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Rejuvenating the Faithful: Thousands Gather in Baltimore for 2002 Youth and Family Encounter
Baltimore -- More than six thousand Catholics from throughout North America filled the Baltimore Convention Center July 12-14 for a weekend that was part family reunion, part workshop for spreading the Gospel.

Father Anthony Bannon speaks at YFE
Father Anthony Bannon LC, territorial director of the Legion of Christ for North America.
The 2002 Youth and Family Encounter of the Regnum Christi movement brought together families, priests and consecrated men and women in the spirit of Vatican II to share innovative and pratical ways to evangelize today´s post-Christian culture.

"It´s impressive to take part in a gathering so focused on doing something positive to build the future of the Church," said Dr. Barry Sugarman, a university administrator from central New Jersey who first learned about Regnum Christi when he lived here in Maryland. "In these days when the Church takes such a beating in the headlines, it´s important to recharge our spiritual batteries for the work we do back home in our parishes."

The event was hosted and organized by hundreds of members of Regnum Christi members from across the archdiocese. "It was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to pull together such an event", said Miki Hill of St. Alphonsus parish in Woodstock, MD, "but now it is such a joy to see everyone celebrating our faith that it was worth the work we all put into it."

Bob Cohn, of St. John´s parish in Severna Park, said that members of the lay movement worked for 18 months to make the weekend a time for renewal in their faith. "What we hope each person takes away from this event is a deeper commitment to work for evangelization no matter where they are. The Church needs more apostles in the world today."

"Baltimore is such a beautiful city," said Maria Fiaes, a native of Bulgaria now serving as a Regnum Christi missionary in the Philippines. "I enjoyed learning the history of the Church in this city, and becoming a part of its Catholic history in this Encounter."

Regnum Christi, Latin for "Kingdom of Christ," is one of the new ecclesial movements Pope John Paul II has hailed as a "sign of the springtime of evangelization foretold by Vatican II." In North America, the movement currently numbers some seven thousand lay members.

The Baltimore event revolved around the theme "If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!" Pope John Paul II spoke those words to Regnum Christi during the previous Youth and Family Encounter in Rome, January 4, 2001.

The Encounter opened Friday evening with the musical talents of Kitty Cleveland, an operatic singer from New Orleans now dedicated to Christian music, and a band comprised of Legion of Christ seminarians. Father Owen Kearns LC, editor-in-chief and publisher of the National Catholic Register and Faith & Family magazine, gave a rousing address charging the attendees to be serious about "setting the world ablaze with the Gospel." If "you are what you should be," Father Kearns asked, "what are you waiting for?"

He was followed by keynote speaker Dr. William Bennett, the former secretary of education and author of numerous best-selling books, including his latest, The Broken Hearth. Dr. Bennett encouraged attendees to "Be not afraid" of sharing the message of how "things unseen"-- God, Christian values and the commitment to marriage -- make more of an impact on our culture than do the material goods with which Americans are surrounded.

Baltimore´s Cardinal William Keeler celebrated the Eucharist with Regnum Christi members the morning of Saturday the 13th. The Cardinal asked members where they had come from, welcoming "back home" those attendees from the 31 states that originally were part of the Baltimore Diocese. In his homily, he focused on the family as a "small Church" in which we must build the faith, defending against such invasive social ills as pornography.

After the mass, Cardinal Keeler toured the Encounter´s exhibition hall
The Movement continues to grow throughout the United States.
where some forty Regnum Christi apostolates were on display. Some are serving the archdiocese of Baltimore, such as Woodmont Academy, a private Catholic elementary school approved by the Cardinal in 1995 with nearly 300 students and which is developing a new campus in Howard County. Regnum Christi members are also active in parishes in Howard, Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Fredrick and Harford counties promoting apostolates such as Kids for Jesus, Familia, Conquest Boys and Challenge girls clubs. Other apostolates featured included a range of missionary and evangelization efforts, such as Catholic World Mission, which funds a network of schools and other outreach services for the poor in Third World countries, and Helping Hand Medical Mission, which brings North American medical expertise to the needy poor of Mexico, El Salvador, Venezuela and Brazil.

"We´re overwhelmed and grateful for the warmth and kindness of Cardinal Keeler in welcoming us and so generously giving us his time. We are encouraged by his words, and we enjoyed the opportunity to show him some of the many ways we serve the Church locally and internationally," said Father Anthony Bannon LC, territorial director of Regnum Christi in North America. Father Bannon addressed the convention with a focus on each person living his or her true vocation. God calls each of us "to a generous and free response, taking up the charge to be laborers for the harvest," he said.

The Encounter included tracks for various age groups, from pre-schoolers through various school-age groups to college students, single professionals and married couples -- something for everyone old enough to be potty trained.

Featured speakers for the married couples included Art Bennett, a family therapist from northern Virginia who spoke on ways to improve a couple´s relationship. "If you view your spouse as part of the cross you have to carry, there´s something wrong," Bennett said. "To love someone means to really know them. If your love for your spouse is overshadowed by negative feelings, it´s time to go deeper in knowing and loving one another," he said.

Dr. Ray Guarendi, noted Catholic Psychologist and author of You´re a Better Parent than you Think, entertained the married couples with his witty presentation of how to raise well-mannered children in a culture of "parenting experts" whose advice, he believes, often lead to chaos. "I´m not going to insult you by telling you that you need to affirm your children," Dr. Guarendi said. "I´ll assume you love your children enough to do a very good job of that. "What I urge you to do is not what´s ´psychologically correct´ in this day and age but what´s ´morally correct,´ to help your children grow up with the good manners and self-discipline every parent wants but too few now achieve," he said.

The Baltimore event was fifth Youth and Family Encounter in the United States. Previous ones have been held in Chicago, Indianapolis, Saint Louis, and Atlanta. "Every city that has hosted one of these events has seen a growth of Regnum Christi membership," said Father Richard Gill LC of Bethesda. "We´re excited by the prospect of increasing the ways we can be of service to Cardinal Keeler and the local parishes."



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