Hundreds return for second annual
Women and Men’s Conference


By Kenneth J. Souza
Anchor Staff
kensouza@anchornews.org

EASTON, Mass. — Hundreds of faithful from across the Fall River Diocese returned for the second annual Women and Men’s Conference at Stonehill College in Easton on Saturday, March 10. Sponsored by the diocese, the daylong event included opportunities for prayer, reflection and education in the form of a series of talks centered around the theme, “Be on Fire — Set the World on Fire.”


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In his welcoming remarks, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., explained the conference theme is a challenge for everyone to start small and, hopefully, that “fire” within each one of us will eventually “set the world on fire.”


“You know fire can spread pretty quickly in the right environment — if it has enough oxygen and with the right amount of dry material, it moves pretty fast,” Bishop da Cunha said. “So we have to give the ingredients for the fire to grow — that is our faith, our hope, our joy, our enthusiasm.


“Let us start setting ourselves on fire, then our families, then our neighbors and the people we come in contact with; because if we think about setting the world on fire, we may become a little discouraged and overwhelmed because the world is a big place. But if we start with our own families, our own neighborhoods, our own parishes, then we can set the diocese on fire. Once we set the diocese on fire, I’ll be happy.”





The bishop shared a beautiful image attributed to St. John Vianney, in which the venerable saint once claimed that a single matchstick can’t do much, and if the wind blows, it will extinguish the flame.

“But if you build a huge pile of matchsticks — even though they are small and seemingly insignificant — and set them all on fire, that fire is going to make a big difference,” Bishop da Cunha said. “And you know what? The wind is now going to become a source of nourishment — it’s going to feed the fire instead of blowing it out. Think about that. If you think your little fire is small and is not going to make a difference, let us put all our fires together and see what happens.”


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To further support the day’s theme, a vibrant image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, painted by the late Father Stanley Kolasa, SS.CC., longtime director of the Sacred Hearts Retreat House in Wareham, was carried in and displayed on stage throughout the day.

According to Deacon Bruce Bonneau, the conference committee picked the image as a symbol of the “Be on Fire — Set the World on Fire” theme.

“You’ll notice, if you come up to it closely, there are so many streams of bright and colorful light bursting forth from the heart of Jesus — shades of powerful and yet subtle strokes of paint, merging and overlapping,” Deacon Bonneau said. “But the unique character of this painting are the little specks which are scattered and punctuated throughout.”

These sparkling specks of light were comprised of bits of broken Christmas ornaments from his childhood that Father Kolasa had long treasured. When these tangible reminders of his parents were found broken one day, he decided to reuse them in a powerful way.

“He figured they might be of value someday and they were certainly of value to his heart,” Deacon Bonneau said. “The sparkles and the chips in the reflection of the painting are the fragments taken from those crushed and broken Christmas ornaments. They make up the texture of the painting and, if you see the original, they actually protrude from the canvas itself, but are always held together by the heart of Jesus.”


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The conference was held once again within the confines of the Stonehill College gymnasium, where half of the complex’s floor space was dedicated to a series of vendors from throughout the Fall River Diocese and beyond, while the other half was reserved for the day’s keynote speakers. Among them: Father Dave Dwyer, a Paulist priest who hosts “The Busted Halo Show” on SiriusXM’s The Catholic Channel; Father Anthony Ciorra, Ph.D., vice president for Mission and Catholic identity at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut; Sister Marie Paul Curley, a Daughter of St. Paul and gifted multimedia artist; and, returning for her second consecutive year, ValLimar Jansen, the singer, composer and inspirational speaker who got everyone up and moving after morning prayer.


The conference also provided opportunities for Eucharistic Adoration throughout the day, the Sacrament of Confession, and closed with a special Liturgy celebrated by Bishop da Cunha.


In his Mass homily, the bishop noted how this annual diocesan gathering, in the midst of Lent, was an ideal time for everyone to “come back home to the Father, to the Church, to the community of faith.”


“We talked a lot about fire today. I’m afraid we should call the firemen for each town now, because I don’t know what’s going to happen to some of our churches,” the bishop joked. “But it’s a fire that doesn’t destroy. It’s a fire that gives light, warmth, life — it’s the fire that we all need, the fire of the Holy Spirit.”


And like those early Christians who started small and eventually spread the light — the fire of the Spirit — to the world, the bishop said diocesan faithful are called to do the same.



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“When we’re baptized, we receive a lighted candle placed in our hands,” Bishop da Cunha preached. “And the celebrant says: ‘Receive the light of Christ. This light is to be kept burning brightly for the rest of your lives.’ Have we kept that flame of the faith we received in Baptism burning brightly throughout our lives? Probably there have been moments when the light went out. We may have had a strong wind of evil and wickedness and selfishness that blew and extinguished the light.


“But through (God’s) mercy and forgiveness, we are brought back into the light. The light has been lit again and the flame of faith is once again burning brightly in our lives. So, my friends, don’t let that light go out. Keep that light burning brightly and let that light guide you, your faith, your actions, your decisions, your choices, and everything that we do to rebuild the Church — the Kingdom of God here in the Diocese of Fall River.”






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