If an oasis of HOPE is what hearts were looking for, the Lowell Memorial Auditorium in downtown Lowell was the place to be on Sept. 15 for the HOPE of the NATIONS Catholic Conference. This was the second Hope Conference to be held here in two years, and an incredible follow-up to year one. Throughout this power-packed day, attendees of the conference were flooded with messages of hope, healing and deliverance, at a time when so many in the church are in need of just those graces.
Father Marc Drouin, Dr. Ralph Martin, Dr. Mary Healy, Rita Bazzi and Bishop Mark O'Connell each brought prayerful insight into the current day trials, reminding everyone that our focus has not changed as we continue walking this journey of faith.
Without exception, each Spirit-filled session throughout the day hit the mark in addressing what plagues the human heart during these difficult times in our families and in our Church.
"We are wounded by people who are supposed to love and care for us, and yet, they are not always there to meet our needs. No one can love us 100 percent of the time the way we need to be loved," stated Father Marc Drouin of St. Andre Bessette Parish in Laconia, New Hampshire. "Only God can do that." Father Drouin went on to talk about his own deep struggles and the intense healing of God's grace during some very turbulent times in his life.
Continuing on that theme of God's powerful healing, Dr. Mary Healy shared that, "Sometimes the Lord needs to deal with an internal obstacle before he does an external healing. He doesn't want anyone walking around in chains of guilt or oppression."
Ralph Martin spoke candidly of his role as a husband and a father, witnessing to the men during his second talk at lunch time, "Men are called to fight for the salvation of their families." Women were also given a "retreat" hour during lunch time, as Rita Bazzi shared her incredible story of struggle and danger in her escape from Iraq, and the many difficult trials she faced in the U.S. after moving away from her home and family.
The day was beautifully crowned with very special moments of prayer. A privileged visit of the Silver Rose was presented by the Knights of Columbus, as the audience was able to pray the rosary with the Knights in their loving devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. In a solemn time of Adoration later in the day, Father Volney DeRosia from St. Patrick Parish in Pelham, New Hampshire, brought Jesus in the monstrance throughout the entire auditorium, allowing every heart to worship up close and experience the intimacy of the Lord's profound presence. Delmore Worship provided outstanding music ministry again this year, bringing an atmosphere of praise and worship during every part of the day.
Capping off the day's events was the jubilant celebration of Holy Mass with Bishop Mark O'Connell, and the local Kenyan Catholic Community Choir and Youth Ministry. Bishop O'Connell shared his great joy in being there, and spoke frankly about our obligation to be a people of hope, "This Hope Conference is happening in the midst of a storm in our Church," said Bishop O'Connell, "but our anchor is Jesus! He is our hope!"
MARY DUMONT IS CHAIRPERSON OF THE HOPE CONFERENCES.