EASTON — “It’s so good to be together again,” a very pleased Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., said in remarks welcoming the hundreds of faithful to the first in-person Women’s and Men’s Conference held in the Diocese of Fall River in three years because of postponements due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Lenten day of spiritual renewal took place on Saturday, March 11, in the Ames Sports Complex at Stonehill College in Easton.

A large gathering of area Catholic faithful were in attendance for the return of the annual diocesan Women’s and Men’s Conference, held at Stonehill College in Easton. There they heard speakers, took part in a Q & A session, had the Sacrament of Confession and Eucharistic Adoration available, and other inspiring opportunities. (Photo by John Kearns Jr.)

It was his hope, the bishop shared, that attendees would be able as best they could to put aside “our concerns, troubles, and busyness of our daily lives” for an opportunity to “experience strengthening and renewal of faith.”

The conference theme of “Receive Jesus, Worship Jesus,” mirroring the National Eucharistic Revival now underway, was reflected in the day’s multifaceted program.

It was “a day of prayer, listening, reflection, and sharing now crowned with the celebration of the Eucharist,” said Bishop da Cunha, before beginning a Mass to close the conference. The bishop was the principal celebrant and homilist. 

Reflecting on the Gospel passage of the Samaritan woman meeting Jesus at the well and forever being changed because of it, Bishop da Cunha explained in his homily that that experience should be ours as well.

“When we encounter Jesus, that’s what ought to happen. We should be changed,” he said.

All of us thirst like the Samaritan woman at the well, he continued, but “only Jesus has the waters that quench our thirst forever; only Jesus has all the answers; only Jesus offers the ultimate fulfillment of our needs and desires.” 

The bishop expressed his hope that those who attended the conference would go on to share their encounter with Jesus with those in their parishes, in their homes, like the Samaritan woman did in her own town.

“Now that you have encountered Jesus,” the bishop said, “you can become an instrument of transformation for the world.”

Earlier in the day, conference keynote presenters were Fall River Diocesan priest Father Roger Landry who is among 56 priests across the country commissioned to serve as a National Eucharistic Preacher and Mari Pablo of The Evangelical Catholic and Ascension Press. 

Their presentations were followed by a breakout session offered in three languages during which conference participants discussed what they heard and their response to it particularly in relation to their own lives of faith and experiences in their parishes.

The conference also featured a lively general Question and Answer session with both presenters and Bishop da Cunha responding.

During breaks in the program, participants had time to venerate relics of Blessed Carlo Acutis and St. Manuel Gonzolo Garcia, co-patrons of the National Eucharistic Revival; spend time in Adoration; view the 60-plus panel display of Eucharistic Miracles; and visit with exhibitors and vendors present in the conference venue. 

Beth Mahoney chaired the Planning Committee for the Women’s and Men’s Conference. She said that “many attendees commented ‘it was good for us to be here,’” as they were leaving the complex.

“It was certainly good for us to offer, once again, the Women’s and Men’s Conference in person,” she added. ”The atmosphere was joyful, the speakers inspiring; you could sense a good spirit among those present. In so many ways, the conference provided opportunities to deepen our spiritual lives, helping us to continue to be focused on our Lenten journey.”

A Daughter of St. Paul attending the diocesan Women’s and Men’s Conference venerates relics of Blessed Carlo Acutis and St. Manuel Gonzolo Garcia, co-patrons of the National Eucharistic Revival. Below, people brows the tables of several vendors at the event. (Top photo by Deacon Alan Thadeu. Bottom photo by John Kearns Jr.)