PROVIDENCE — For the second consecutive year, the Thomistic Institute of the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of the Studies in Washington, D.C., has co-sponsored, along with the Diocese of Providence, its annual “Conference for Priests.” The event, now in its seventh year, was held from July 9-12 at the diocese’s McVinney Auditorium, with daily Masses, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction, vespers and confessions offered in the adjacent Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul. In previous years the Institute has been held its annual Conference for Priests in Louisville, Nashville and Baltimore.
More than 80 priests from across the United States and Canada participated in the event, which featured a number of engaging lectures crafted to help the clergy engage in their ministry on a deeper level. The themes of this year’s conference were “Becoming a Better Confessor” and “Accompaniment.” The event featured talks on issues a priest may encounter in his ministry such as accompaniment of those in irregular marriages, those who experience same-sex attraction and those who face addiction.
Father Austin Dominic Litke, O.P., of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., organized the Institute’s Conference for Priests, which began to take shape about 10 years ago when the province decided that the order needed to have not just an inward formation but an outreach to theologians and continuing formation for priests. This effort has grown to include Catholic talks on college campuses.
“We’ve really got the whole gamut here, which is a really interesting thing. We’ve got some younger priests and older priests from different parts of the country. We’re lucky that way,” he said of the participation of a variety of priests in the conference.
“We often try to do something that is theological, but also practical, so this year our theme is the idea of “Becoming a Better Confessor,” on the very practical side, but we are also focusing on “Accompaniment,” which has been sort of a buzz word in the papacy of Pope Francis and others in trying to treat [the issues that priests may face in their ministry].”
Msgr. Albert A. Kenney, Diocesan Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, said the Diocese of Providence is honored that the Dominican House of Studies has chosen once again to hold their national event in Providence.
“This is our second year hosting it and we plan to host this again next year,” said Msgr. Kenney, who was pleased with the participation of many priests in the talks and discussion groups, including several priests from the Diocese of Providence.
Father Joshua Barrow, a priest of the Diocese of Providence, said he very much enjoyed the conference and looks forward to attending the event next year.
“The conference has been a very nice mix of the practical and the theoretical, the principals and the practicalities. It’s been great,” said Father Barrow.
“I definitely look forward to next year’s conference,” he added.
On the way into a discussion session, fellow diocesan priest Father Thomas Woodhouse said the conference serves as an incubator for ideas that each priest can take back home with them.
“I think it’s always beneficial to be with brother priests, not only in the diocese but meeting guys from around the country. It’s good fraternity and inspires good ideas to bring out into the priesthood,” he said.