Des Moines, Iowa, Sep 17, 2014 / 03:35 am
The Holy Spirit's inspiration can strike at the most unexpected times - like while running on a treadmill.
That's when Ellen Miller felt called to create the first regional Catholic conference for Iowa in 2010, the "Christ Our Life" conference. She ran the idea by her friend Marilyn Lane, who had felt similar promptings, and the two now co-chair the bi-annual weekend that serves as a "shot of holy adrenaline."
"It is a grassroots effort - Holy Spirit inspired, definitely," Miller told CNA. "It really came to my heart that Iowa needed a Catholic conference, one that would bring us all together to help us grow in our faith, to help us understand what we believe, live and celebrate."
Perhaps most impressive about the conference is the well-known Catholic speakers it attracts. This year's lineup includes keynote speaker Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Catholic youth speaker Mark Hart and Rwandan genocide survivor and author Immaculée Ilibagiza among several others.
Miller, who serves as a youth minister for her parish, said that while putting together a large arena event for thousands of people with big-name speakers seemed intimidating, she has always been one to encourage people to give their "yes" to the Lord.
"I always encourage my kids to give their 'yes', to remind them that so many things in life pull us to give our 'yes', but how many 'yeses' do we give to God?" she said.
A steering committee of 26 people help put the conference together. One of the most important parts of getting people to come to the conference, she said, has been a personal invitation.
"I have about 235 people who I call go-to people," she said, "...they create that personal invite in the back of their church. And it really does take that."
Around 5,000 people attended the last conference, and the Wells Fargo Arena allows for room for the event to grow to 10,000. The hope is to especially draw in families that will experience the conference together and grow in their faith.
"Our goal is to see families, whether you're 10 years old to 110 years old, come to this beautiful celebration of God's infinite love," she said, "and then go home and share that mountaintop experience, something that you were all apart of so that you can go home and grow from there."
Miller experienced this in her own family, when her son, who helped chauffeur some of the speakers around for the first event, decided to serve as an accountant for a non-profit charity in Africa after talking with one of the speakers and experiencing the conference.
"He really felt bold enough in the Holy Spirit to listen to those promptings, and now this is his fourth year in Africa," she said. "If I wouldn't have gone to that conference with him I would have thought, 'What are you doing?'"
Because the event takes place over just two days, the schedule is pretty packed with speakers, adoration and Mass with the only "break-out" session times occurring during meal times. The speakers also try to strike a balance of being both educational and testimonial, Miller said.
"We try and keep the conference to a balance of both of those: that educational, learning aspect with the teachings of the Church and about the sacraments, and then the stories that make it real in our own personal life," she said.
This year's Christ Our Life conference will take place Sept. 20-21 at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa. The cost is $25 for adults and $15 for students. Registration and more information can be found on their website: http://www.christourlifeiowa.com/