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Theology of family draws many to ‘Why Be Catholic?’ conference


Practical theology, family meals and spiritual combat were some themes of the recent ‘Why Be Catholic?’ conference in Perth, where US priest Fr Leo Patalinghug was a guest speaker. Photo: Supplied

By Caroline Smith

Practical theology, family meals and spiritual combat were some of the themes discussed in the recent ‘Why Be Catholic?’ conference in Perth, with approximately 600 people attending the three-day event.

The conference was held at St Lawrence and Mary Immaculate Church in Balcatta from 20 to 22 October, and featured US-based priest Father Leo Patalinghug as guest speaker.

Fr Patalinghug – who was born in the Philippines and raised in Baltimore, USA – is known as ‘a break-dancing, board-breaking, bread-breaking priest’ who has appeared on a number of TV shows in the US, and who draws on his experience as a former chef, drama teacher and martial artist to teach aspects of theology. He is also a member of the Voluntas Dei community, which is a Secular Institute of Pontifical Rite.

Speaking on the first day of the conference, Fr Patalinghug introduced attendees to his ‘Grace Before Meals’ movement, which emphasises the importance of communal meals in strengthening families and relationships. Over the three days, he also explored topics such as the meaning of the Eucharist, and the use of Mass Media for evangelisation.


Perth Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton was one of the local speakers at the Why Be Catholic conference last month. Photo: Supplied

The conference included local presenters such as Perth Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton, Willetton parish Assistant Priest, Fr Christian Irdi, and high school religious education teacher and public speaker, Stephen Spiteri.

During a speech he delivered on 21 October, Bishop Sproxton reflected on the Jubilee Year of Mercy and on Pope Francis’ call for Christians to become involved in promoting peace and understanding.

“Pope Francis, like many of us, is aware of the change in attitudes of people in all our societies, where we see the increase of anger, violence, revenge and the lack of forgiveness,” he said.

“The Holy Father has realised that when you look back into history, key moments can be observed when nations adopted their ideal of mercy to redefine and progress in their societies.”

Bishop Sproxton named South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, created by Nelson Mandela, as one such moment, saying that it showed how important it was for the new nation to pursue justice, but also reconciliation between the many communities within the country.

“He [Nelson Mandela] saw that if South Africa was to move forward with confidence into a new future of democracy with a new Constitution, a process was required that was not punitive,” Bishop Sproxton said.


Approximately 600 people, including a number of youth, attended the Why Be Catholic conference in Balcatta. Photo: Supplied

Why Be Catholic organiser Dr Michael Chong said that for him, the youth-focused session on Friday night was a highlight of the conference.

“When you get a group of youth and adults together speaking a common language, it’s a very powerful thing,” he said.

“Fr Leo was a brilliant speaker, and was particularly good at looking at the practicalities of our faith.”