The third annual Faith and Life Convention concluded in the Diocese of Down and Connor on Saturday 25 September. The convention took place in Our Lady and Saint Patrick’s College, Knock, Belfast where more than 500 participants were attendance from parishes across the Diocese of Down and Connor and beyond.
The Faith and Life Convention is a forum for people to gather and participate in a range of conversations about the meaning of faith and its relevance to their everyday lives.
Bishop Noel Treanor opened the 2016 Faith and Life Convention reflecting upon the current plight of refugees and asylum seekers. He stated that, “In this Year of Mercy, we need to explore the social and societal implications of mercy, particularly for the displaced.”
This year, Sarah Teather, Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service (UK) was the keynote speaker for the Convention and she invited all to reflect on the current refugee crisis and shared with participants her own journey of discernment that led her away from the political benches in parliament to her current role with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).
During her keynote address, Sarah Teather reflected upon her own personal journey of faith; a journey that involved falling in love with God and his people and actively living out that love in her life. Inspired by the ministry of the Jesuit Refugee Service and motivated by the personal struggles of families seeking asylum, Sarah declared that immigration and poverty are the defining issues of our lifetime. She went on to explore the particular role of the Church in responding to the issues of immigration and displacement. Sarah explained that faith communities can provide a counter cultural response to society as they minister to those who are displaced by following the Gospel mandate to reach out to the stranger. She contended that in reaching out to the stranger in need, we are “entertaining angels without knowing it”. Sarah Teather concluded her address by reflecting on her current work with the Jesuit Refugee Service which she argued was distinctive in its relational approach to working with asylum seekers; affirming the dignity of the displaced through solidarity and accompaniment.
The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion on the theme “Faith in a world in need of Mercy” and the screening of a short film by Campbell Millar which followed the recent settlement of Syrian migrants in Belfast. Fr Tim Bartlett, Diocesan Director of Public and Social Affairs, sincerely thanked all those in parishes, schools and other charitable organisations for their coordinated response in receiving Syrian refugees into the diocese.
In the afternoon, participants were able to choose from over twenty workshops which explored topics such as ‘Faith in a Broken Culture’, the pastoral response to suicide, ‘Faith and the Public Square’, ecology, ‘Faith and the Family’, ‘Making Good Decisions’, ‘Faith and Film’, youth ministry and ‘Encountering God in his Word’.
To find out more about this year’s Faith and Life Convention, go to www.faithandlifeconvention.org