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June 27, 2017
Mercy, peace, joy to be focus of Courage apostolate's 2016 conference
Credit: Massimo Valiani via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).
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.- The Courage apostolate to those with same-sex attraction will hold its 29th annual conference this July at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

“It’s our major event of our year to gather our Courage family together and just be renewed by fellowship with one another, by prayer in common, and by good speakers who revitalize our desire for holiness and for growing in friendship with the Lord,” Father Philip Bochanski, associate director of Courage International, told CNA.

Courage, founded in 1980, aims to help Catholics with same-sex attraction in their spiritual growth, including life in chastity. Its partner organization EnCourage is an apostolate for parents, friends, and family members those with same-sex attraction.

The July 21-24 conference will feature Masses, speeches, workshops, personal testimonies, and social events for attendees. There will be opportunities for Eucharistic Adoration and confession.

“Several Courage members give [their] own personal testimony about living with same-sex attraction and coming to understand the gospel call to chastity,” Fr. Bochanski said. “That’s always the highlight: hearing their personal testimonies and being encouraged by how God has been working in the lives of some of our Courage members.”

Topics of the speeches and workshops include forgiveness, mercy, healing, growth in holiness, and how to grow a Courage chapter. The conference will also cover questions specific to same-sex attraction: reflections on identity, friendship, and relationships.

Members of Courage and EnCourage will come from around the country and from Australia, England, Italy, and Mexico.

Father Paul N. Check, the executive director of Courage International, will give the keynote address. Johnnette Benkovic, the host of the EWTN show Women of Grace, will speak on “Walking in the Ineffable Glory of God’s Mercy.” Other speakers include Prof. John Grabowski of Catholic University of America; Prof. Joseph Pearce of Aquinas College; Sister Miriam James Heidland, SOLT; and chaplains of Courage chapters in Birmingham, Ala. and the Diocese of Arlington.

Another speaker is Rowena Slusser, a pre-law student at Liberty University who is a sexual abuse survivor.

“She’s got a very powerful personal story of healing,” Fr. Bochanski said. “She has a really marvelous story of being able to forgive, having received God’s grace and knowing that it’s God’s will that she let go of those things.”

Slusser will also address a women-only workshop about healing for painful memories that may result from abuse or bad relationships.

The conference’s opening Mass will be celebrated at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and the closing Mass will be said by Bishop James Wall of Gallup.

“Our success is really in the lives of our members who testify to a much greater peace and freedom and joy in their lives,” Fr. Bochanski said. He said Courage has helped to show people living with same-sex attraction that there is a place for them in the Church and that “there is help and fellowship and support for them when they need it in terms of facing that Gospel call to chastity.”

According to Fr. Bochanski, Courage has founded about a dozen more chapters since its last conference.