A booster shot for your faith

Photo: Janis Olson Photo: Janis Olson

The Cornerstone Catholic Conference aims to inspire Catholics to see their lives as part of the church’s mission in the world

"Do you want to have a deeper relationship with Jesus? Do you want to feel more emboldened, more hopeful in living out your faith in the midst of the current challenges? Then come to Cornerstone.”

That’s the invitation Jim Thomas issues to Catholics from around Washington state to attend the Cornerstone Catholic Conference at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center October 18–19 (WACatholics.org/cornerstone).

Thomas is the senior policy analyst for the Washington State Catholic Conference, which organizes the event on behalf of the state’s bishops. He hopes the conference will inspire Catholics “to see their lives, their everyday efforts, as part of the greater whole of the church’s mission in the world … to uphold and promote the life and dignity of every human being from conception to natural death.”

Keynote speakers

Previous Cornerstone conferences, in 2014 and 2017, have featured some of the most sought-after Catholic speakers in America, like Helen Alvaré and Bishop Robert Barron, and this year’s is no exception. The three keynote addresses will be given by:

Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, who was one of a handful of U.S. bishops to participate in last fall’s Synod of Bishops on young people at the Vatican;

Sister Miriam James Heidland, who grew up in Woodland, north of Vancouver, and is now a nationally known speaker and author; and

Sister Norma Pimentel, whose work with immigrants on the U.S.-Mexico border has made her “arguably the most prominent Catholic woman in America,” according to the news site Crux. She’s the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, and oversees the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, which has served more than 150,000 people since 2014.

The conference will also include a panel of the bishops of the Archdiocese of Seattle and the Dioceses of Spokane and Yakima. “Our bishops want us to have a deeper understanding of what our faith means to our roles and responsibilities in society and in culture,” Thomas said.

Participants can also attend workshops on praying as a family, life issues, mental illness, the sin of racism, Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ , and the Prepares ministry supporting parents from pregnancy through a child’s fifth birthday.

‘All life is sacred’

The keynote speakers told Northwest Catholic they will emphasize the universality of the church’s teaching on the dignity of human life, and the responsibility of Catholics to uphold it.

Bishop Caggiano noted that Catholics are called courageously “to defend unborn life … and also to defend the poor and the needy, the sick and the homeless, those who are spiritually poor … and those who are lost.”

“Our task is to address all human need — the vulnerable and [even] those who have made themselves vulnerable by their own sinful choices. It’s all in the spectrum of life,” he said.

“We hold it together because Christ held it together. To eliminate a piece of it is, in the end, to betray Christ.”

Sister Miriam said she planned to speak about “the power of personal witness and intimacy with Christ, because that’s where transformation and change always begins, with Christ himself.”

“And that’s how we effect change in the world,” she said, “is through the continual encounter … with Christ.”

Sister Norma emphasized that “all life is sacred, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.”

“We must protect and defend life at all times,” she said.

Speaking of the children she has encountered in migrant detention centers, Sister Norma said, “All you have to do is to look at … their faces full of tears, telling you, ‘Please, help me’ — you will understand in your heart that it is your responsibility, our responsibility, to make sure that they are OK.”

She added, “When we see a child or any person suffering, it is Jesus himself who is present before us.” 

Northwest Catholic - September 2019

Kevin Birnbaum

Kevin Birnbaum is the editor/associate publisher of Northwest Catholic and a member of Seattle’s Blessed Sacrament Parish. Contact him at Kevin.Birnbaum@seattlearch.org.