Midwestern hospitality was on full display this past week as more than 300 gathered on St. Ambrose University's campus to celebrate and honor the ten-year papacy of Pope Francis.
This 3-day international conference, titled Francis at Ten: A Papacy of Possibilities, began as the hushed audience listened intently as His Excellency Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Papal Nuncio, read a letter Pope Francis wrote specifically for conference attendees.
The letter, which was simply signed, Francis, expressed the Pope's hope "that the symposium will encourage all involved to take concrete and effective steps to serve the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters, work for greater reconciliation, justice and peace within the human family, and care for our common home."
A Papacy of Possibilities
Notable keynote speakers fostered insightful and contemplative conversation as they presented on various topics, from the environment and economics to social justice, world religions, and inclusion. The impressive lineup of featured guests included Dr. Anthony, Annett, Dr. Massimo Faggioli, Dr. Austen Ivereigh, Kerry Alys Robinson, Dr. Phyllis Zagano, and Joshua McElwee. The conference exceeded the expectations of all, and many walked away feeling inspired and spiritually nourished.
Notable keynote speakers fostered insightful and contemplative conversation as they presented on various topics, from the environment and economics to social justice, world religions, and inclusion. The impressive lineup of featured guests included Dr. Anthony, Annett, Dr. Massimo Faggioli, Dr. Austen Ivereigh, Kerry Alys Robinson, Dr. Phyllis Zagano, and Joshua McElwee.
McElwee, a news editor for the National Catholic Reporter and previously the Reporter's Vatican correspondent, entertained the audience with his ‘day-in-the-life' of surprises as he traveled the world in the press pool with Pope Francis.
"What is it like to travel with Pope Francis? It is extraordinary, exciting, and very exhausting. For an 86-year-old man, he keeps an incredible schedule," said McElwee, adding, "there's an aspect of anything can happen when you travel with Pope Francis, an example of this is when we were traveling on a flight with Francis to Chile in 2018 and he unexpectedly presided over a marriage of two of the flight attendants."
Keynote speaker Dr. Phyllis Zagano, an internationally acclaimed Catholic scholar and lecturer on contemporary spirituality and women's issues in the church, spoke of the contradiction of the past, noting, "The history is clear: women were ordained using identical or nearly identical liturgies by bishops who named them deacons. I am convinced that what the church has done, the church can do again. Women are interested in being taken seriously, and women are interested in being ministered to by other women."
The conference exceeded the expectations of all, and many walked away feeling inspired, including St. Ambrose President Amy C. Novak, EdD. "The humility of the speakers and their willingness to engage with so many attendees truly reflected Pope Francis' call to listening and encounter. I walked away feeling spiritually nourished, but more importantly, feeling connected to a larger body of Christ committed to working collectively to strengthen our church and thereby our world," said Novak. "The inclusion of liturgical celebrations of morning prayer and mass, the fellowship shared during meals and breaks, and the inspiring wisdom of our presenters fostered a synodal atmosphere of spiritual nourishment. Participants shared their profound experience of hospitality, which is a credit to the myriad of staff, faculty, and students whose work made the event possible."
The event concluded with a closing mass on Saturday, hosted by the Papal Nuncio to the United States, His Excellency Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Titular Archbishop of Gunela.
"With Catholic tradition at the core of the school's mission and vision, we are delighted to have brought this international conference to campus to honor the papacy of Pope Francis and foster discussion about life and ministry of the Church." said Paul Koch, PhD, Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs at SAU.