On Oct. 10-12, 2019, over 3,000 Dallas/Fort Worth area Catholics came together at the Irving Convention Center for the 13th Annual University of Dallas Ministry Conference. The weekend included over 100 conference sessions in English, Spanish and Vietnamese, as well as opportunities for networking with exhibitions from diocesan organizations, publishing companies, authors, speakers and fellow attendees. Mass was offered on all three days, and the Most Rev. Edward J. Burns, bishop of Dallas, celebrated the Eucharist on Friday morning.
With speakers hailing from all across the country, the session topics were chosen to appeal to the diverse community of Catholics, from lay people to ministry professionals, from priests to parish volunteers. Sister Miriam James Heidland delivered the English keynote titled, “Your Life Matters: Transformation from the Heart.” Now a member of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), Sister Miriam is known for her radical conversion story from an unfulfilled college athlete to a religious sister, and she speaks all over the country on conversion, healing and finding authentic love in Christ.
Other popular sessions and speakers included Jeff Cavins on “The Great Adventure Bible in One Day,” David Anders, Ph.D., on “Called to Communion: Reaching Non-Catholics with the Hope That Is in Us,” Padre Ernesto Maria Caro and his Spanish Keynote titled “Peligros de la Tecnologia en la Familia y su uso en la Evangelization,” and Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., on “Moral Apologetics Today” and “How to Make Catholics Out of Ex-Catholics.”
A professor of philosophy at Boston College and the author of 95 books, Kreeft grounded his sessions in a firm knowledge of the foundations of theology and philosophy, but he also brought these ancient ideas into a new light within the context of ministry. Like Sister Miriam, he called the audience to radicalize their faith, embracing what he called “tough virtues” in a culture that emphasizes “soft truths.” Most importantly, he urged them to always ground their efforts in ministry and evangelization in a fervent love of Christ.
“Always keep in focus that your aim in trying to answer this question [of how to bring lapsed Catholics back to the church] is not to increase the population of the Catholic Church, not to be successful, not to move them from this point to that point. Your whole point is to do Christ’s work … to bring your brother to Christ. That’s our business,” said Kreeft. “Christ is the center of everything, the point of everything … . Without Him and without that connection to Him, which is real and concrete and ordinary and at the same time mystical, that connection which gives you eternal life, nothing makes sense. The church doesn’t make sense; theology doesn’t make sense. Works of charity don’t make sense. All the money, all the cathedrals, all the sermons, all the Bibles in the world don’t make sense. It’s all about Him.”