The Divine Mercy Conference took place at the Our Lady of Grace Monastery, in Monastery, Antigonish County, Aug. 30 to Sept. 1.
It was a first time event but its success already has people thinking ‘annual.’
“This was a first time event, certainly for this part of Nova Scotia and for the monastery; so we started with not much to go on,” Our Lady of Grace Monastery Renewal Campaign chair Dan Fougere said, talking to the Casket Sept. 3.
“But, by the end of the conference, people were saying we need to make this an annual event because it resonated so strongly with people.”
In an email to the Casket, Fougere expanded on the thought.
“The success of the conference serves as a testament to the growing popularity of the Divine Mercy Movement, inaugurated by Pope John Paul II following the canonization of Sr. Maria Faustina in the millennial year 2000,” he wrote, adding revenue from the conference will assist with the ongoing remediation work at the monastery.
“This event was a first step on a journey to restore the monastery to its glory days as a preferred destination for retreats and spiritual solace.”
He further talked about how the conference and campaign are not “unrelated.”
“Any profits obtained from the conference will help the Sisters in offsetting their operational costs,” he said.
Guest speakers for the conference included Father Seraphim Michalenko from the Divine Mercy Centre in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and Fathers Wade Menezes and Tom Sullivan from the Fathers of Mercy in Auburn, Kentucky.
Bishop Brian Dunn provided the opening Mass for the event and Al Barbarino acted as emcee and music ministry.
“The speakers, they’re used to going to major urban centers in North American to present this type of conference, so to be able to bring them this rural area of Nova Scotia and attract the people that we did,” Fougere said, noting more than 300 people attended the three-day event and a quick scan of license plates revealed many made the trip from P.E.I. and New Brunswick, ensuring that it was a conference for the whole Maritimes.
“People came from far and wide,” he said. “Some came for the conference and others just out of their love for the Monastery and wanting to be there.”
He praised the “hard working team of 20 volunteers” who worked for months to plan and prepare for the conference and, in the email, wrote about “under-utilized buildings being pressed into service.”
“The Porter House, a former residence for young men attending high school and considering a vocation, provided accommodation to visiting priests,” Fougere noted.
“A former basketball gymnasium, freshly painted and equipped with a customized light and sound system, served as a perfect venue for the conference presentations. Forty conference registrants were able to stay in the refurbished dormitory rooms at the Retreat House, with home-style meals prepared and served by local Master Chef Jenny Miller.”
For more on the renewal campaign, visit the Monastery’s website at ourladyofgracemonastery.ca.