By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published August 2, 2007
Joanna Brunson of Columbus had attended many religious conferences but joked she had never seen so many “people with children and strollers in (her) life.”
Brunson was among the approximately 4,000 people who attended the 11th Youth and Family Encounter, organized by priests of the Legionaries of Christ and members of Regnum Christi, an apostolic movement of laity, deacons and priests established by the order. Held July 24-29 at the Georgia World Congress Center, the event drew attendees from several different states as well as countries.
The event featured various programs for children and a variety of tracks for adults on issues including bioethics, strengthening the family and spirituality.
A recent convert to the Catholic Church, Brunson came with her daughter-in-law, a member of Regnum Christi, and said she participated in the spirituality track, where she “laughed a lot and learned a lot.”
“I used to live in Europe, and I had a real hard time learning French. I always had to go back and start all over again,” she said. “I learned here that that’s not such a bad thing to do with my faith, either.”
Brunson said, more than anything, she will return to Columbus with healthier prayer habits.
“I think I have learned to make prayer a meditation instead of just a time when my mind wanders.”
Workshops during the Encounter were also featured in Spanish. Confession was offered throughout the event, and a long line often formed with those preparing for the sacrament.
As he waited for confession, Joe Rowell, who drove from Windermere, Fla., for the conference, with his wife and two children, ages 16 and 13, spoke of the graces he had received during the weekend.
“It’s been very uplifting and very joyful,” he said. “It’s been a real encounter with Christ.”
This is Rowell’s third conference, having attended YFE in 1999 in Atlanta and in 2002 in Baltimore.
“You really see the joy of Christ reflected in others,” he said. “We’ve gotten to meet so many people and have developed a lot of friendships. It’s like a family reunion for us. Besides that, though, the formation you receive here has been great.”
Albert Frederick and his wife, Renee, drove 13 hours from The Woodlands, Texas, to attend the conference with their three children.
Frederick said that he received a “spiritual awakening—a rejuvenation” from his time at the Encounter.
“It’s like the scales have been removed from my eyes,” he said.
His wife said she had been filled with hope by seeing many others with the same goals and beliefs that she holds for her own family.
“You see so many people here who are striving to live their faith, who are trying to live as close as they can to Christ and bring Christ to others. It gives you so much hope,” she said. “So many families sacrifice so much just to be here. There are so many graces flowing from this.”
Saturday afternoon included a screening of the film “Bella,” winner of the People’s Choice Award at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival. The film’s actors and producers offered their insights on making the subtly pro-life production.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his wife, Columba, were the keynote speakers of Saturday evening’s presentation, which was preceded by a Pure Fashion show, an outreach for young women emphasizing style and modesty.
The YFE was last held in Atlanta in October 1999, when some 12,000 people from throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Latin America and Europe attended.
Several independent Catholic schools in North Georgia are under the spiritual direction of the order, and the Atlanta territorial outreach includes a variety of ordained, consecrated and lay apostolates.