Had Enough Staycations? How About a Stay-Conference?

Virtual events for Catholics abound this summer — starting this weekend.

Eucharistic procession is held during a Franciscan University conference in 2019.
Eucharistic procession is held during a Franciscan University conference in 2019. (photo: main, Franciscan University; inset: Catholify)

Nothing compares to the joy of traveling to a new or beloved familiar place and gathering with tens, hundreds or even thousands of like-minded brothers and sisters to learn and be inspired. 

But this is the summer of coronavirus, with large gatherings being canceled and replaced by Zoom calls, livestreams and other virtual meet-ups.

Still, there are advantages to online virtual conferences:

  1. Unlimited enrollment: In-real-life conferences are limited by the size of the venue and the local accommodations, but with online gatherings, the only limit is the bandwidth.
  2. Spontaneity — no need to plan ahead. Want to attend an international event at a moment’s notice? No problem!
  3. Ease of attending — no need to arrange time off work, no need to arrange and pay for travel, lodging and food on the road and at the event. And you can attend in your pajamas. How cool is that?

But these online events seem to be multiplying. Which ones to choose? Here are a few to consider.


Steubenville Weekend

For more than 40 years now, Franciscan University has hosted its famous annual conferences for youth and adults at its main campus in Steubenville, Ohio, and in many satellite venues. With their reputation for uplifting music, outstanding teaching and life-changing encounters with Our Lord Jesus, these conferences have been the summer “tent pole” events for hundreds of youth and young-adult programs all over North America and even the world.

But the coronavirus pandemic has forced the conference organizers to cancel 30-plus live events that normally minister to approximately 60,000 participants from all over the world.

By taking the conferences online during a single weekend, this key Franciscan outreach is about to break records: More than 16,000 people are already registered for the adult conference Sunday!

And the beauty of it is that there’s room for more! Thousands more! Bonus: It’s not just another Zoom call, and it’s not just a selection of pre-recorded talks. It’s a live broadcast of an in-person, socially-distanced conference events taking place this weekend — July 17 and 18 — in Florida.

Jen Bartley, director of youth ministry at Holy Trinity parish in Westmont, Illinois, has 23 high-schoolers and young adults attending the teen conference, “Hope Alive.”

“This is an uncertain time,” said Bartley. “But God is moving. And since it’s a live event, we don’t know what’s going to happen. The Holy Spirit could do anything.”

The cost to attend the teen conference is $40 per individual or household (i.e., a whole family can attend together for the same price as one person.)

The event for adults — “Night of Hope” — takes place in the evening on Sunday, July 19, beginning at 6:30pm Eastern Time. It is also a live event — from the Steubenville campus of Franciscan University — and is free of charge.

“There are people all over the country praying and interceding for the success of these events,” said Bartley. “So if you are a teen or an adult who has been thinking of attending a Steubenville conference but have never done it, now is the time. It’s going to be amazing.”

To see the lineup of speakers and to register, go to SteubenvilleConferences.com.


Fighting the Good Fight Since 2008

Jennifer Roback Morse and the team at the Ruth Institute have been on the front lines in the fight against the sexual revolution since the institute’s founding in 2008. In those foundational early years, the mission was mostly educational: a series of on-campus talks and debates designed to give college students the tools and information they needed to practice sexual purity as young adults and thus be better prepared for marriage.

By 2013, the institute’s mission had expanded into the political arena, battling for the legal protection of natural marriage on the national stage. Now, in 2020, Morse and her team take on the many-headed hydra of the sexual revolution itself, mainly by seeking healing and justice for its victims: spouses abandoned due to lenient “no-fault” divorce laws, children growing up with only one parent, women hoodwinked by the feminist push to sacrifice their deep desire for children to the cultural god of career advancement, and now, men, women and children lost in the swirling confusion of the transgender movement.

If you want a deep dive into these topics, the Ruth Institute’s annual “Summit for Survivors of the Sexual Revolution” is exactly what you’re looking for. The conference will be livestreamed on YouTube from the institute’s headquarters in Lake Charles, Louisiana, beginning Friday evening, July 17, with the Ruth Institute Awards dinner at 6pm CDT, then continuing with the conference proper on Saturday, July 18, beginning at 8am Central Time. A virtual conference pass is $30 per individual, but if you can quickly throw together a “watch party,” up to 10 people can attend for $75.

