By Celine Klosterman
Dozens of parishioners from the Diocese of Davenport were inspired recently by a two-day Catholic conference in Des Moines.
The Oct. 16-17 Christ Our Life Conference, which described itself as a “grassroots effort of faith” blessed by Bishop Richard Pates of the Diocese of Des Moines, featured numerous lay and ordained speakers from around the world. Presenters included Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect emeritus of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; Renee Bondi, a singer and quadriplegic who spoke on keeping faith alive in dark times; Matthew Kelly, a native Australian who offered advice for growing closer to God; and several other Catholics.
“I have never gotten so much from a conference and been so excited to try the ideas that were put across,” said Pat Schmida, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. She belongs to the parish’s Altar & Rosary Society, which she said paid for 20 parishioners to attend the conference.
“In these times when everyone is so busy, you need a new perspective every now and then to charge you up and get you excited about your religion again.”
Since attending, Schmida and her husband, Milton, have started praying the rosary in the evenings and are trying to act on other ideas suggested at the conference. She was inspired to support the charity Mary’s Meals, an international effort that speaker and Scotsman Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow founded to feed children.
Regina Jones, a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond, also was moved by the story of Mary’s Meals. She suggested her parish consider donating to the charity or similar organizations. “Why can’t we give some of our excess to some of these people? The conference brought out the importance of doing that.”
Conference speakers also challenged attendees: “Why aren’t we being more aggressive with our religion? We need people to be able to look at us and say, ‘They are Catholics,’” Jones recalled.
She and dozens of fellow members of the cluster parishes of Holy Trinity, St. Joseph and St. Mary in Riverside traveled by bus and car to the Des Moines event. She thanked Father Rich Adam, the parishes’ pastor, for promoting the conference to parishioners.
“You can’t put into words the awesomeness of hearing testimony from all the speakers and hearing how God is alive and at work in our lives,” said Liz Hammes, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Hills. She was inspired to examine how God’s hand had played into her past, and, thanks to the suggestion of a “Mass journal,” was motivated to pay closer attention to the liturgy. “By the end of Mass at the conference, I felt like God was more present.”
Since returning home, “every day something will pop into my mind from the conference that’s pertinent to what I’m going through then,” she said.
One of Hammes’ five companions en route to the conference, Bibiana Glandon of St. Mary Parish in Sigourney, said, “The witnessing of what God does in your life was almost beyond belief. He has a plan for each of us, and we just have to go along with it.”
She especially appreciated a talk by Cardinal Arinze, who spoke on the Eucharist and stressed the importance of studying the Catechism.
“It was good to go and get the fire for your faith going again,” Glandon said. “You have to do that every once in awhile.”