Down and Connor convention an uplifting and enriching experience
Now an annual fixture, the Diocese of Down and Connor held its Faith and Life Convention on Saturday. Dominic O'Reilly reports
WHO really has the time or inclination to spend a full Saturday at a diocesan convention?
We are, after all, facing the challenge of increasing secularism, many of us still live with the very real effects of the financial disaster and, with ever-decreasing numbers - is it as many as 20 per cent? - engaging with their faith, is a convention really a priority?
But, on the evidence of the 500-plus people who gathered on Saturday for the fourth annual Faith and Life Convention in Our Lady and Saint Patrick's College, Knock, there are plenty of people who think it is important; what more, gatherings like this are a necessity.
I was remarkably encouraged at what an enlightening, enriching and uplifting day it was.
With a theme of 'faith in the family', the convention kickstarted the diocese's year of preparation for the World Meeting of Families, to be held in Dublin next August.
The keynote speaker was Cardinal Kevin Farrell, recently appointed by Pope Francis to lead the new Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.
In a truly enlightening talk, he challenged us with the words of Pope Francis's letter Amoris Laetitia, The Joy of Love.
The Cardinal beautifully addressed how the Pope is inviting each of us to discover the joy, beauty and love expressed through family, and he invited us to read the entire document to find its depth and beauty as individuals, families and parishes.
The morning session also included contributions from Paula McKeown, director of Living Church, and Bishop Noel Treanor, and the day started with Adoration Sisters Sr Martina Purdy and Sr Elaine Kelly leading us in prayer.
Professor Peter Finn of St Mary's University College chaired a panel of Cardinal Farrell, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, Julieann Moran from World Missions Ireland and Sharon Haughey of St Mary's University College as Amoris Laetitia was discussed.
Conversations continued over lunch and during the afternoon there was a series of workshops.
I was privileged to attend 'Finding God in the Mess', led by Jim Deeds and Fr Brendan McManus SJ, and 'Catechism and Culture' with Fr Brendan Devlin.
Other workshops looked at subjects as varied as gender theory, Benedictine tradition, human rights, parenting skills, Martin Luther and the early Church Fathers.
The day closed with a beautiful prayer service, led by Bishop Treanor and Cardinal Farrell, and the sending out of the people.
I left uplifted, thinking of the Church and family I love, and convinced that such a convention is necessary; Church and Family is faith and life.