Topics to be covered on Saturday include child sexual abuse, pornography addiction, and how to break free from the “LGBT” subculture.

For more information and to register, go here: RuthInstitute.org/summit-2020. Videos of the conference will be available for viewing for several weeks.


Upcoming Events

If you don’t have time this weekend — or you saw this article sometime after the weekend of July 17, 18 and 19, skip ahead a couple weeks for some great conference offerings at the end of July.

On July 30, Catholify (creators of the Catholify app and TheLiveRosary.com) and ARISE Worship Ministry are hosting “Night of Mercy,” beginning at 6pm Central Time. It will be livestreamed from Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and will include inspiring talks, beautiful music, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Featured speakers and prayer leaders are:

  • Marian Father Chris Alar from the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
  • Los Angeles-based actor Jonathan Roumie, currently most recognizable for his moving portrayal of Jesus in the VidAngel television series The Chosen.
  • Recording artist Danielle Rose; sample her music at DanielleRose.org.

“When we were planning ‘Night of Mercy,’ we wanted to build something different from the typical livestream experience,” Eric Dooley, executive director of Catholify, explained to the Register.
“Our vision at Catholify is to unite the Catholic Church through technology. We believe tech can help us feel the breadth and depth of our faith at both the local and universal level. As such, we wanted to provide something tangible that parishes can utilize within their own communities to bring something unitive and restorative in this season of social distancing. We wanted to ‘shrink wrap’ an event that we could hand to parishes that took out all the guesswork in hosting their own dynamic evening, at a fraction of the cost. But at the same time, we wanted parishes to know that they are doing this in unison with the universal Church and that as they transition from the livestream speakers into their own adoration and worship, so is every other participating parish.”
He added, “When we started to reflect on the nature of the event — being centered around the profound need for Divine Mercy in this time — we felt the call to open the event up to all parishes with a name-your-price model. With the state of the world being what it is right now, we did not want to inhibit parishes that could not afford (or are not safely able) to open their doors right now, from partaking and receiving Christ's Divine Mercy.”
He also explained that Marian Father Alar “will be giving his powerful testimony on the meaning and important of Divine Mercy,” and actor Roumie “will be leading us in a Divine Mercy Chaplet. This is simply too powerful and important right now to be concerned about dollars. There is something greater happening, and we did not want to get in the way of the Holy Spirit. As Jonathan recently promoted the event on his Facebook [page], he stated: ‘All are welcome to the table.’ We couldn't agree more and pray that ‘Night of Mercy’ will be transformative for our Church and will be the first of many that we are able to offer to parishes around the world.”

Best of all, like God’s mercy, the conference is free, for both individuals and groups. But do keep in mind that Catholify is powered entirely by donations, so if you have the means, do consider supporting this worthy apostolate.

Register for the “Night of Mercy” here: https://MercyNight.com. If you register for the virtual pass, you can submit a question for a bonus live Q-and-A with the speakers, which will begin an hour before the actual conference.

“Night of Mercy” is a one-night event. But that same weekend — July 30 through Aug. 1 — people in search of mercy and healing for the very specific wound of abortion can attend the Healing Network Virtual Conference, sponsored by the ecumenical organization “Support After Abortion.”

A wide selection of prerecorded talks is available, with more than 40 speakers of all faiths and backgrounds (including two Catholic religious sisters and a Catholic priest). The conference has a free option, which is available while the conference is “live.” You simply browse the talks you want to see and watch them in any order during the weekend. At any time during the conference you have the option to upgrade to the paid “premium pass,” which then gives you permanent access to the recordings so you can watch all of them over weeks or even months (and then any time thereafter).

To attend the Healing Network Virtual Conference, go here: SupportAfterAbortionvirtualconference.com.

This is the same “free now, pay later” model employed by the Virtual Catholic Conference, which launched this innovative conference delivery model earlier this year in response to the widespread cancellation of large gatherings. Currently there are three conferences available on the website. Even though they went “live” months ago and are officially “over,” this is the internet and nothing is over if it’s been archived. Go to VirtualCatholicConference.com and select the conference topic that looks most interesting to you.

Get online to support these valuable ministries — and gain spiritual benefits in the process.

Clare Walker writes from Westmont, Illinois.

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