By Thandiwe Konguavi
Staff Writer

Families must be grounded in Christ so they tune in to the Word of God and tune out secular challenges to their faith, says Archbishop Richard Smith.

“This is a big worry for me,” said Smith, who will be a keynote speaker at the 22nd annual Catholic Family Life Conference this weekend at Lac Ste. Anne. “All kinds of messages are out there and it fractures our minds, distracts us, can cause inner turmoil and inner division and can leave us so hyper-stimulated—especially the young children—that there’s no time to focus.

“It’s not just children but adults at any stage, if we are not grounded in Christ we can become like the standard image we use of the boat tossed around on the sea or can end up floating anywhere not knowing its direction, not having any kind of horizon from which to measure its position, and that’s very worrisome.”

An estimated 2,500 people from across Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan are expected to attend the Catholic Family Life Conference for prayer, worship and rediscovering strength in faith. The conference runs from June 30 to July 3.

“There’s a tremendous need for this type of conference, and it hasn’t gotten any better in 20 years,” said Maurice Beier, chairman of Catholic Family Ministries. “I would say it has gotten worse, with euthanasia, abortion, transgender, all those issues. We’re never supposed to be comfortable.

“It’s important for everyone to know that they’re not alone in going against secularism, that others believe the same as you do,” Beier said. “These families want to be there. They want to be in the Church. One wish for me is that they experience their faith and go home and share it with others.”

Finding the language that connects with society and families is one of the greatest challenges the Church faces, Smith said. This can be addressed by listening to families— the first step in the pastoral model presented in Pope Francis’ letter on marriage and the family, Amoris Laetita (The Joy of Love).

“Families need to be the teachers of the Church in terms of what they’re going through, and listening to how they express it can help us to understand how best to communicate the message of the Gospel,” said Smith.

Smith will give the families a glimpse of his own pastoral letter to the people of the Edmonton Archdiocese and how it fits with Amoris Laetita. To be made public in September, the pastoral letter will focus on making the Word of God central in our lives.

“If we allow the word of God to imbue us, to grow within us, that’s what inoculates us against these diseases, viruses that are out there in all this multiplicity of messaging,” Smith said.

Smith will celebrate Mass at the conference on July 1. He will use that as an opportunity for families to participate in the national consecration of the Edmonton Archdiocese to Blessed Virgin Mary, for those who can’t attend the 5 p.m. Mass at St. Joseph’s Basilica.

Bishops across Canada will be consecrating their own dioceses and eparchies.

Other speakers at the Catholic Family Life Conference include American preacher Rev. Ben Cameron, who co-founded a confraternity of men and women affected by abortion, and Melissa Ohden, who founded The Abortion Survivors Network (ASN) which educates the public about failed abortions and provides support to survivors.

Registrations for the event are accepted throughout Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For more information call 780-961-3346 or see catholicfamilyministries.com.