring a series of resurrections for the character.

"Sometimes we take for granted the effect that we can have on other people's lives," Sister Rosemary said. "The grace of God works to change us if we let it in[to] our lives. We do have a choice; we can change. Look at the opportunities that God sends us to mellow our hearts. He's knocking us over the head with them, and sometimes we just don't see it."

She said the revolution's barricades can represent ways that people block God's grace, and the story's ending suggests eternal life.

Sister Rosemary will also explore Javert's hardness of heart and inability to change, other characters' responses to mercy, the importance of ritual and symbolism and how to live the paschal mystery in everyday life.

Renewing Young (Adult) Catholic Imagination (May 13, 7 p.m., and May 14, 9:30 a.m.)
Matt Weber, a popular Massachusetts-based Catholic author and videographer, will make his educational debut in the Albany Diocese with this workshop geared toward Catholics in the 18-to-35 age range - especially those who are disengaged or struggling to live their faith publicly.

He said he wants to let young adults who may have fallen away from the faith of their youth know that "it's still OK. People are Catholic in their 20s and 30s. [And] I want the older folks to know that the future of the Church is strong."

The 29-year-old knows what it's like to have faith tested. He grew up in a strong Catholic family, attended Catholic schools for 20 years and worked at Boston College while earning a master's degree there. When he started graduate studies at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., it was his first time in a secular environment.

"Religion is not just not talked about, but it's also treated with curiosity and [made] suspect," Mr. Weber said of the Ivy League campus. "Religion wasn't in the air."

He tried being an "incognito Catholic" for a few months, but then "sort of 'came out' as a Catholic at Harvard: I wasn't afraid to talk about it anymore."

Peers asked why he was still Catholic, so Mr. Weber started producing pithy, humorous videos to "show them why Catholicism brings so much richness into my life" and help other young Catholics in similar environments.

He pitched the idea to the CatholicTV network, which has incorporated his clips into the end of a weekly program for the past three years. The videos got the attention of Loyola Press, and he published a book, "Fearing the Stigmata," last fall (see

Mr. Weber is now a digital strategist and producer at Harvard Graduate School of Education, where many of his colleagues are not religious, but have embraced his openness.

"Once you show a respect for [your] religion, they show it right back," he said. "I just try to be good and try to live out a good Catholic faith life. Don't be afraid to have a very civil conversation on religion [even if] conventional wisdom says don't talk about it."

With young adults, "I really try to promote this concept of co-ownership of the Church," Mr. Weber said. "There are no better Catholics or worse Catholics. We all have an equal stake. You can take an active role at any age. It's up to us to improve it in whatever way we see fit."