By Mary Lou Kilian
Lake Placid — Bishop Terry R. LaValley’s mind was on miracles Sept. 25 as he welcomed nearly 4,000 Catholics to the Diocese of Ogdensburg’s “Inspire: Called to Love” vocation summit at the 1980 Olympic Arena.
On the site of the legendary “Miracle on Ice” — 36 years after the American Olympic hockey team astonished the world with a victory over Russia — Bishop LaValley opened a program focused on the miracles of the Catholic faith.
With a letter of encouragement from Pope Francis and the presence of six bishops and archbishops and four renowned Catholic speakers, the summit participants heard a steady call to embrace lives of personal holiness.
Pope Francis’ message to Bishop LaValley noted that he would be praying “that the vocations summit would contribute to a clearer awareness of the unique vocation of every member of God’s people to be a missionary disciple, filled with the passionate love for the Lord Jesus and zeal for the spread of the Gospel.”
Keynote speaker Bishop Robert Barron took up the mantle with a message that every individual is called to be a “priest, prophet, and king.”
Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and founder of the global media ministry Word on Fire, Bishop Barron said, “The vocation of the human is to lead all creation in praise of God … not in praise of wealth, prestige, or ego.”
“Jesus was the best model of this but it cost him,” Bishop Barron said. “In the measure that we join our lives to his sacrifice, we become aligned right with God.”
The day continued with three breakout sessions led by Bishop Christopher Coyne, George Weigel and Jennifer Fulwiler.
Bishop Coyne, of Burlington, Vt., is the chairman of the United States Catholic Conference’s Committee on Communication. With the topic “Spirituality of the Church and Vocations,” the bishop offered practical advice on “creating parishes people want to be part of.”
“Jesus calls us out of our selfishness and into relationship, into communion,” Bishop Coyne said, adding that Catholics had two unique marks of their communion: the Eucharist and the Communion of Saints.
Fulwiler, of Austin, Texas, grew up as an atheist and began “a search for truth and the meaning of life” after her marriage 13 years ago.
In the process of her conversion to Catholicism, she discovered that “Catholic moral teaching is the owner’s manual to the human soul.”
A writer, speaker, and host of “The Jennifer Fulwiler Show” on Sirius XM radio, she spoke to her Lake Placid audience about “Promoting Vocations in a ‘Francis World.’”
George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center of Washington, D.C., addressed the theme “Mission, Evangelization, and Vocations.”
Author of “Witness to Hope, The Biography of Pope John Paul II,” he said that “we are living in an extraordinary moment in church life, a time of ‘new evangelization.’”
“Every Catholic has a mission,” Weigel said, “whether the mission territory is at the kitchen table, your neighborhood, your business, your life as a citizen.”
Concurrent with the breakout sessions was a youth rally, drawing 380 teenagers to Inspire: Called to Love.
The rally featured an interactive park with a variety of youth-oriented activities as well as a concert by the Catholic group Full Armor Band.
In addition to Bishops LaValley, Barron, and Coyne, three archbishops from Canada took part in the vocation summit: Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, Archbishop Brendan O’Brien of Kingston, Ontario; and Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec.
Archbishop Durocher served as homilist for the closing Mass, sharing his own vocation story about how he stepped away from his life as a musician to enter the priesthood.
Another special guest at the summit was Adrian Pallarols of Argentina, a personal friend of Pope Francis.
A silversmith, Pallarols crafted the chalice that the pope used during his visit to New York City in September 2015. Pallarols brought the chalice to Lake Placid where Bishop LaValley used it at the closing liturgy.
The Mass featured a 300-voice choir under the direction of Father Scott R. Seymour of Morrisonville. The liturgy also offered married couples and consecrated religious the opportunity to renew their vows.
At the conclusion of the vocation summit, Bishop LaValley expressed his pride in a diocese “where such dedicated, faith-filled women and men joined together in prayer and feasted on insightful presentations that illustrated how each of us can better respond to God’s call to holiness.”
“Our honored visiting guests, including a national radio host and mother of six children, a world-renowned Catholic theologian and author, three archbishops, an auxiliary bishop, and a diocesan bishop came away from our vocation summit in Lake Placid in awe of the great number of participants who gathered for an event that was permeated with such excitement and joy,” Bishop LaValley said. “Faith shared can do that.”
“This big family of faith knows how to celebrate,” the bishop said.