Defending the Faith 2013 | Franciscan University of Steubenville
  • Defending the Faith Conference Equips, Inspires, Empowers

    1,500 Participants Pack Finnegan Fieldhouse at Concluding Summer Conference

    Father Sean Sheridan, TOR, president of Franciscan University, processes with the monstrance during adoration.

    August 12, 2013

    STEUBENVILLE, OH—July 2013 was in its final days, but there was one more thing to be done before the close of the Franciscan University of Steubenville summer conference season. It was time for Defending the Faith 2013.

    Held primarily in the Finnegan Fieldhouse, with workshop sessions in various campus locations, the July 26-28 conference offered daily Mass, confession, eucharistic adoration, free time to meet the speakers and fellow participants, and a plethora of great talks under the theme “Faith Transforming Culture.”           

    “I want to encourage you, to encourage others, to keep that commitment to Christ front and center. Renew your commitment daily. Build relationships, because the world wants to tell us that we’re alone,” said Teresa Tomeo, author, Ave Maria radio host, and popular speaker.         

    Tomeo, in her talk, “Becoming 24/7 Catholics,” listed some common ailments that prevent Catholics from becoming fully invested in their faith, both inside and outside the Catholic box. These included “holy osmosis,” thinking that simply sending one’s children to Catholic school would foolproof them from falling away from the faith; “chronic Catholic curmudgeonitis,” focusing on all of the problems in the Church and ignoring the good, beautiful things; and only going to Mass on Christmas and Easter.   

    Tomeo took a positive approach to Catholics who only go to church twice a year, explaining that if we want them to return fully to the Church, to “always welcome them with love and open arms.”      

    Similarly, Franciscan University president Father Sean Sheridan, TOR, explained in his homily that, “we should be grateful to God that he is so patient with us,” and that God is always waiting for us to come back into a more complete union with him.       

    “We are all human beings and by the grace of God he allows us to grow into those persons that we were created to be,” said Father Sean. “We should be grateful to God that he continues to send people into our lives to be able to help us with that process.”


    Following God’s Lead        

    Kimberly Hahn, popular speaker, author, and mother of six, explained how crucial it is to set a good example of the Catholic faith for one’s children: “We have opportunities to model for our children compassionate care and sacrificial service.         

    “We talk about dying to ourselves and it sounds so grand and glorious, but maybe it’s not laying down our life as much as it is laying down the remote. Choosing to spend time instead of watch TV. Or laying down the fork when food’s getting cold so you can go change a diaper. Or laying down a good book to take out the trash,” she said.         

    Likewise, Dr. Edward Sri, a founding leader of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), and professor at the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado, said that Catholics should model their lives according to the Blessed Mother’s life.         

    “She was endowed with unique gifts and privileges like no one else. But she also was a human person and she faced various trials and sufferings in her own life like we do,” said Sri. “She faced many moments of discernment, moments of uncertainty, moments of darkness, and the Bible even reveals that there were times when Mary did not understand. She still had to walk by faith and not by sight.”       

    When it comes to trusting in God’s providence, keeping in mind his Divine Fatherhood is important. Dr. Scott Hahn, in his Saturday night keynote talk, explained that God “loves us as a Father, more than we can imagine, but he loves us too much to give us problems that we can handle ourselves. He gives us problems that we can only handle with his help.”        

    Hahn, the Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, Chair of Biblical Theology and the New Evangelization at Franciscan University, explained that this help comes to us in Christ under the appearances of bread and wine: the new testament and new covenant.         

    “But that new testament, that new covenant, doesn’t deliver us by getting us out of problems, it delivers us through those problems as we carry our crosses, as we endure all that the world has to throw at us like it threw at him,” he said.


    Catholicism as Counter-Cultural         

    Dr. Peter Kreeft, prolific author and philosophy professor at Boston College, offered his thoughts on one of the Catholic Church’s many counter-cultural stances: the defense of traditional marriage.         

    “Right now, it’s fashionable to be ‘gay-friendly.’ In past time, it was fashionable to be ‘gay-hating.’ Hitler exterminated homosexuals along with priests and Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jews. So if the values of your culture come from consensus, there’s nothing to stop that from changing once again,” Kreeft warned.         

    But the underlying theme, said Kreeft, is that “every single human being, no matter what his sexual orientation, is ontologically good, created in God’s image, so good that Christ died for him. And he’s called to be a saint. Homosexual or heterosexual.”        

    Keeping with the tradition of a conversion testimony at the conference, Jason Stellman, a recent convert to Catholicism, shared his story Sunday morning. There were many things that Stellman was unsure about when he first looked into Catholicism as a prominent Presbyterian pastor. But one thing was certain: the Church is not afraid to go against the cultural norms.        

    “As audacious as the Catholic Church comes across, it’s as audacious as Jesus came across. The Catholic Church kind of acts the way Jesus acted. By saying things that may not fit in well with the religious elite or the status quo of the culture,” said Stellman, who came into the Catholic Church in September 2012. “And that’s what the Catholic Church is. It is an extension of Christ’s ministry. It is the mystical body of Christ.”      

    With the powerful talks and many opportunities for participants to grow in community with other like-minded Catholics, it may have seemed hard to go home on Sunday. Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton of the Diocese of Steubenville, said in his homily at the conference’s closing Mass that, “All we have to do is ask,” for help with the tasks that lie ahead.      

    “As you and I depart this conference today, as ardent as our faith may be today, may we keep in our hearts the words of the late Cardinal Henri de Lubac, ‘the Church is a perpetual construction site.’ And so, we are witnesses to faith always. Ask Jesus Christ: he will always provide.”        

    For more information about Franciscan University of Steubenville conferences, visit

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