An estimated 2,500 people took part in the Seventh Annual Ignited by Truth Catholic Conference held February 13-14 at the Raleigh Convention Center. The size of the crowd equaled the previous three conferences combined and was the largest conference of its kind held in the Diocese of Raleigh.
The event began Friday evening with Joseph Pearce, professor of English Literature at Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida, discussing his personal conversion story in a presentation titled “Race with the Devil: From Racial Hatred to the Love of Christ.” He was followed by Tim Staples, addressing the topic “Why Be Catholic?”
Both men also spoke on Saturday along with Immaculee Ilibagiza, a survivor of the 1974 Rwandan genocide, Theresa Girard, Dave Marciniak and Father Larry Richards. Ms. Ilibagiza received a rousing ovation later in the day when she spoke to some 250 youngsters who attended the event. She spoke of the murders of her parents and other family members and friends, as inspirationally told in two books she has written on the subject. The genocide took the lives of 800,000 Rwandans in a three month wave of killing. Ms. Ilibagiza told the students as she told the morning gathering that prayer and hope in Jesus can help overcome life’s challenges.
Former North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers, now with the San Diego Chargers, shared with the gathering the three significant elements of his life, “Faith, Family and Football.” Mixing stories of his time at NCSU and in the NFL, Rivers spoke of growing up in a faith-filled home in Decatur and Athens, Alabama, marrying his high school sweetheart, and now being the father of four children. Talking to young people in the audience he spoke of temptations to be overcome and the importance of chastity. He encouraged fathers to become and stay involved in their children’s lives and he talked about the importance in his life of attending weekly Mass.
He noted that in his freshman year at NCSU, the team was playing in the Micron PC Bowl in Miami and of how on Christmas Day, he got in a taxi to attend Mass that morning. Rivers noted the mixture of emotions he experienced when he arrived at the church, being both said and happy. “I was sad that I didn’t have my family and that this was the first Christmas I was not with them, but also happy because there in the Catholic Church I was home.”
The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge celebrated the conference’s Closing Mass. In his homily, the Bishop spoke about the Truth, noting the Holy Father words that “Truth is a person, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who sets us free.”
The Bishop spoke about basic elements of our faith, including the sacredness of all human life, that all persons especially the weak and vulnerable be treated with dignity and respect and that family life must be celebrated and respected.
“It is difficult to believe that we have reached a point in our society that witnessing to these truths would be a significant challenge,” the Bishop said. “But as you certainly know, living the truth often involves great sacrifice and even suffering. At times, it will mean ridicule and rejection.”
Asking how do we find the strength to persevere? The Bishop explained, “in the amazing grace given to us by the Lord our God.”
Above: San Diego Quarterback Philip Rivers talking to Ignited by Truth Catholic Conference about the three important elements of his life, “Faith, Family and Football.”
Above: Immaculee Ilibagiza shares her story with approximately 250 students of how her faith in the Lord helped overcome the murder of her family and friends in the Rwandan genocide.
Above: Bishop Michael F. Burbidge listens as Diocese Seminarian Don Maloney answers question posed by one of more than 100 students attending a session by Bishop Burbidge on Vocations.