Vatican specialist John Allen to close Tricentennial

By Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald

John L. Allen Jr., the editor of the Catholic online news platform Crux who specializes in coverage of the Vatican, will be the keynote speaker Nov. 3 at daylong event, “A Celebration of Faith: Transforming the World, Witnessing to Jesus,” sponsored by the Archdiocese of New Orleans as a spiritual close to the Tricentennial celebrations of the City of New Orleans.

The conference, which will include breakout sessions from local speakers on virtue, family life, evangelization and diversity, will be held at Xavier University of Louisiana beginning with an opening prayer led by Archbishop Gregory Aymond at 9 a.m., Allen’s address at 9:30 a.m., an 11 a.m. Mass, free box lunches for all attendees, followed by breakout sessions at 1 p.m., which will be repeated at 2 p.m. 

Allen, who will speak on “Rejoice and Be Glad: Transforming the Church,” has written nine books on the Vatican and Catholic issues, and he has been a frequent speaker and commentator about Catholic affairs on network and cable television.

“John Allen is known for his thinking and his educating around emerging church issues,” said Dominican Father David Caron, vicar of evangelization for the archdiocese. “So this is not purely historical – it’s about where do we want to be in the future.

Looking into future

“We’re kind of at that bridge moment of looking 300 years in the past, but also, where do we want to be in 300 years? And, where is the culture inviting us to grow, to be? How do we meet people’s real spiritual needs, not their perceived needs. A big piece of that is listening to people and to what their issues are in family, in spirituality in the workplace, in being virtuous. We can celebrate our history but also use it as a time to study, a time to pray and a time to reflect together as we look to the future.”

In addition to his keynote address, Allen will offer a breakout session in the afternoon. Sessions will be offered on seven topics by local speakers:

  •  “Having the Heart of Christ: Being a Virtuous Woman Today,” presented by Claire Gallagher, Dr. RaeNell Houston, Jan Tate and Susie Veters.
  •  “Having the Heart of Christ: Being a Virtuous Man Today,” presented by Danny Abramowicz and Marc Barnes.
  • “That We May Become a Holy Family, Strong, Loving and Catholic,” presented by Katherine and David Dawson Jr., and Lovie and Howard Rodgers.
  • “Witnessing to Jesus: Growing an Evangelizing Parish,” presented by Father Caron, Bertha Ballard, Alena Boucree and Joni Parent.
  • “I’m Catholic Because,” presented by Alecia Bloodworth and Bob Stern.
  • “We’ve Come This Far by Faith: The Rich History of Migration in New Orleans,” presented by Deacon Martin Gutierrez, Dr. Emilie Leumas and Father John Tran.
  •  “From Congo Square to St. Louis Cathedral: The Gift of African-American Catholic Tradition,” presented by Sister of the Holy Family Sylvia Thibodeaux.

Special focus on families

“We wanted to focus attention on families,” Father Caron said. “We heard that Pope Francis was going to write something on personal holiness, so we thought virtue would be a good topic. And how does that affect parents who raise their kids in a culture that seems to be moving away from being virtuous. We also want to highlight the diversity of who are as an archdiocese. How do we invite people back to church with evangelization?”

The consensus was not to make the closing event “triumphalistic but transformative,” Father Caron said.

“It’s a personal look, but it’s also a corporate look – where do we want to go together in the future,” Father Caron. “Our archdiocesan synod sets the road map for that.”

Pre-registration for the conference is encouraged because free lunch will be provided. To register, go to or call 267-9650.

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