Last Updated: Thursday - 05/16/2013
Week of July 16, 2007
Spiritual oasis nourishes Catholic families' faith
12th Annual Family Life Conference nurtures with talks, music, adoration, prayer, Mass, fellowship
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"This is almost like an oasis where families come to be fed and nourished with the truth."
- Maurice Beier
"This is almost like an oasis where families come to be fed and nourished with the truth," said Beier.
"A lot of the time we get something watered down, but here you get the fullness of truth. Our speakers don't beat around the bush; they tell it like it is. They tell us the truth."
Conference organizer Chuck Marple said, "Our goal really is to strengthen families to really know the truth about Christ and his life - the life of the holy family."
"It came really from John Paul II's call to families to be what they are called to be. It's a call to try and do something about strengthening families in our society.
"I guess our belief too would be that if we can strengthen families, we could change society for the better," Marple said. "We are not going to change it through government so we have to strengthen the families to change the government."
Beier and his wife Vicki have six children aged 10 to 30, but Maurice guesses his family is one of the smaller families at the conference.
The conference has helped him and his wife to become better parents, always trying to do "the best we can for our children - not materially but spiritually," Beier said.
"It is so neat to come here to hear great speakers and to hear wonderful talks, challenging talks. But it's great to see families here supporting one another and it's great, after 12 years, to see a lot of the same families back - some for 12 years.
"We've seen their kids as toddlers now graduated, some married, some bringing grandchildren. It's awesome."
Marple, his wife Jeri and their eight children have been attending the conference from the beginning. This has brought discussion in the family about Church teaching, vocations and family life. As a result, his son John, 20, has decided to join the Benedictine order at its monastery in Mission, B.C.
While adults were at the shrine attending Mass or listening to speakers, their toddlers were being cared for by a group of young adults who volunteered their energy and enthusiasm playing, reading, walking, running, jumping, colouring and amusing the three-to-five-year-olds.
Children from 5-11 were taught to act and sing by about 30 volunteers from L.E.A.P. Ministries. And youth from 12 to 17 were given several talks by two energetic youth ministries: Face to Face and Anaphora Ministries.
"It's so satisfying to share Christ with young kids," said L.E.A.P volunteer Laura Harty, 22. "We did it though songs, skits, interaction, talks and testimonies. It's a really neat way to share Christ with kids."
Kathryn Davies, a teacher, and her husband Troy, a school principal, have been coming to the conference for four years.
"It's just a great way to kick off the summer," she said. "We find it really renews our faith and our spiritual life and it's a great place to take the kids. Lac Ste. Anne is beautiful.
"When you come here you realize that you are not alone."
- Kevin Lawless
"And it's always nice to be around other Catholic families that are trying like ourselves to live out our Catholic faith as best as we can."
In the past, the Davies have camped at Lac Ste. Anne for the duration of the conference, but this year with their two-week old baby, they figured it was best to drive in and out of Edmonton.
"I think it's just a wonderful blessing to the family," Troy said of the conference. "We just find it really inspiring to be around fellow Catholics that are devoted to their faith and take seriously the task of bringing up their children in the faith."
Mark and Giovanna Zubis came from St. Albert to the conference for the first time. "We came because we wanted to learn more about our faith and to strengthen our family," Giovanna said.
"It's good to be around other families with similar values," added Mark, a computer consultant.
Kevin Lawless and wife Mary from St. Albert have been attending the conference for seven years, usually camping, except this year.
What's the attraction? "It's a unique opportunity to get to be with other Catholics who share our faith," Mary said. "We always go away feeling so much better than when we came."
The Lawless said meeting traditional families with many children gives them hope. In society they sometimes "feel like an oddity" because they have six children. "You feel a bit out of place having so many children but when you come here you realize that you are not alone," said Kevin, a psychiatrist.
Mary homeschools three of the children because "that's the best way to have the time to be able to transmit the faith (to the children). I get more time with them and so the more time I have with them the faith is woven into everything we do."
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