“The heart of the society begins and ends with the family.”
These were the words Regina Caeli Academy executive director Kari Beckman used to describe the central idea driving the upcoming Catholic Family Conference.
The virtual event to take place this Friday and Saturday features a stellar lineup of Catholics, from theologians Scott Hahn and Janet Smith to speakers Lila Rose and Matt Fradd.
Unlike many other conferences lately, this one was intentionally planned to take place online and was a direct result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Since the outbreak, Regina Caeli Academy, a network of classical education schools in the Catholic tradition, has had to cancel one fundraising event after another. “Given that we’re a growing nonprofit organization, we had to figure out a way to make up for that revenue,” Beckman told Angelus in a phone interview.
Beckman started to notice how celebrities and music artists have been organizing virtual concerts to reach their quarantined fans. After talking with her good friend Lisa Wheeler, she asked herself, Why can’t a Catholic nonprofit organization do something similar? So the two put their heads together, and the Catholic Family Conference was born. “It’s more important for the faith to come into the living room than it is for the secular cultural musician!” said Beckman.
In just over two and a half weeks, the two-day conference’s website, including a full schedule and speaker lineup, was up and running. Already, families from across the country and around the world — including New Zealand, the U.K., and Germany — have signed up. “It’s not about being impressed by anything we did,” said Beckman. “It’s what the Holy Spirit made happen.”
Thanks to sponsorships from the Troops of St. George, Picturehouse, and the Given Institute, the conference is accessible for free (a registration donation of $5 or $10 is recommended). “I love our Catholic family,” said Beckman. “Thank you to the speakers and sponsors. They’re the nuts and bolts, the material we need to change the souls … Without them, without their yes, we wouldn’t be able to do [this conference].”
Theology professor and author Dr. Scott Hahn is hopeful that the event will reach far and wide. “Seeing the lineup of my brothers and sisters, dear friends … speaking in a conference together,” he told Angelus, “it wouldn’t surprise me if we have thousands, if not tens of thousands of families participating.”
Hahn’s talk at the Catholic Family Conference, “Hope to Die, Hope to Rise: Resurrection Hope for Our Family,” is based on his most recent book, released in April. That the message of hope amid suffering has particular relevance today, he noted, is no mere coincidence.
“I got a strong sense at the end of February, when the [coronavirus] outbreak first hit, that our Lord had a different purpose, a special plan for the book,” he said.
This message of hope, he added, is more necessary now than ever before. “I honestly sense that God wants to do more with our less,” he said, to confirm what St. Paul says, “His strength is made perfect in our weakness.”
For Beckman, hope is at the heart of what she wants this conference to offer families. “Real, theological hope stems the tide to any challenge that we face,” she said. “What an opportunity for us to be able to learn what true hope is against all odds, because we have hope in Christ Jesus and hope in [the family], which is the gift he gives us to symbolize and communicate his love to one another.”
The Catholic Family Conference will open on Friday, May 1 with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas. To find more information and register, visit catholicfamilyconference.com.