BY PEGGY MATTSON
The inspiration for the theme of our Southeast Alaska Catholic Conference, recently held from Sept. 30 – Oct. 2 in Juneau, came from St. Therese of Lisieux in her Act of Oblation to Merciful Love. Pope Francis called for a Jubilee year of Mercy in order that we might know the face of God’s mercy — Jesus Christ Incarnate — and to show that face of mercy to our friends, neighbors, and the whole world through the corporal and spiritual works of Mercy. The Jubilee year of Mercy will end on Nov. 20th, the Feast of Christ the King.
If you did not get to listen to the Conference speakers in person, most of the talks were recorded and are now linked to the diocesan website and YouTube channel.
During the three day event, over 120 attendees heard talks on Mercy from national speakers including Dr. Jonathan Reyes, Keynote Speaker, Fr. John Paul Mary Zeller, a Missionary of Mercy appointed by Pope Francis, Srs. of Life Sr. Cecilia Rose and Sr. Maris Stella and guest musician Craig Colson. Those in attendance also had the opportunity to hear from local speakers Fr. Pat Travers, Deacon Steve Olmstead, Jan Burke and Heather Shaw.
Two banners were made for the conference, one illustrating our diocese and one celebrating the liturgical year. In the diocesan banner, we included photos of all the churches, their doors to welcome all. The banner was made in four panels using four Alaskan colors: brown for the earth and soil; blue for water and sky; yellow for light and harvest; and green for all the flora and green of Southeast. These panels were embellished with numerous Alaskan flowers, fish, animals, berries and beads and charms. We included a kayak in memory of Fr. Thomas Weise who would have been one of our speakers. The banner shows the unity of our diocese throughout all our parishes.
The second banner is four panels celebrating our liturgical year. The first panel is white for the celebration. White symbolizes purity, holiness, virtue, as well as respect and reverence. It also symbolizes resurrection. The purple panel is for preparation time: purple speaks of fasting, faith, patience and trust. It is the liturgical color used during seasons of penance, Advent and Lent. The green panel is for the growing time, Ordinary Time. Green represents bountifulness, hope and the victory of life over death. The red is for Pentecost and symbolizes symbolizes fire, charity and spiritual awakening. Our red panel is also composed of three quilted roses for St. Therese of Lisieux.
Each of these panels was also embellished with symbols of our faith: the cross, the rosary, the crown of thorns, and dove for the Holy Spirit. The fabric and embellishments for the liturgical banners came from old discarded chasubles, stoles and capes. This shows how our Merciful God takes our brokenness, or discarded pieces and transforms them into something beautiful.
Keynote speaker Dr. Jonathan Reyes and Sister Maris Stella both spoke about the seeds of Mercy being planted at this conference. May these seeds grow and produce much fruit.
The gift of Mercy is infinite and our mission as messengers and witnesses of God’s Mercy continues throughout our lives. We are all missionaries of Mercy.
(The Diocese has begun planning for the Fall 2017 Catholic Conference; details to be announced early next year.)