On October 21 the Thomas More Centre moved for the first time into Wagga Wagga and ran a Spring School. Organised by the Sydney office, the title of the conference was "Rebuilding a Christian Culture." The local ordinary, Bishop William Brennan, supported the conference and delivered an address on developments in the areas of religious life and the laity in the Wagga Wagga Diocese since he was installed as Bishop in the mid-1980s.
Familiar names from past Thomas More Schools included Tracey Rowland on "The Theology of Culture according to John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger" and Mary-Louise Fowler on "Motherhood in a Post-Feminist Society". Mr. Charles Morton delivered a fascinating talk on his work with Mike Willesee in promoting the story of Fatima to the world. Charles works in the film industry and hopes to make both a film and a documentary on the events of Fatima that continue right to this day. His story is a fine example of what can be achieved by Catholics in their everyday working lives.
Other speakers included, Dr John Smith on "Fatherhood in the Context of Love and Responsibility", Alex Sidhu on "An Insider's View of the Beijing+5 UN Conference" and Fr Anthony Robbie on "Catholicism: The Foundation of Western Civilisation". The weekend closed with a panel discussion on the recent World Youth Day in Rome. All talks were very informative and provided the opportunity for learning, discussion and strengthening and growing in faith.
A unique aspect of this conference compared to others run by the Thomas More Centre was a performance of "The Jeweller's Shop", a play written by Pope John Paul II. The play was performed by the St Michael's Theatre group and directed by Ross Miller. Their excellent portrayal of the story presented the true meaning of marriage employing a number of unique dramatic techniques - inspirational for anyone contemplating or already committed to marriage.
The weekend also included a social evening on the Saturday night, a Mass in St Michael's Cathedral and an open forum where various groups could promote their work. Those involved in this session were the Dominican Sisters from Ganmain, Vianney College (the local seminary), the Australian Family Association, True Love Waits and Youth Defence - a pro-life youth organisation in Sydney.
The conference proved to be, and will continue to do so in the future, a great opportunity for young people in the Riverina area to learn more about their Catholic faith and a meeting point for people from groups in both Melbourne and Sydney.
Despite youth events in both Melbourne and Sydney on the same weekend, the conference drew many people from the surrounding area and from as far away as Canberra. Feedback from the conference has been positive and local interest and support should ensure that this will become an annual event in the Wagga Wagga Diocese. Jennifer Nugent, the local Youth Ministry leader, played a vital role in promoting the conference.
Audio copies of the talks are obtainable from the Thomas More Centre in Sydney, (02) 9267 6159.
Report by Paul Sheehan, Thomas More Centre, Sydney.