July 2, 2019
Anyone can pull off a stunt once, but if you can do it twice, you might be on to something. Last year, Mater Dei Parish, our apostolate in Dallas, Texas, hosted a successful inaugural Southwest Region Young Adult Conference, and this year, they did it again. 65 young adults gathered at Mater Dei Parish on the weekend of June 14th – 16th, traveling from as close as Dallas itself and as far as Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, El Paso and even Wisconsin.
The event began on Friday night with check-in and a Rosary in the church, followed by dinner and a talk by FSSP Dallas assistant pastor Fr. Timothy O’Brien, priest-in-charge both at this and last year’s conferences. Fr. O’Brien, who spent two years working in Nigeria after he was ordained in 2015, spoke on the history of Catholicism there, particularly among the Igbo people who once possessed a strong Catholic identity, and the unfortunate effects of Westernization upon the country. An attendee of Nigerian heritage assisted Fr. O’Brien with a demonstration of the traditional greeting of a Nigerian chief, some kind of hand-slap, finger-snap routine that looked like something two baseball players might do after a good double-play!
The next day kicked off early with Mass at 8am, celebrated by Fr. James Buckley, also an assistant at Mater Dei, with opportunities for Confession before, during and after Mass. Breakfast followed, along with the second talk: Fr. John Kodet, a classmate of Fr. O’Brien’s who currently serves as the assistant down in Houston, spoke on the four levels of happiness. “The talks were really good,” said Mary, an electrical engineer from California who recently moved to Dallas and attends Mater Dei. “They were very helpful and informative.”
Afterwards the attendees packed a lunch and headed to nearby Fritz Park, where they listened to a talk by Mr. Cedric Cortez, an FSSP seminarian entering his sixth year, and Mr. Savio Misquita, about to start his third. Mr. Cortez, from Hawaii, and Mr. Misquita, from Goa, India, spoke on the necessity of prayer in discovering God’s will for us and the image of Himself that He wishes to see in us. The two seminarians assisted throughout the weekend with tasks ranging from handing out the paperwork involved in Friday’s icebreaker games to leading games of volleyball. The afternoon in the park seemed to be a particularly popular element among the attendees. “I liked having the time in the park,” said Mary, as it was a chance to “get to know people at our own pace.”
Saturday concluded with a Texas-style fajita dinner back at the parish hall, after which the tables and chairs were cleared from the main floor for the evening’s contra dance, which featured instruction from an experienced caller. On Sunday, attendees had the option of attending any Mass they chose, and many came to the 9am Solemn High celebrated by Fr. Kodet, who was assisted by Fr. O’Brien and Mr. Cortez. The 9am is an especially well-attended Mass that usually fills to standing-room only, a testimony to the impressive and continuing growth of the world’s largest FSSP apostolate that is currently served by four priests and offers five Masses on Sundays to accommodate its numbers. After Mass many attendees partook of the pancake breakfast offered by the Knights of Columbus and spent a last couple of hours chatting with one another and the seminarians before going their separate ways.
Some other attendees told us their thoughts on the event. Alex, who comes from Atlanta, Georgia and attends St. Francis de Sales, our apostolate there, is new to the Latin Mass. She found St. Francis through Google and has been attending Mass there for the past three months. When asked what she thought of the conference, she said, “I loved it. I had a lot of fun. I made new friends.” One of those friends is Marie, a student at Benedictine College in Kansas. Averse to the Latin Mass as a teenager, she has grown to love it due to the reverence and respect that she finds there. She was a bit surprised at how much she enjoyed the conference, initially expecting that it might be a little bit dull. “It was really, really great,” she said. “It was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. It was a lot more fun.”
In a world where human interaction has been reduced to texts and emojis, and where being “friends” on Facebook is more often discussed than actual friendships, it is encouraging to see the success of the Southwest Region Young Adult Conference. The importance of good friendships cannot be overstated; friends who share the Faith are spiritual comrades-in-arms who encourage one another, challenge one another, help each other along the path of virtue and sanctity and keep each other out of the ravines. We all long for simpler times when people were less mobile, faith was more common and you didn’t necessarily have to look far to find those kinds of friends. But some problems come packaged with a solution. The inherent mobility of the current generation and their lightning-fast methods of communication provide an avenue of success for things like Mater Dei’s Young Adult Conference, which drew together young people from near and far for the sake of faith and friendship. +