Diocese of Springfield - Cape Girardeau at 601 South Jefferson Ave., Springfield, MO 65806-3143 US - Diocesan Youth Conference and Rally for Religious Liberty March 30, 2012
Diocesan Youth Conference and Rally for Religious Liberty
March 30, 2012
“Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” —Rom 12:2
The faith of our youth
This past weekend (March 23-25), our diocese held its annual Diocesan Youth Conference (DYC) in West Plains. More than 300 of our teenagers attended this weekend of prayer, conferences, fun, friendship, and worship. It was especially encouraging to see that some of the parishes with the greatest attendance were among our smallest. The DYC is special to me not only because of the positive impact it has on many of our young Catholics, but also because it brings back fond personal memories. Four years ago, as I was making my way across the diocese to Springfield on the weekend before my consecration as bishop, I stopped at the conference and received a warm and enthusiastic reception!
This year, I was asked to participate in a round of “Stump the Bishop” with conference participants. In essence, the session revolves around the youth asking me questions about faith, myself, the world, vocations, etc.—not necessarily to trip me up, but to have a lighthearted and fun give-and-take about a variety of topics. It is an informal way for them to tell me what is on their minds and to ask their bishop about God, our Church, our faith, and life in general.
Our young people had many great questions, and I found out that many of them are very engaged in the life of the Church and the world around us. I received questions about how we are going to respond to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate curtailing our religious freedom, what is happening in Joplin and its recovery, what it is like to be a bishop, and what are my favorite movies.
Interestingly, a majority of the questions focused on vocations and how one goes about figuring out what God wants of one’s life. This is very encouraging. Our children desire to make a difference; they want to love Jesus Christ and follow him. They need our prayers, encouragement, and wisdom. I thank all of the adults who help make our Diocesan Youth Conference possible every year, and all of you who make it possible through your support of the Diocesan Development Fund (DDF).
Rally for Religious Liberty
This past Tuesday, March 27, something else remarkable took place in Jefferson City. Religious citizens from all corners of Missouri gathered at the state capitol to express their concern for and commitment to safeguarding the religious freedoms we enjoy as Americans.
The recent HHS mandate that Catholics and other people of faith act against their consciences by providing insurance coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations, and drugs with abortifacient effects is of grave concern to many, including believers who are not Catholic. This was evident from the speakers at the rally, and the faith communities they represented. Joining Abp. Robert Carlson of St. Louis, was Dr. John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention; Maggie Karner, director of Life and Health Ministries for the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod; and Darrin Rodgers, who delivered a message from Dr. George Wood, superintendent, General Council of the Assemblies of God, USA. All of the speakers expressed a firm solidarity in opposing this unprecedented action by the government to impose its will on churches and define what is and is not religion.
Each of the speakers delivered an impassioned message calling on our elected leaders to safeguard basic freedom of religion and the right to act in accord with one’s conscience. The news reports estimated that the rally was attended by several thousand and indicated that this rally was among the largest gatherings at the state capitol in more than a decade. I recognized many from across our diocese who attended, and am grateful for their witness.
All of us must continue to pray for our president and other elected officials. We must also be firm in our resolve to be true to our Lord and the truth that lays claim to our consciences.