Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Anne DiBernardo - Florida Catholic
MIAMI | Before Corey and Laura Haese converted to Catholicism, they thought all they had to do was go to church, have faith and tithe. But after they were confirmed, their RCIA teacher asked them how they were going to serve the community now that they were Catholic.
Realizing that “faith without works is dead,” the couple joined the team of coordinators for Flourish, a two-day conference that will be held the weekend of April 21-22 at the Sheraton Suites Fort Lauderdale at Cypress Creek. The goal of this third annual Flourish is to energize faith so that its ripple effect overflows into the public square.
“The whole concept of Flourish is for us to blossom as human beings,” said Joseph King, a member of the Flourish coordinating team who also works with Project Joseph, an archdiocesan Respect Life Ministry that caters to fathers. “When we follow what God has to say as laid out by Jesus, we as human beings will flourish. That is why we came up with that name. If you go away from the way that God has designed for us, we tend to wither and die. It might not be immediate, but that is where we are heading.”
The gathering features four inspirational speakers who will address critical topics in modern culture. Among them is Rifqa Bary, author of “Hiding in the Light.” She will share her testimony about leaving her Muslim family and risking her life to become a Christian at 17.
Other speakers are: Deacon Ralph Poyo, president of New Evangelization Ministries; Father Shenan Boquet, president of Human Life International; and John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, who has been called “one of the most interesting and influential speakers you never heard of” by The Miami Herald.
The conference includes praise and worship music by Louvation, in addition to prayer, fellowship and lunch.
What distinguishes Flourish from other events is that it is open to the entire family.
“There are youth conferences, adult conferences, women’s and men’s conferences, and all of these have a wonderful place in the Christian community, but we want to unite the pre-teen, the teenager, parents and grandparents so we can grow together, discuss issues, and pray about what we heard together,” said Adriana Gonzalez, one of the six members of Flourish’s coordinating team.
Gonzalez also serves on the board of Catholic Witnesses, the group presenting Flourish along with two co-sponsors, the Florida Family Policy Council and the Thomas More Society. The Thomas More Society is a national public interest law firm “dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty.”
Catholic Witnesses is mostly known for producing the videos “Test of Fire” and “Sing a Little Louder.”
Gonzalez and fellow team member Victoria Meyer, also on the board of Catholic Witnesses, explained that the goal of the conference is to defend what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called four non-negotiable Catholic principles: life is sacred and must be protected from conception to natural death; marriage is a life-long commitment between one man and one woman; fit parents must have the liberty to raise their children; and individuals and communities have the right to practice their religious beliefs.
“Along with deepening a relationship with Jesus Christ we want to be a voice of the truth in the face of cultural issues that are attacking the Church, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI outlined during his pontificate,” said Gonzalez.
“To recognize that the two are connected and should be presented together to a Christian is unique,” she added. “Combining these teachings amid praise and worship and inspired prayer reinforces the messages and energizes participants to make a difference.”
Speakers are both Catholic and Protestant, Gonzalez noted. “We do want to be a place of unity for the body of Christ.”
“There is confusion in the Christian community,” said King. “If truth is truth, and not relative like we see today, then we should be more in tune with today’s moral issues and we’re not.”
“Each year more and more young people are coming to the event,” said Corey Haese. “Young kids are brought by their parents or grandparents and once they get there they are into it, asking when the next one is.”
The team of Flourish 2017 coordinators also includes Mary Sturm, parishioner at St. Gregory Church in Plantation and a volunteer for Americans for Prosperity, and Tina Handal, a parishioner at St. Edward Church in Pembroke Pines with a passion for promoting social justice in the public square.
IF YOU GO
- Flourish 2017 will begin Friday, April 21, from 6 to 9 p.m., and resume Saturday, April 22, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Seating is limited. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for students; both include lunch on Saturday.