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Family, young people focus of CCRNO conference

ccrno_1    Nationally recognized speakers exhorted attendees to “Fear Not, Only Believe” April 5-7 at the Southern Regional Conference of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Kenner.
    The annual event, held at the Pontchartrain Center, drew several hundred registrants with a full lineup of talks, music, prayer and Mass. Attendees included people of all ages, but especially those the conference leaders most wanted to reach: young families and junior- and senior-high school youth.
    “We have a great desire to reach young people, and this conference has always had an outreach to (them),” said Patti Mansfield, an archdiocesan liaison with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of New Orleans and a key organizer of the weekend conference. “We’re very committed to evangelizing the next generation.”
Wide range of speakers
    The conference’s choice of featured speakers reflected that commitment. Father Dave Pivonka works closely with Franciscan University of Steubenville, the well-known magnet for national Catholic young-adult activity and conferences.
    Peter Herbeck co-hosts the popular EWTN TV program “Crossing the Goal” for men, along with his work as the vice president and director of missions at Michigan-based Renewal Ministries. Also, Dr. Carol Razza leads the next generation of priests at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Florida as a faculty member and formation advisor. She has also authored a book on parenting adolescents and is a mother and grandmother herself.
    Additional speakers included conference steering committee members Aggie Neck, Johnny Bertucci and Deacon Larry Oney, each raising a family of their own or frequently involved in young adult and youth ministry.
    The conference leaders felt blessed to have such prominent, family- and youth-focused speakers at this year’s event.
    “Each one is a gem,” Mansfield said.
    However, creating the right setting for these exceptional speakers took some hard work and polishing. Despite the busy preparation, Matthew Bourgeois, the emcee of the conference’s youth track, enjoys the time together. He explained that many of those who help develop the weekend come from different parishes within the archdiocese, and some even from other states.
Youth attendance grew
    Even with careful planning, the conference leaves room to innovate. Before the 2012 weekend, the steering committee created a new session called “Late Night Worship” that gave the teenaged attendees the power to lead the music, talks and prayers. Committee members expected a muted reception from teens.
    “We thought maybe 30 young people would come, maybe 50,” Mansfield recalled. “Well, we counted 185.”
    However, that success would come as no surprise to Casey Sprehe, a longtime conference attendee and former CCRNO employee. The conference “was a rock for me in high school,” she confirmed. “Now as (part of) a young family, I want to be able to help as much as I can and have my kids exposed to it.”
    Sprehe helped at Saturday’s young-family track and spoke to attendees. Before her talk, she explained her personal understanding of the conference’s theme of “Fear Not, Only Believe.” It was one that many of the conference-goers could identify with, in today’s fast-moving and uncertain world.
    “It doesn’t matter that this may not be my forever home or my husband’s forever job,” Sprehe said. “I just need to do the next best thing – just change the next diaper, I need to pray the next decade of the rosary with my kids. It’s such a simple, small message and it’s such a blessing.”
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