Divine Mercy/Marian Conference draws 300
By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor
Over 310 people attended the 2nd Annual Divine Mercy/Marian Conference Oct. 1 in Sioux City.
After a welcome by John Lillis, radio host from KFHC, Father Leroy Seuntjens led the opening prayer. He pointed out that they held a Eucharistic procession at Trinity Heights. The priest also offered reflections on Divine Mercy.
“For many of you here, I think you are apostles of Divine Mercy – will take the message home, take it to your parish and your community,” he said.
During the conference, Father Donald Calloway shared his conversion story. (See story on the adjacent page.) Other speakers were also featured such as Joan and Dave Maroney of the Mother of Mercy Messengers and Dr. Bryan Thatcher, founder of the Eucharistic Apostles of Divine Mercy.
The Maroneys spoke about the four apostolates that are centered on Divine Mercy. Since 1999, the couple has devoted their lives to spreading the authentic message of Divine Mercy and devotion to Our Lady.
“What we really do is go into the trenches,” said Joan. “We see ourselves as the ground troops to go into the parishes to help bring this message to the parish, to the school, to the religious education program – to help people like you have the materials to reach out.”
Dr. Bryan Thatcher told his personal story of how he was consumed with work in the medical field before having a conversion experience of sorts that eventually drew him to the message of Divine Mercy. Eventually he founded the Eucharistic Apostles of Divine Mercy.
He called Deb Trenary of Wesley to the stage to speak of her experience in starting a Divine Mercy cenacle in her parish in 2008.
“We meet every two weeks and what we love about it is how easy it is,” said Trenary, who noted that Thatcher’s formation manual provides how-to lesson plans and reading assignments from the catechism, Bible and St. Faustina’s Diary. “It ties in how Divine Mercy is so pertinent in all of those books.”
For those in the diocese wishing to start a cenacle, she said she would be more than happy to help them.
Amy Lansink of Odeboldt said she came to the conference because she has been aware of the Divine Mercy message and devotion for five to six years and wanted to learn more.
After hearing about the apostolates, she said she would love to see a cenacle start up in her parish.
Martha Stout of Coon Rapids was impressed by the conference, especially the keynote speaker.
“His story is so incredible, it gives all of us hope – that God loves us, that he will quench our thirst and take care of our deepest needs if only we trust in him,” she said. “With the story of Father’s life, how it’s been transformed and the hope that we have in the future – we should be on fire, go back to our homes and tell the whole world about God’s grace and mercy.”
Stout said it was hard to describe something “that fills your soul so completely.”
In addition to hearing powerful speakers, participants had the chance to take part in adoration that was offered throughout the day in an adoration chapel. Eight priests were also on hand to hear confessions during the lunch break.
Following lunch, Father Brent Lingle gave a presentation highlighting some of the upcoming missal changes and offered some historical background regarding changes through the years. He told them that the current missal which is presently used at Mass is from 1973.
He told them that the changes were not being done for the sake of change.
“What we are doing with the new translations, is try to flesh out a deeper theology, a more clear meaning of who we are as Catholics,” Father Lingle said. “Through the new translation, it is very clear that it translates sacred Scripture. Right now, we basically translate phrases.”
Father David Hemann, pastor at the parishes in Ida Grove, Holstein and Odebolt, spoke to the 60 youth about the significance of the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, modern-day miracles, the importance of prayer and what it means to be a Christian and Catholic.
The Maroneys also presented to the youth.
Sophie Lord, a freshman at Bishop Heelan High School, said she thought it was incredible.
“I became aware of things I didn’t know before. It really opened up the faith and religion,” she said. “I thought it was great.”
She found it interesting when the Maroneys, during their presentation to youth, compared the Divine Mercy image with the Shroud of Turin. Using projected images they had overlaid the two images and showed how perfectly matched they were.
“It was the work of the Lord. It was incredible,” Lord said.
Michael Fitzsimmons, an eighth-grader from Mason City, said he liked Father Hemann’s presentation that asked the youth to reflect on why they were Christians and why they were Catholic.
“It really made me think about that a lot,” he said. “If someone were to ask me why I am Christian and why I am Catholic, I think I will be able to give them a more in-depth answer.”
Laura Patterson, eighth-grader from Sioux City, said she liked it that they had a track for youth specifically because they were presented the information in a way they could understand.
One message that stood out for her was the importance of trusting in God and knowing that if something “doesn’t go your way, in the future you will see there will be a reason for what happens.”
Marina Bertrand, a sophomore from South Sioux City, Neb. and parishioner at St. Patrick Church in Jackson, said she liked Father Hemann’s message about finding time even just five minutes a day to listen to God so that you can really hear what he has to say.
The youth joined the adults for Father Calloway’s second keynote that focused on conversion experience.
The final keynote presentation was followed by a 3 p.m. Holy Hour led by Father Seuntjens.
Conference goers were invited to attend 5 p.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop Walker Nickless at Cathedral of the Epiphany.
In his homily, Bishop Nickless tied his message into the Scripture readings, noting that people are called to produce good fruit. He said if people took advantage of God’s gifts they can produce good fruit.
Acknowledging that many in the congregation had attended the Divine Mercy/Marian Conference, he said they were reminded of the great gift that St. Faustina is to the church.
“As we see in our readings today, one of the very best gifts God gives us to produce good fruit is his mercy, his patience,” said Bishop Nickless, who asked the faithful to reflect on how many times in the Scripture passage that God gives the workers to do the right thing.
God never gives up on the people, said the bishop, even though people sometimes give up on themselves.
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