Congress Offers a Theology for Every Body

Scholarships Offered for Clergy, Seminarians

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By Genevieve Pollock

PHILADELPHIA, MAY 7, 2010 ( This summer, the 1st National Theology of the Body Congress will take place near Philadelphia, drawing together a multitude of speakers and Catholics from all states of life.

«If you have a body, this theology is for you,» Maria Stumpf, Director of Operations and Programs at the Theology of the Body Institute, which is hosting the July 28-30 congress, said to ZENIT.

«Any and all ministries are touched and informed by this message of Theology of the Body,» she added.

One of the keynote speakers, Father Brian Bransfield, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ conference Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis, said to ZENIT that «this teaching has the power to change marriages and families, to change the way we live our lives as priests and religious, and therefore to change society.»

In order to help more clergy take advantage of this event, in a particular recognition of the Year for Priests currently underway, the congress organizers just announced that they will offer scholarships for presbyters and seminarians.

They are calling for donors to sponsor clergy, thereby to ensure «that this rich teaching reaches the person in the pew,» Stumpf said.

She affirmed that «the message of Theology of the Body is a gift that helps priests minister to a wounded world using a new language.»

She added that many priests, after hearing this message, «tell us they are able to use the teaching in the confessional as a method of healing.»

Human sexuality

Stumpf affirmed that for priests as well as lay people, the Theology of the Body can shed light on «the truth and beauty of our human sexuality — our call to be a gift, in union with one another and in union with God, our Creator.»

«This message, and the various workshops and keynote addresses offered at the congress,» can «enlighten priests more fully to the beauty of their own vocation and the call to live with a body and a heart directed toward that ultimate union,» she said.

Stumpf noted that various congress tracks offer priests «insight into the ways the message can be articulated» so that «they can discern the best way to use the teaching in their ministries.»

Using some principles from this teaching, Father Bransfield authored a book, «The Human Person According to Pope John Paul II,» which will be published at the beginning of June by Pauline Books.

As in his book, his goal in the upcoming keynote address will be «to go through the Holy Father’s teaching on the Theology of the Body, including his emphasis on ‘the beginning,’ his teaching on original sin, concupiscence and personal sin, and his teaching on life in the Spirit, to show how within reach his teaching actually is to our everyday life and experience.»

«All we need are the inroads,» Father Bransfield added.

He expressed the hope that by attending this congress, which he called a «vital initiative,» people «will consolidate their existing familiarity with theology of the body with even newer and up to date outlets, sources, ideas and best practices, and a wide range of people just like themselves to network with who are eager to share this great teaching.»

Meaning of life

In a Jan. 21 letter, Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia and chairman of the bishops’ conference Committee for Pro-Life Activities, extended an invitation to all people to participate in this congress.

«I am convinced that John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is a treasure for the Church and a gift of the Holy Spirit for our time,» he affirmed. «It is important that we, the Body of Christ, afford ourselves the opportunity to receive this gift more deeply, so as to proclaim it more effectively to the world.»

The cardinal explained that «when we offer the sincere gift of ourselves to others — and receive their gift in return — we become in some way a created image of the very life of the Trinity.»

«This is why the Theology of the Body is not only a catechesis on marriage and human sexuality, but also affords «‘the rediscovery of the meaning of the whole of existence, of the meaning of life’ (TOB 46:6).»

The congress will have four tracks: pastoral ministry, catechesis and evangelization, philosophy and theology, marriage and family.

Speakers include: Cardinal Rigali; Father Richard Hogan, author, editor and television host; Helen Alvaré, law professor and advisor of the Pontifical Council for the Laity; Father Thomas Loya; Sister Helena Burns of the Daughters of St. Paul; Janet Smith; Lisa Hendey; Brian Gail; Katrina Zeno; Pia de Solenni; Anastasia Northrop; Father Roger Landry; Peter Colosi; Bill Donaghy; Damon Owens; Michael Waldstein; Monica Ashour; Gregory Popcak; Glen Stanton; Jake Samour; Bob Schuchts; and Philip Mango.

When asked about the number of quality speakers attending the conference, Stumpf told ZENIT that «the Theology of the Body draws so many because once it is received it touches hearts and changes lives.»

She continued: «There is a longing for God that begins to be fulfilled when the truth of our Catholic Faith’s teaching on sexuality is revealed.

«We believe that this is what draws people to the Theology of the Body Institute and will draw attendees to the National Theology of the Body Congress.»

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