By Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross
The diocesan men’s conference is on its fourth year and the women’s conference on its third, and both are moving to Marshall School in Duluth this year.
The Duluth Catholic Men’s Conference is set for Feb. 21 and will feature two speakers, Deacon Ralph Poyo and, for a session in the afternoon, youth minster Nic Davidson.
Deacon Poyo, a national speaker who founded New Evangelization Ministries and is sought for Steubenville Youth Conferences, will give sessions on Jesus, discipleship and pornography. He is coming from North Carolina.
“He is passionate about helping others to make Catholicism more a way of life, rather than just a religious identity,” said Deacon John Weiske, one of the conference organizers.
Davidson, a Duluthian now living in New York, will give a talk on Theology of the Body, a subject on which he speaks nationally.
Deacon Weiske said there will be one change in format.
“Having enough time for confessions has been a challenge,” he said. So in the morning Deacon Poyo will be repeating one of his sessions, allowing organizers to invite half of the men to go confession the first time and the other half the second.
“We’re hoping this will allow all the men who want to go to confession to go to confession,” he said.
He said the facilities at Marshall seem excellent for the expected 400 to 450 attendees, including more accessibility, with no stairs needed to get to the auditorium.
As usual, the conference will include lunch and Mass with Bishop Paul Sirba.
The women’s conference on March 7 will be focused on the “Joy of the Gospel,” a major theme of Pope Francis, and the first 400 guests registered will receive of copy of Pope Francis’ document on the subject, said Betsy Kneepkens, director of marriage and family life for the Duluth Diocese.
This year the conference features two speakers: Hallie Lord, author, editor and founder of the Edel Gathering, speaking on the beauty of the church’s teaching on the vocations of marriage and authentic womanhood, and Kelly Wahlquist, assistant director of the Catechetical Institute for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Lord is from South Carolina. “Hallie is a wife, mother of six children, and she’s a convert to Cathlicism,” Kneepkens said.
Wahlquist, she said, weaves personal stories and gives practical advice to live the joy of the Gospel with missionary zeal. She is also founder of WINE: Women In the New Evangelization, and a contributing writer for catholicmom.com and The Integrated Catholic Life.
As in years past, there will be Mass, confession, adoration and the opportunity to pray the rosary, with a welcome by Bishop Sirba. Benedictine Sister Lisa Maurer of St. Scholastica Monastery will be the emcee. Kneepkens said the conference has also expanded the vendors to include items like jewelry.
“We anticipate well over 400 participants,” she said.
Both conferences have early registration dates coming up. For the men’s conference, priority registration ends Feb. 9. After that date, the fee rises from $25 to $35.
For the women’s conference, the cost is $30, and registration closes Feb. 20. Lunch and materials are not guaranteed after that date.
More registration information about both conference is available at the diocesan website, www.dioceseduluth.org.
For the men’s conference, registration forms are also available from parish offices.