On Saturday 30 September, more than 500 people gathered for the fourth annual Faith and Life Convention in the Diocese of Down and Connor. Held in Our Lady and Saint Patrick’s College, Knock, this initiative arose out of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan and saw people from across the Diocese and further afield turn out with great enthusiasm to hear the keynote speaker Cardinal Kevin Farrell who was recently appointed by Pope Francis to head the new Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. This Convention focused on the theme of ‘faith in the family’ and marked the beginning of a series of diocesan events leading to the World Meeting of Families next August.
The recently professed adoration sisters, Sr Martina Purdy and Sr Elaine Kelly, opened the day in prayer with the specially commissioned World Meeting of Families Icon which will be in Belfast during this week.
A key component of the day was the opportunity to reflect and have conversations on the theme of ‘faith in the family’ and a vibrant panel discussion chaired by Prof. Peter Finn of St Mary’s University College enabled the assembly to ask a range of questions related to Pope Francis’s letter The Joy of Love.
The discussion panel included Cardinal Farrell, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Julieann Moran (World Missions Ireland) and Sharon Haughey (St Mary’s University College). Each panel member shared in an honest, personal and humorous manner the reality of their own family experiences, and addressed questions on how our parishes can develop as places of support for those experiencing difficulties within marriage and communities of welcome and belonging for everyone.
Over lunch the conversations continued. After lunch, participants engaged in a range of workshops to look at more focused areas around ‘faith in the family’. There was great variety of workshops covering topics ranging from the Benedictine Tradition, Gender Theory, Human Rights, Parenting skills, Martin Luther and looking at the the early Church Fathers.
Bringing the Convention to a conclusion, Bishop Noel Treanor and Cardinal Kevin Farrell led the assembly in prayer, for families experiencing difficulties, for the families of all gathered, praying for Pope Francis and the forthcoming World Meeting of Families which will be held in Dublin in August 2018. Bishop Treanor paid tribute to the ongoing work of the Living Church diocesan programme of renewal.