STEUBENVILLE, OH—“Why evangelize? Why be a witness to Christ? Why let a passion for souls invade our hearts?” asked Dr. Ralph Martin at Franciscan University of Steubenville’s June 7-9 Catholic Charismatic Conference. “Because there really is a heaven, and there really is a hell, and it really matters if people believe and repent or not.”
Martin, the director of Graduate Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, explained that with the advent of the Second Vatican Council, the Church was challenged to take on an enormous aspect of the new evangelization: reaching out to fallen-away Catholics; Catholics who no longer know what sin is.
He continued, “We can have all kinds of activities and programs at our parishes, but if we’re not bringing people to conversion, to accept what happened to them at their baptism, we’re not really aiming at what the Catholic Church is all about.”
During the powerful weekend of keynote talks, workshops, testimonies, praise and worship, daily Mass, eucharistic adoration, and opportunities for confession, participants learned that to evangelize today, we must be “bold and steadfast.”
“Holy boldness is not irreverence—it’s quite the opposite,” said Dr. Mary Healy, Scripture scholar at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. “Holy boldness is knowing who we are as sons and daughters of the King, knowing we have a Father who loves us and wants to answer our prayers in the name of Jesus.”
Healy explained that as the culture becomes more and more wounded with the lies of society, “the Lord is pouring out grace to bring the reality and the visible manifested presence of the King to heal that wound.”
Bob Canton, the national coordinator of the Alliance of Filipino Catholic Charismatic Prayer Communities, reminded participants that even after an initial conversion, spiritual growth must always continue.
Recounting his original life plan to become a millionaire before the age of 40, Canton said that after attending a charismatic prayer meeting several decades ago, he realized he was lacking an “intimate, personal relationship with God.”
Today, he said, “I can honestly tell you that I have become a ‘millionaire.’ Not in terms of money, but by what the Lord has done for me in spite of myself. My prayer is ‘Lord, keep this conversion going until I see you face to face.’”
Giving an evening talk, Father Richard McAlear, OMI, said that the most outstanding element of Christianity is that we can love God, because God loves us: “There’s a relationship with God.”
“I believe that if we could authentically show the face of Jesus to the world, the world would fall in love with Jesus. If we show that love, people would want to!” said Father McAlear, who has touched thousands of lives through his worldwide healing ministry.
Making a surprise appearance, Franciscan University’s president, Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, told the participants that though they may feel simply like ordinary people, “If you look at the Scriptures, God chooses ordinary people all the time to do these extraordinary tasks. Because faith, in its essence, is a gift: a gift God has given to each one of us. A gift that he asks us to share with other people.”
Participants both new and those attending for many years found much hope and inspiration from this year’s conference.
“I’ve been doing my pilgrimage to this conference since 1986,” said Patti Baur from Lucinda, Pennsylvania. “I can always count on these conferences to have submission to the magisterium. And I tell people, ‘this place is a light in the darkness.’”
For Brampton, Ontario, native, Chandra Silva, his first time at this conference impressed him beyond his expectations.
“Everything was so beautifully arranged,” said Silva. “I enjoyed how evangelization was the biggest theme—especially in the Year of Faith. It is helpful because that’s something I’m still growing in.”
Franciscan University of Steubenville, known worldwide for its academically excellent and passionately Catholic undergraduate and graduate degree programs, has also offered Catholic evangelistic conferences for adults and youth since 1975. This summer, through Franciscan’s five adult and 18 youth conferences, more than 40,000 teens and adults will discover anew the richness of the Catholic faith, encounter the truth of Jesus Christ in Word and Sacrament, and be better equipped to carry Christ’s love to the world.
Upcoming Franciscan University summer conferences include the St. John Bosco Conference for Catholic Educators (July 17-21), the Applied Biblical Studies Conference for anyone seeking a deeper knowledge and understanding of Scripture (July 24-26), and the Defending the Faith Conference, which focuses on Catholic apologetics (July 26-28).
For more information, including a complete list of conferences for adults and youth, visit www.franciscanconferences.com.