Story by Tess Wahlmeier
HASTINGS (SNR) - Bob Sullivan of Hastings, has organized a seminar to give Catholics and non-Catholics alike an opportunity to come and learn about the teachings of the Church and how they are backed by science and reason.
The seminar will be held Saturday, Oct. 24, at St. Cecilia’s Consbruck Chapman Gym in Hastings. Breakfast and lunch are provided at no cost, but free-will offerings will be accepted.
The seminar is directed at persons 14 and older, and will be held from 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“There’s just a lot of confusion and a lot of misinformation out there,” Sullivan explained, “and as a result, a lot of Catholics and Christians are unwilling to speak out because they don’t want to be proven wrong or they don’t want to be embarrassed or they don’t want to be ridiculed for saying something that is inaccurate. A lot of people just avoid the conversation because they don’t have the facts, the history, the statistics, the medicine, and the science behind these things.”
This seminar will educate people so that they can engage their family, friends, coworkers, and the general public in sound conversations that are based in science, historical facts, and statistics as opposed to being strictly related to faith.
“We know, in our culture today,” Sullivan said, “a lot of the people we engage don’t believe that the Bible is inerrant . . . some of them don’t believe in God, or they have doubts, and so in order to engage that segment of our society, which is a growing segment, we need to be able to say, ‘you know what, there is reason behind our faith, and when you tie the two together, you get a beautiful truth, but when you try to separate them and say only one is relevant, then you get a lot of misinformation and confusion.’”
He writes: “Some believe that the Catholic Church is irrelevant, looking solely to scientific advances to explain the world. Some feel the Catholic teachings on marriage, life, morality, history, and truth are antiquated or indefensible. There have been many scientific advancements since apostolic times. Science is now able to prove many things that were formerly based on faith in God. The interesting thing is that on each occasion, science supports faith. Science does not contradict Catholic doctrine, it complements it and many of the most significant scientific advancements were brought forth by Catholics, including Catholic priests.”
Although it will be a full day, the seminar will be fast-paced, Sullivan said, with 11 speakers, question-and-answer sessions, videos, and opportunities to engage with others at the seminar. Sullivan said it will be similar to a legal seminar, where the speakers will hit the high points and then lead the audience to sources they can use to further their knowledge and engagement in their faith.
Speakers include Father Thomas Brouillette, Michael Skoch, M.D., Father Sean Kilcawley, Dr. Carson Holloway, attorney Martin Cannon, Father Joseph C. Tatro, Father Benjamin Holdren, Laura Buddenberg, Deacon Dr. Tom Martin and Father Joseph Walsh. They will speak on topics like religious freedom, medical and psychological effects of blind tolerance, the Theology of the Body in a culture infatuated with only the body, living the faith as a Catholic family, employing the Truth, and more.
Sullivan said he hopes this seminar will turn into an apostolate, and that people who come from other cities and dioceses will be interested in bringing something like this Faith and Reason Seminar to their parishes. With these seminars, Sullivan hopes to bring in Catholic Voices USA, an organization that trains people on how to deal with the media and deal with social media and being a spokesperson for the Church from a layperson’s point of view.
The idea for the seminar came out of an incident last spring, when Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha declined to renew the contract of one of their teachers because the teacher had informed them that he was going to marry his same-sex partner over the summer.
“As I watched the news cycles on that,” Sullivan said, “I could see that there was nobody defending Skutt in a persuasive and in a factually-sound way.” Sullivan wrote a blog post about the incident, which received heavy traffic. Many people who read the blog thanked Sullivan for writing the post and for helping them. Afterward, he said, he wanted to help places like Skutt prepare ahead of time for things of the same nature.
“One of those layers,” Sullivan said, “is to help educate the families, educate the students, and educate the staff about what the Church teaches and why it teaches it.”
Sullivan said he contacted some of the national apologists and evangelists that he knows to see if there were already groups or seminars like this established that he could bring into Nebraska. Every person he asked said that they had never heard of something like it, and suggested Sullivan start it up. Sullivan then wrote a letter to Bishop Conley, who supported the idea and wanted to help. While Bishop Conley cannot make it on the day of the seminar, he made a video that will be shown at the seminar, titled, “Who am I to Judge?: My Brother’s Keeper”. Sullivan also said if there were future seminars in other dioceses, he would reach out to the bishops of those dioceses to do the same.
Participants can expect a day full of great speakers, wide discussion topics, and ample resources to engage what they learn in their everyday lives. Gloria Deo is helping to set up books and other resources, and Sullivan said there will be tables for different organizations that advocate for things such as life and family. St. Cecilia Parish is also launching a new marriage enrichment program through the Augustine Institute, and there will be a short presentation about the upcoming Paul VI marriage workshop, “I+You=We.”
Sullivan said that the local community has been very supportive of the seminar, with the Knights of Columbus from both parishes in Hastings financially supporting and offering manual labor to help set up the event.
The Altar Society, Legion of Mary, and other organizations within the parish have also offered help and support. He hopes the seminar will not only educate, but build community between families, parishes, and schools.
“If we’re all working independently and having very little contact, that leaves gaps for manipulation to enter into our culture,” Sullivan said. “What I really feel like we need is a lot more collaboration between families, schools, and parishes in these communities so that we can unite more closely and have a lot more teamwork to battle things like the pornification of our society and the manipulation of our children.”