Redemptorist Communications attended the Faith & Life convention which was hosted by the Diocese of Down & Connor on Saturday 20 September. The keynote speaker was Vatican journalist John Allen Jnr. It was a vibrant celebration of faith and community with lots of interaction from all involved.
Living our Faith to make a difference
Upwards of 600 people from all across the diocese and some fraternal delegates from neighbouring dioceses gathered on Saturday September 20th for our first Faith and Life Convention. The staff of Our Lady and St Patrick’s College, Knock, gave us a marvellous welcome to their beautiful, brand new school building.
Stephen McAnee, chair of the Diocesan Pastoral Council captured the spirit of the day perfectly in his words of welcome: It is wonderful to see this big gathering here today and it gives me great hope to see that hundreds of us are attracted by the theme of today which is: “Living our faith to make a difference”. Above all today is an opportunity to meet and chat with each other in a context where the faith we love is centre stage.
After a simple but beautiful prayer, prepared by the Diocesan Liturgy Commission and led by Bishop Farquhar, we got down to business.
Bishop Treanor used the metaphor of the beautiful well established school in which we found ourselves – nothing but a building site in living memory – to give us hope that our first Convention will be the beginning of great things to come.
He introduced the keynote speaker, renowned journalist and Vaticanista, John Allen Jr. who recalled fondly his own memories of Father Treanor when he was the secretary of COMECE in Brussels, saying that whatever diocese would get him as bishop would be very blessed. John Allen went on to give us a front-row insight into the papacy of Pope Francis highlighting the Kairos moment that this papacy presents to the whole church. He spoke eloquently of the three key themes driving Pope Francis: A church that is close to the poor, a church that is missionary, and mercy.
After hot, home-made scones at the coffee break we gathered back for the Panel Discussion. Martina Purdy gathered questions that had come from the delegates and guided a fascinating conversation between the four participants: John Allen, Paula McKeown, Brett Lockhart and Sr. Geraldine Smyth. We heard of the need for compassion in the administering of the sacraments especially reconciliation. We were challenged by the readiness of our Protestant brothers and sisters to tithe when we considered the need for new lay ministries in our church. When Sr Geraldine spoke of the absence of a female diaconate it was met with both applause and the shaking of heads. John Allen was eager to highlight the need for us always to be gracious in our determination to share the light of the faith in an increasingly secular society. We also discovered that Pope Francis gives the best sound-bytes but he doesn’t post all his own tweets.
Members of the panel (L-R): Mr John Allen Jr, Mrs Paula McKeown, Mr Brett Lockhart and Sr. Geraldine Smyth. The discussion was chaired by Ms Martina Purdy
The sun drew many of us outside at lunchtime and drew the comment that it was just ‘like a great big Catholic picnic’. Many sat on the courtyard benches, entertained by DCF, and others went for a sunny stroll around the football pitch.
In the afternoon the huge crowd scattered to thirteen different venues around the school for their workshops. Topics were as varied as Media and Mental Health, Healing the Past and Natural Law. Participants reported, by and large, that there was plenty of meaty content and opportunities for good conversations. In feedback many are saying: ‘we want more of this’.
The final session saw a quick summary of the fruits of all the workshops, a word of encouragement from John Allen and a summation from Bishop Treanor in which he asked the floor: ‘Will we do this again?’ This was met with a spontaneous affirmation that we should. He also called on us to make sure that the conversations begun today are carried on into our parishes.
In his closing address, Bishop Noel Treanor remarked that the Faith and Life Convention was an enriching and enjoyable day for all participants. Recalling a recent gathering of newly ordained bishops in Rome, Bishop Treanor reflected upon the words of Pope Francis: “Love the people to whom you have been sent and among whom you live, not as you would like them to be, but as they are. Love them in all the predicaments of their lives, don’t judge them, support them, reach out your hand.” Bishop Treanor emphasised that this vision of service applies not only to every bishop, or to church leaders of any particular Christian confession but to anyone who is a committed and engaged Christian and Catholic.
Bishop Treanor concluded: “Today is a day when we have come together on the basis of our common and shared faith in Jesus Christ. It is a day when we have reflected on that faith, its pertinence and significance for life and living. You and I, my friends, are challenged as Christians to be heralds of hope, of positivity not of destructive negative criticism. Spread the Good News!”
The young people, accompanied by DCF, brought the day to a close when they led us in prayer and song and moved everyone by a powerful and captivating drama about the huge challenges that young people face in trying to follow Christ in the modern world.
We should leave the final word to some of the participants:
“Very worthwhile. Very Enriching.”
“A huge thank you to all involved in the organisation and every aspect of it: Speakers, workshops, catering, car parking.”
“So proud to be part of this day.”
“I feel energised and enthused by the whole day. This is lay participation in action.”
“Great signs of new life in our diocese.”
“An excellent day of togetherness.”
“A thoroughly excellent event, vital for the future development and growth of our faith in this diocese.”
“Excellent Convention. Stimulating and challenging inputs. Great energy and enthusiasm from the delegates. This is a true ‘kairos moment’ for our diocese.”