In the Works

Dec. 8-14, 2005
In the Works
Father Stephen Wirkes , pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Fulton, delivers his presentation at the Dec. 3 kick-off breakfast for the 2007 Sacred Heart Family Conference
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Diocese will Host National 2007 Sacred Heart Family Conference LIVERPOOL — The Holiday Inn on Electronics Parkway was the site of the kickoff breakfast heralding the way for the 2007 Sacred Heart Family Conference which will also be held at the Liverpool hotel and conference center. The summer conference is planned for Aug. 23-26, 2007 and will require an enormous amount of planning, cooperation and funding. But, Gloria Anson, the director of the Sacred Heart Apostolate in the Syracuse Diocese, is up to the challenge.

The first event leading up to the conference featured Father Stephen Wirkes, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Fulton and an advisor to the Sacred Heart Home Enthronement Apostolate. He set the tone by his upbeat presentation after the breakfast on Dec. 3. His message was about healing and wholeness — both, he said, come when Jesus has a closer, more intimate role and relationship in one’s life.

“Personal healing brings us to a deeper communion with Jesus,” Father Wirkes said. And, he said, until one’s heart is open to letting Jesus in, there is no wholeness. Everyone is called to this relationship. Home enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus requires a commitment by families. They undergo training and education before the actual enthronement ceremony takes place. After it is in place, the gifts and blessings of the Lord become more and more abundant for those families. In other words, as Father Wirkes explained, home enthronement of the Sacred Heart is not about putting a picture up on the wall.

The upcoming conference is about educating and celebrating God’s love and the healing He provides. People who pray, Father Wirkes said, also need to know about how to listen and let God guide their daily life. The purpose of the conference is also celebratory in that it marks the 100th anniversary of home enthronement as begun by Father Mateo in the early 1900s. The theme of the upcoming family event is “Build a Civilization of Love,” something Pope John Paul II so frequently asked others to do.

This is the first conference of this type and workshops will be geared for all ages. Some of the sessions include separate timeslots for fathers and sons and mothers and daughters. There are workshops for widows, widowers, singles and single parents, as well as for priests. Evangelization through the enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and catechesis on the enthronement will also be provided. Teenagers will have their own tent outdoors and there will be a special program for three to 12 year olds each day as well. The youngest group’s activities will be coordinated by Regnum Christi.

Father Wirkes and Father Amedeo Guida, diocesan liaison for Charismatic Renewal, are involved in building up the enthronement program. Father Wirkes explained that Anson travels all over the country teaching and evangelizing about Sacred Heart home enthronement. She has been actively promoting enthronement for the past 32 years. Unfortunately, her program and work is not as widely known in her own diocese, Father Wirkes said.

His presentation returned time and again to the healing power of Jesus. Father Wirkes spoke about anointing of the sick and the many times he’s seen miraculous recoveries after the anointing. “I’ve been present at so many miracles. It’s funny how we take the glory of God for granted,” Father Wirkes said. He told a story about how he had been called to the hospital recently. The patient was “flat lining” and the doctors were getting ready to unplug the machines the man was hooked up to. At that time Father Wirkes was standing over him ready to anoint him and the patient opened his eyes and said, “Hi Father.” “And what did I do?” Father Wirkes asked. “Well, I went home and went to bed. I should have dropped to my knees and thanked the Father.”

There is a healing every time anointing of the sick takes place, he said. It may not be in that person’s recovery, but there is a healing nonetheless. “All healing is summed up in the Holy Eucharist,” Father Wirkes said. “The Holy Eucharist is a ‘who’ not a ‘what.’” If Jesus is not present in the Eucharist then we should not be kneeling before it, he said. “If Jesus is not present in the Eucharist then we would be kneeling before bread. We’d be disgusting pagans. Even pagans didn’t worship a piece of bread. The Holy Eucharist, my friends, is the heart of Christ.” Father Wirkes spoke about vocations saying that the obvious vocations such as the priesthood, religious life, married life and single life are just one vocation a person may have. The other vocation entails letting God enter one’s life and letting Him lead one to a spiritual vocation.

“If we accept His invitation and enter more deeply into relationship with Him, He will let us know what our destination is. Every one of us is called to that deeper relationship,” Father Wirkes said. Gloria Anson spoke after Father Wirkes providing some details of the upcoming conference. Anson said she had reflected on all the wonderful experiences and people she had met through her work at the apostolate. She wondered how she could give thanks to God and it occured to her that the conference on the 100th anniversary of Sacred Heart home enthronement would be the perfect way to show her gratitude. Anson spoke to her husband, Jack, before she proceeded and he agreed with the idea. She then spoke to her spiritual director and then took her idea to Bishop James Moynihan. Anson said the bishop was very happy with her idea, especially the aspect of focusing on building up families during the conference.

The special event is a large undertaking and Anson must raise $200,000 to pay for the event. There will be several smaller events leading up to the 2007 extravaganza. A weekend retreat at Stella Maris entitled “Experience His Sacred Heart” will be held May 19-21, 2006 and there will be a diocesan-wide catechesis seminar on the enthronement of the Sacred Heart in the spring. Anyone willing to work on fundraising is asked to call Anson at (315)345-8505. All ideas are welcome, she said.

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