.- Over 3,600 people from 17 states and Mexico attended this year’s Midwest Catholic Family Conference Aug. 6-8 in Wichita, Kansas. Kevin Regan, co-director of the conference, said 800 youth and teens also participated in the programs.
“We had rave reviews about all our speakers,” Regan said a few days after recovering from the event. “I get calls from people across the U.S. and they ask what we are doing because they hear great things about us.”
One couple from Sharon, Kan., said the weekend was one of the greatest experiences of their lives.
“We didn’t want to leave, especially after the beautiful Mass on Sunday,” they wrote in an evaluation. “It was awesome and we cannot wait to register for all three days next year.”
Regan is currently planning next year’s event which is scheduled for Aug. 5-7. The speakers should be contracted in about 60 days, he said.
Eduardo Verástegui, star of the pro-life movie Bella, talked about his rise to stardom and his realization that despite his success, something was wrong.
I was very confused, he said, “because I thought I had everything in my life. But at the same time I had nothing. I was very empty. Something was missing.”
That something, of course, was God.
He made that realization while studying English with a devoutly Catholic teacher. Verástegui also told those attending that he understood he was setting a bad example for young men and realized that he had hurt many women as his career ascended.
After reading “Rome Sweet Home,” a book by Scott and Kimberly Hahn about their conversion to Catholicism, Verástegui was considering becoming a missionary in the jungles of South America. His spiritual director told him “No! Hollywood is a bigger jungle.”
With the help of several other like-minded Catholics, Verástegui waded into the jungle that is Hollywood and co-founded Metanoia films to make movies that would change lives and hearts.
The prize-winning movie, Bella, was their first. The company is now working on a movie about the Mexican martyrs of the Mexican revolution of the 1920s that resulted in the persecution of Catholics.
Catholic apologist Tim Staples, a regular at the conference, talked about how society continues to slide the the slippery slope that began with the legalization of abortion. “When you allow people to kill in the womb there is no end to what you can do,” he said adding that the elderly in Denmark now fear for their lives because some cases that should be labeled murder are being overlooked as acts of euthanasia.
“A crime that would have gotten you a death sentence at the Nuremburg Trials is now a campaign slogan,” Staples said.
Catholics can change society he said. “All that has to happen is for Catholics to realize who we are. There is no power that can stand against us when we stand up and move in one direction. We are called by Almighty God!”
Another apologist, Jesse Romero, talked about how society is putting faith in everything other than God. “We must be people of prayer,” he said. “When we pray, God works.”
He suggested that whenever we hear about or see anything sinful we say, “Jesus, I trust in you!”
“If we don’t have that burned in our soul, we will go crazy,” Romero said.
After talking about the remarks attributed to Luthern pastor Martin Niemoller about a person’s silence as the authorities rounded up various persecuted groups, Romero related the World War II era pastor’s remarks to society’s reaction today to the unborn, to the disabled, to the mentally handicapped, and to the sick and elderly. “Then they came for me and there was no one else to speak for me!”
He said if the anti-life tide is not stopped, “like a tsunami the tide will wash across America and wash us away.”
Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, a leading spokesman for the church on the issue of embryonic stem cell research, talked about the objectification of women and of babies at the conference.
“Contraception is sex without babies,” he said, “and invitro fertilization is babies without sex.”
Couples today want to have “control” over whether they have children or not, a desire which contributes to the objectification of babies, he said.
Invitro fertilization leads to several ethical and moral questions: What do couples do with the frozen embryos? Is it moral for a woman to have an embryo implanted in her to “save” it? What about the selective “reduction” in multiple birth situations? What about the higher number of birth defects that result from IVF?
Dr. Ray Guarendi
Dr. Ray Guarendi, a psychologist and Catholic radio host, talked about his 10 adopted children and the challenges of raising children today.
“It is difficult to raise a grateful child today because life is so easy,” he said. “Grandma drives the Toys-R-Us truck up in front of the house very two weeks.”
The answer is simple, though, Guarendi said. “The less you have, the more of it that you share. If you want a more generous kid, remove 75 to 90 percent of what they have.”
It isn’t the children that have changed in the last few generations, he said, the authority has. “We have strong-willed children because parents have lost their will.”