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Cardinal Timothy Dolan boosts attendance for Christ Our Life Catholic Regional Conference

By Kelly Mescher Collins
Diocese of Des Moines

DES MOINES – The third Christ Our Life Catholic Regional Conference with keynote speaker New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan broke a record, with about 7,500 Catholics coming together to deepen their faith.

“I feel like Derek Jeter,” Cardinal Dolan joked during his homily as he looked around Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines and high up into the stands full of people.

Cardinal Dolan kicked off the Sept. 20 events by celebrating Mass with Bishop Richard Pates of the Diocese of Des Moines. After Mass, Cardinal Dolan took the stage for his talk, praising the Christ Our Life Conference.

“I don’t think we could pull something off like this in New York,” he said. “I was very moved to see a Eucharistic adoration chapel and a chapel for penance with dozens and dozens of priests to hear confession.”

Cardinal Dolan focused his talk on our three most recent popes – Pope Francis, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and St. Pope John Paul II. Cardinal Dolan said St. Pope John Paul II addressed the soul, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI the mind and Pope Francis the heart of the church, giving examples for each.

“One of the ways that we Catholics believe Jesus uniquely and powerfully shares his life with us is through the gift of the pope,” Cardinal Dolan said. “The holy father is always the vehicle of sharing Christ our life.”

Other speakers who took the stage: Father Larry Richards; Rwandan genocide survivor and author Immaculee Ilibagiza; Catholics Come Home founder Tom Peterson; former Miss America Angela Perez Baraquio Grey; Mark Hart; former model Mario St .Francis Herrera; Magnus McFarlane-Barrow, founder of Mary’s Meals; Tony Melendez and Steve Angrisano.

Attendees drove (and flew) from near and far to be in Des Moines.

Pat Downey of St. Patrick Parish in Andalusia, Ill., drove 250 miles to be at the conference with her daughters. Her daughter Megan King drove nearly two hours from St. Joseph Parish in Wall Lake, to meet her.

“I was really excited,” said Downey. “My daughters suggested a girls’ weekend. We’re really, really enjoying the opportunity to be here.”

Kelly Foley of Holy Spirit Parish, Carroll drove nearly two hours with his mother, Marilyn Foley of Carroll St. Lawrence Parish to attend the conference.

“I thought the conference was great – very uplifting and inspiring,” Foley said. “The speakers were very effective in telling their story and delivering a powerful message.”

Foley said the conference was transformative.

“The conference had a very real impact on the way I think about the priorities in my life,” Foley said. “I believe attending this conference will allow me to do a better job of putting God and family first in my life on a more consistent basis.

“My mom has an incredibly strong faith and was moved to tears several times during the conference,” Foley continued. “She thought the speakers were great and really enjoyed the two masses and the adoration/benediction.”

Father David Hemann, of St. Michael Parish in Sioux City, brought a prayer group with him.

“I needed to be inspired,” he said.

A friend of Cardinal Dolan, he said the cardinal’s speech was “stellar” in the way he summarized the teachings of St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis as focusing on hope, faith and love.

Father Hemann, also a friend of guitarist Tony Melendez, performed an original song with audience participation called “Walk on Water.”

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