Building upon the success of the Living Church Congress held in September 2013 and arising from the Diocesan Pastoral Plan, the inaugural Faith & Life Convention was held on Saturday 20th September in Our Lady and Saint Patrick’s College, Knock, Belfast.
The event was attended by over 600 clergy, religious and parish representatives, young and old, from throughout the Diocese of Down and Connor and neighbouring dioceses.
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.”
The keynote speaker for the day, John Allen, Jr., the renowned journalist and Vaticanista, shared his insights on the words and actions of Pope Francis. Addressing those gathered he highlighted 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 the ‘mercy of God’ as the emergent theme of his ministry.
Following the Keynote presentation a panel discussion, chaired by Martina Purdy, responded to questions gathered from the audience.
During the afternoon there was an opportunity to explore more closely how faith can make a positive impact upon daily life and the wider society as participants engaged in a series of workshops exploring themes as varied as media and mental health, and natural law and healing the past.
Among those who contributed to the workshops were columnist and author John Waters, the one-time British soldier turned peace-maker Rev Andrew Rawding, Myriam Wijlens; professor of Theology and Canon Law in Erfurt (Germany) and the teacher and author Aidan Donaldson.
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!”
Notes for Editors:
For more information or to get some photos of the event, contact Fr Eddie McGee. ([email protected] )
John L Allen Jr. is an American journalist serving as associate editor of The Boston Globe and specialising in news about the Catholic Church. Before moving to the Globe in 2014, he worked for 16 years in Rome as a Vatican watcher, covering news about the Holy See and the Pope. During that time he was senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and an analyst of Vatican affairs for CNN.