Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
July 19, 2010
Oasis of faith for families
Conference brings families together to share woes, deepen their faith
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
It is Jesus that draws them here," Malcolm MacDonell says of the hundreds of families who attend the annual Catholic Family Life Conference at Lac Ste. Anne.
"People meet Jesus here though other families, through the Eucharist, through perpetual adoration, through the activities of their children, through the different ministries and because of this blessed site, which is a shrine to our Blessed Mother's mother, St. Anne."
MacDonell, one of the event organizers, has been attending the Canada Day weekend conference with his family since it started 15 years ago. This year he came with two of his three adult children and six grandchildren.
The conference has made a significant difference in his faith life and in the faith life of hundreds of others, he said. "It's been a marvellous journey."
Most conference participants are devout couples with many children. But MacDonell said those who are not so devout could also benefit from the conference.
"What it would do for them is to show them that they are not alone in their struggles in life; that all the families, all of us here, struggle the same. And the only way we overcome those struggles is by centring ourselves on Christ," he said.
"If they came here they would see Christ drawing them closer and closer together rather than concerning themselves with the cares of the world."
This year some 2,400 people or 500 families attended the July 1-4 event. That's up from last year's, which drew 1,800 people or 360 families.
Most of the families camp on the site for the duration of the conference.
Paul and Mary Van den Bosch of Red Deer have been attending the conference with their seven children for five years.
"Our faith is really fed here," said Paul, a facilitator with Wisdom Home Schooling. "We learn more about our faith and we grow in our faith. It's also wonderful to be among Catholic families who also want to grow in their faith."
Mary says the conference "really encourages you to live your faith every day and to grow in your faith every day and help our children grow in their faith every day."
Says Paul: "Simply to be among so many wonderful Catholic families is just a celebration of Catholicism."
Angela Rivet and her husband Andre, have been making the trip to Lac Ste. Anne from Bruno, Sask., for four years. The couple has five children and is expecting their sixth in November.
What draws the Rivets here? "The talks and the fellowship and being able to visit with people that we only see here," Angela quickly replied. "And we enjoy camping. It's a unique way to go camping."
The conference also gives the couple "a bit of a reminder" of how to live their faith the rest of the year.
"You know, you go through the year and sometimes you slack a little bit in your faith and then you come here and it gives you a little bit of a refresher on how to live your family life a little better."
People who may not consider themselves devout could also benefit from the conference, Angela said.
"I think this is a good way to see other families living out the Catholic faith; it's a good place to find examples of how to live it well," she said. "Nobody lives their life perfectly but it (being here) makes you feel that you are doing okay."
Chelsea Schneider and her husband Dean have been driving from Calgary to the conference for the past two years. Years ago, before they got married, the couple used to run youth programs at the conference.
"It's a fantastic environment for families and enriching for your faith," said Dean, a teacher at Calgary's Clearwater Academy. "You walk away feeling more confident as a Catholic parent and just feeling fed spiritually."
Chelsea said seeing so many large families at the conference has inspired them to have a large family as well.
"Although we are expecting our fourth we still feel like we are just sort of getting started in having our family," she said. "I'm looking forward to the day our children are old enough to be active participants in this."
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