This event was hosted by the Office of Faith Formation of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island and was held on Saturday, March 17, 2018 at Bryant University. The event featured dynamic speakers, exhibits, all you can eat lunch, opportunity for Confession, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The day began with Mass celebrated by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin.
“My faith fuel tank is full!”
That was the first thing that I excitedly blurted out the moment I left the Interfaith Center at Bryant University after the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, also known as Adoration.
It was the last part of the 51st Annual Diocesan Faith Formation Convocation and a perfect ending to a long (in a good way) and blessed day.
I said this “fuel tank” comment to a woman who held the door open for me. She was a stranger (although I highly dislike that word) okay, she was someone that I never met before and didn’t even talk to at the convocation during the day. (As a hardcore introvert, this is something I would have NEVER done before.)
“Me too!” She agreed, and we chatted until we reached the parking lot. God is so good!
I am so thankful that I was able to attend the Diocese of Providence's 51st Annual Diocesan Convocation! It was “a day of learning and fellowship for all Catholic Men & Women and offered “multiple Catholic speakers on topics like Evangelization, Faith Formation, Elementary Catechesis, Youth Ministry, and Personal Spiritual Enrichment for those who wish to deepen their spiritual journey and love for the Catholic Faith.”
After Mass with Bishop Thomas Tobin, I met up with my favorite (and only, but would still be my fav!) Godmother-in-law. Throughout the day, I saw many familiar faces and was blessed to meet new amazing and dynamic men and women of the Catholic faith.
I have to say that best parts of the day, after the inspiring speakers at the sessions which I will get to in a bit, was being able to be with Jesus THREE times. However, I almost missed out on one opportunity to be with Jesus.
That opportunity was the Sacrament of Reconciliation aka Confession. As usual, I did not want to make my confession and even convinced myself that since there was only 10 minutes left until Confessions were over and since I had gone two weeks earlier, that I would just skip it that day.
The funny thing is that Jesus Christ, also as usual, let me believe that I was going to feel okay with this conscience decision not to go to Him, but just for a little while. I should just realize the fact that with me, He always gets His way.
As I was standing with the other ladies in our little (but awesome) group looking at Catholic goodies and talking with the vendors, I started to feel His presence. I was standing next to the stairs that would lead to where confessions were being heard. Great, I thought, here is that feeling again. Suddenly, I felt a pull, not physically but spiritually, like my soul was already walking up the stairs. In that moment, I had a choice. I could ignore it and pull my soul back down or I could follow my soul to Him, to the path to salvation. To the One that I call “My Lord and My Love.”
Albeit a bit begrudgingly, I followed my soul to Him. The line was long (HURRAY! For people wanting to go to confession). I could have easily used the long line as an excuse to turn around and just go to the next session, but I waited. I took the time to make an examination of conscience and then when it was my turn, made my confession.
Regardless of how many times I make confession, I am always extremely nervous and shake a bit in my hands and my words. By the way, telling the Priest that you’re nervous makes it much easier and I have never met a Priest ever that would make anyone feel badly about being nervous. Trust me.
As much as I struggled to get the words out and could feel my face turn hot and red, all the words—all my sins came stumbling out of my mouth and into our Lord’s ears via the Priest-- in persona Christi.
After I made my penance in the adjacent room, I was literally skipping to my next session, okay to the ladies’ room, but then to the next session. Thankfully, I was late and no one else was in the hallway. It felt so good- not only that I was “squeaky clean” as my favorite Godmother-in law says, but because now, my body which is a receptacle of Jesus, was pure for Him.
Gifts From the Holy Spirit
There were four sessions in which we were able to choose from an array of prayer and enrichment workshops. While it was difficult choosing which four workshops to attend, I was more than pleased with my decisions.
I took away so much knowledge and so many tools from each session. I call them gifts from the Holy Spirit! In fact, I have already begun implementing some of these gifts in my personal and family's life and am extremely excited to start integrating them in this ministry!
During each session, I was writing so fast in my notebook that I thought my hand would fall off. Each speaker was filled with the Holy Spirit and delivered powerful and inspiring lessons. It was such a blessing to be able to not only be surrounded by people who love the Lord, but to hear such powerful speakers who also love the Lord.
I could spend hours talking about each speaker and could write several blogs on top of that. However, I will stick to sharing my favorite topic/quote/etc.. from each speaker.
Session One: .Matt Fraud: God's Plan for Love in a Digital Age
Speaker, podcaster, writer featured on Huffington Post and author of: The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography (among other books).
Matt delivered a hysterical, moving, informative and at-times frightening (but oh, so necessary) talk on the dangers of pornography and sex addiction, including how porn quite literally shrinks the brain and is proven by real research to be as addictive as drugs like cocaine.
My takeaway: when it comes to children and pornography, do not be naïve. Matt advised that parents start the conversation early and let them know that there are bad and good images and videos out there. Pornography is bad images or videos that hurt our brains and can make us do or feel bad things. (There’s more tips you can find on his podcast: Love People Use Things.) Young children, teenagers and young adults need to know that they can come to parents with anything and that we will be supportive. They need to know: “there is nothing that you could do to make me love you less.” An exact phrase that I was told by my Priest during my first Sacrament of Reconciliation after three years of avoiding it. Click here to follow Matt Fraud on Facebook.
