Benedictine College held its fifth annual evangelization symposium April 8-9 on the school campus.
According to the associate director for mission activity at BC, Matthew Muller, the main theme of this year’s event was to reflect Pope Francis’ “Year of Mercy,” and asked the question of how to bring mercy to people affected by the sexual revolution. The theme looked at marriage, family life and relationships and asked what the approach of the church should be in reaching out to people and helping them.
Muller added that the overall theme every year is to bring together people who are in the field of ministry of evangelization and people who run businesses or non-profit organizations.
More than 50 students, professors and religious sisters came to the symposium as “featured presenters,” with three keynote speakers.
On Friday, Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, gave a speech that focused on the need for Christians and Catholics to engage in evangelization through the joy of living. It was an exhortation for everyone to live joyfully and reach out to their neighbor in friendship as, according to Seitz, people sometimes feel “alone and isolated.”
Catholic theologian Pia de Solenni, a professor from the Augustine Institute in Colorado, presented on Saturday morning. According to Muller, she spoke about “what it means to be a femininity and what it means to be a woman” and spoke of the importance of women’s role in community and Catholic Church.
The last keynote speaker, Ryan Anderson, who works in the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., focused his message on the students. He challenged them “to do what they’re doing and do it greatly.”
“The way the culture might be moving, we need smart, engaged Christians at every level of society and in every field,” Muller said.
According to Muller, the symposium was not just about listening to speakers.
“Between the talks we have a lot of time for conversation, food and fellowship,” Muller said.
There were receptions every night, as well as a Saturday evening mass in which Archbishop Naumann joined in. Muller said this was to emphasize the hospitality of the campus.
Muller said a church document had been released by Pope Francis on Friday that describes marriage and the family. According to Muller, BC was among the first to hold a conference in which the document was discussed. On Saturday night, a panel of people who had been able to read the document ahead of time or who had spent a lot of time looking it over on Friday described the highlights of the document.
A viewing of the film “40,” a documentary on the pro-life movement was also held on Friday night. The producer and director of the film, John Morales, was in attendance, and he spoke during lunch on Saturday about his occupation and making a faith-themed documentary.
According to Muller, attendance during the event was 160, with many positive comments.
“Lots of people were surprised with what was going on at BC and the positive experience they had at the college,” Muller said. “A lot of people appreciated an academic-driven conference where they could also share their faith at.”
Emily Pitre, administrative assistant in the student life building, was among those who attended. She said it had been her first time at a symposium.
“I thought the quality and number of people from different backgrounds and colleges was great. It was a great resource to have to start conversation about the new evangelization,” Pitre said.