Diocese to host first-ever Women and Men’s Conference

Noted speakers, Mass, Reconciliation aimed at preparing faithful for Holy Week, Easter

By Dave Jolivet
Anchor Editor

NORTH EASTON, Mass. — Early in this upcoming Lenten season, the Diocese of Fall River is offering area faithful the opportunity to gather for prayer, worship music, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Mass, and hearing the messages of several noted speakers.

The inaugural Diocese of Fall River Women and Men’s Conference will take place March 11 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Stonehill College in North Easton.

In a letter to his brother priests announcing the event, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., said, “As you begin to plan Lenten observances, activities and prayer time within your parishes, I write to remind you of a diocesan event that will be held at Stonehill College on Saturday, March 11, 2017. 

“It is my hope that you will invite your parishioners to participate in the Women and Men’s Conference which will offer them the opportunity to prepare for the celebration of Holy Week and Easter.”

The theme of the conference is “Thirsting for hope — Can you drink the cup I drink?”

Conference committee chairperson Beth Mahoney explained how the theme was chosen. “After a good discussion with the committee members we looked at the time of year — the fact that we are just coming off the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy Year, and that we wanted to offer women and men a message of hope — of God’s mercy, love and forgiveness,” she told The Anchor.

Slated to speak are Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, OFM Cap., of the Boston Archdiocese and the former Bishop of Fall River; Sister Theresa Rickard, O.P.; ValLimar Jansen; and Michael Cumbie. Each of the presenters will address the theme topic.

Sister Rickard is a Dominican Sister and is president of RENEW International. According to its website (renewintl.org), it is “a Roman Catholic ministry organization aimed at fostering renewal in the Catholic tradition by empowering individuals and communities to encounter God in everyday life, deepen and share faith, and connect faith in action.”

Sister Rickard holds a doctor of ministry in preaching from Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis; earned a masters in Divinity at Union Theological Seminary in New York City; and has a master of arts degree in Religion and Religious Education from Fordham University.

She is a renowned retreat-leader and dynamic speaker.

According to the GIA Publications website, ValLimar Jansen, who has sung Sacred music since the age of five, is a fine arts major from Howard University in Washington, D.C. She has a B.A. from California State University; a masters from the University of California, Santa Barbara; and is near completion of her Ph.D. in dramatic arts, also from UCal-Santa Barbara.

She has sung and toured as a professional throughout the U.S., Europe and Japan. She has performed in a Broadway touring cast of “Raisin,” and has co-authored a musical on the life of Ethel Waters.

Jansen has cantored at several Liturgical conferences in California. She has several CD releases, including “From Near and Far,” and “Catholic Classics: African American.”

She is a college/university professor, a leader of worship and prayer, and a workshop presenter at conferences across the U.S.

Michael Cumbie is a native of the deep South, with a strong Southern Baptist tradition influence.

He began preaching the Gospel at age 14, and, according to cmgbooking.com, at the age of 19 experienced “a life-changing charismatic encounter with the Holy Spirit. Increasingly dissatisfied with fundamentalist, evangelical preaching of the Gospel, he began to understand just exactly how the early Church had worshiped with its signs and symbols — and its focus on the Eucharist.”

A Protestant minister for 23 years, Cumbie grew to realize he longed to become a member of the Catholic Church, and in 2001, he and his three children were received into the Catholic Church. On the same day his wife, who was away from the Church for 28 years, returned to the fold.

He is a dynamic speaker, musician and leader of worship, all done with great knowledge, a keen wit and a engaging sense of humor.

“Back over a year ago I shared with Bishop da Cunha the thought of organizing a Women’s Conference for the diocese,” said Mahoney. “As a member of the DCCW, I thought it would be good for us, as Catholic women, perhaps to offer a conference for women in the diocese. As the conversation continued, the thought of offering a prayerful event for men and women together developed. That is when a diocesan committee was formed, including various areas of ministries throughout the diocese- for them to come together to plan this event.

“The committee has been meeting for more than a year to plan this event. Each committee member has a certain role to play in the planning of the event. It is a very good working committee and I am so blessed to be working with such dedicated and creative members, they make working as a team a joy.” 

The day begins at 8 a.m. with praise and worship music and the praying of the Rosary.

Cardinal O’Malley will present the morning keynote address at 9:15 a.m., followed by breakout sessions for women with Jansen, and for men with Cumbie.

There will be a midday break for lunch, as well as the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and to visit the many vendors that will be on hand.

Sister Rickard will give the afternoon keynote address at 1:30 p.m., followed by a 3 p.m. Mass celebrated by Cardinal O’Malley.

“Bishop da Cunha has named this a diocesan event,” Mahoney told The Anchor. “It is a good time of the year for individuals to gather together to be enriched in their faith journey, to take some time in prayer during Lent to prepare for Easter, and to give witness to our Catholic faith as a group.

“The speakers will guide us through the theme and give some enlightening insights into preparing to receive God’s graces., blessings and forgiveness during Lent and to ready ourselves to celebrate the Paschal Mystery and to receive the Risen Lord at Easter.

“Parishes are invited to get a bus to transport people to this event.

“It would be good for parishioners to think about coming with those they minister with in the parish. It is a good time to share, to be fed and to celebrate our faith.”

Bishop da Cunha stated, “As the Lenten season will soon be upon us, I look forward to greeting members of your parish at the Women and Men’s Conference in March. May this time of preparation to celebrate the Paschal Mystery, serve as a time to be renewed in the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. As the theme reflects our thirst for hope and the question of drinking from the cup, let us pray for the grace to spend some quality time in prayer, preparing ourselves to receive the graces needed to draw closer to God.”

†† Registration for the conference is required. For more information, visit fallriverdiocese.org or fallriverfaithformation.org; contact Ann Melanson of the Diocesan Women’s Council at annmelanson54@gmail.com, or call Claire McManus of the Diocese of Fall River’s Office of Faith Formation at 508-678-2828.

Registration forms will also be available in the coming weeks at diocesan parishes.

© 2020 The Anchor  †  887 Highland Avenue  †  Fall River, Massachusetts 02720