Session Two: Mary Sellars Malloy: Our Family Prays: Fostering Prayer in the Home
Senior Editor of RCL Benziger Publishing, LLC, a Roman Catholic book publishing house offering services and resources for Catholic Parishes and Schools. This session was focused on how to integrate prayer into regular, daily life by celebrating the rhythm of the Liturgical year at home. Since I am always trying to find new ways to pray both with my family as a mother to a young son and for this Catholic Mom Rhode Island ministry, I was very excited to participate in this session. Mary even sparked a new and fun idea for a project for Catholic Mom Rhode Island that I think our members will really love (among other ideas!) Stay tuned!!
My takeaway: Whether our family takes a few minutes to discuss “where did we each encounter Jesus in our day” at the dinner table or if we are engaging in a longer prayer session either with the Holy Rosary or reciting the Litany of Loreto, there are so many opportunities to pray together every single day. The earlier that we, as parents, can plant the seed of regular prayer in our lives and into the life of our son (and I pray, future children) the more likely we all are to pray daily and turn to Him in times of sorrow and in times of celebration. Families, like mine, just need the words to pray.
Session Three: Damon and Melanie Owens: The Family's Role in Evangelization
Have you heard the phrase “Couple Goals?” Well, if you haven’t just hearing this couple talk will explain the phrase better than any words I can type on this journal. Damon Owens founded the teaching ministry, joytob, which is “dedicated to proclaiming the joy of being made in the image and likeness of God, male and female. Drawing on over twenty years of lectures, motivational speaking, writing, and TV/radio presentations, Damon joyfully acclaims the goodness, truth, and beauty of human sexuality and its deepest meaning fulfilled by men and women who freely choose motherhood and fatherhood through marriage or celibacy for the sake of Heaven.”
This husband and wife power couple were exuding love for God, each other and their family throughout the entire talk and you couldn’t help but feel moved to go home, Praise God and then give your spouse and children a big hug and kisses. I almost forgot to mention that Damon and Melanie have eight beautiful children. Click here to follow joytob on Facebook.
My takeaway: Surprisingly my major takeaway from their inspirational talk was not about marriage or children directly, but more towards evangelization. Damon said, “There is no one that is so far away from the Gospel that can’t come back to Jesus Christ,” he also said: “it isn’t our job to change their hearts but to bring them to God who will change their hearts.” Phew! That takes the pressure off a bit, doesn’t it? God will finish the work, we just have to start the work. To expand on that, Damon also said that the “desire to change can start the desire to desire to change.”
Session Four: Dr. Angela Franks: Humanae Vitae @ 50: Church Teaching for the #MeToo Movement
Dr. Franks is the Director of Theology Programs for the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization at St. John’s seminary in Massachusetts and author of several books including: Margaret Sanger's Eugenic Legacy, Contraception and Catholicism and Women, Sex, and the Church to name a few. Dr. Franks and her husband are the proud parents of five children.
Dr. Franks session made me fall in love with Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae all over again and gain new knowledge that not only shocked me but validated many of my opinions on topics like premarital sex, cohabitation before marriage, birth control and abortion.
My takeaway: My husband and I have been using Natural Family Planning (NFP) for almost a year. While we are newbies at NFP and still have a long way to go when it comes to learning about this authentic approach to family planning, I jump at the opportunity to learn about and hear from experts in NFP. You may have heard people call NFP “Catholic Birth Control.” Well, what I am about to share with you, that Dr. Franks shared with us, will help to dispel that myth.
Action always beats intention.
Good Intention: Paying bills. Bad Action: Robbing a bank to pay bills.
Good Intention: Paying bills. Good action: Getting a job to pay bills.
Good Intention: Wanting to space out children. Bad Action: Birth Control.
Good Intention: Wanting to space out children. Good action: NFP
The intention of wanting to space out children can be a good intention, however the action of ingesting birth control, a group 1 carcinogen, is a bad action, whereas practicing Natural Family Planning is a good action.
In fact, in according to the World Health Organization, birth control pills join the ranks of tobacco, asbestos, plutonium, and diesel exhaust as a group 1 carcinogen. In 2005, the WHO name birth control pills as “a known and probable cancer-causing agent to humans.”
“Since the methods of NFP respect the love-giving (unitive) and life-giving (procreative) nature of the conjugal act, they support God's design for married love!” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) and have no side effects! Thank you, God!
Again, thank you, Edward, Michelle, Michael and the entire Office of Faith Formation at the Diocese of Providence. Thank you to the vendors, the speakers, the volunteers, the Priests, the sisters, the servers and everyone else involved in putting together such a blessed and inspiring day! I look forward to attending the convocation in years to come and pray that others who are reading this blog will join me as well.
As always, thank you for reading. God bless you and may the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you always!
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