Family was the focus of an Aug. 25 conference sponsored by the Diocese of Burlington that featured a speaker who said God’s “method is mercy.”

Lisa Likona, an experienced speaker on the family and nationally known spiritual writer from New York, quoted St. John Paul II’s “Dives in Misericordia (“Rich in Mercy”) in her keynote address, “Mercy in the Heart of the Family.”

“Mercy is love’s second name,” she said. “Mercy stoops down in order to pull up” and makes people feel fuller, richer and purified.

More than 100 people attended the conference, “Year of the Family: the Joy of Love,” at Capitol Plaza Conference Center in Montpelier. It was the premier event of this year’s celebration of the Year of the Family in the Diocese.

It equipped parish leaders with tools and resources to support more effectively and to reach out to families and individuals in their parishes and in their communities as inspired by Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of Love.”

Breakout session topics included “Concrete Ways to Support and Strengthen Marriages in Your Parish,” “Creating a Culture of Vocations,” “How to Support Children in DCF Custody and their Families” and “Family Catechesis in the Parish and the Home.”

In his presentation, “Facing Challenges of Our Culture Today,” Father Jon Schnobrich, director of vocations for the Diocese of Burlington, described challenges to the mind, body and spirit.

Relativism is a challenge to the mind because, among other things, it is not value neutral, he said. “You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate,” he told an overflow gathering a small upper room of the conference center.

The biggest challenge to the body is “bad anthropology,” he said, because the body cannot be “reduced to inconsequential matter because … it has a soul.” Therefore, the body must be respected and spared from such things as “mutilation.”

Lack of silence is the biggest challenge to the spirit, Father Schnobrich said. Thanks to today’s technology and myriad devices, the new cultural addiction is “noise, noise, noise.”

“Why do we need silence?” he asked. “Because it is the language of God. … If you are going to face challenges, you must be silent with God.”

The conference was geared toward inspiring and equipping parishioners with concrete tools and resources to take back to their parishes. “In that way they can help their parishes and communities to more actively support and encourage families through, as Pope Francis has said, ‘the vicissitudes of life,’” explained Deacon Phil Lawson, executive director of evangelization, catechesis, divine worship, marriage and family and respect life for the Diocese of Burlington. “There is a strong need to equip people for ministry at the local parish and community level to be those agents of outreach, healing and support.”

He said information shared at the conference would be “best lived out on the parish level,” and he hoped participants would take that information back to their parishes.

In his welcome, Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne explained that the term “family” in the ancient Church and ancient world was used more broadly and included all those within a household as well as extended relatives. He encouraged participants in the conference to see their faith as the lens that forms and informs their relationships both in their nuclear families and beyond.

There have been a number of events during this Year of the Family, all designed to focus on various areas of the Church’s teachings on the family and “Amoris Laetitia.” Some of these events were designed to celebrate families, some designed to educate, some designed to inspire and equip leaders with resources and some focused on healing.

On Nov. 6 at 10 a.m. at St. John Vianney Parish in South Burlington, there will be a workshop, “Hope, Healing and Outreach,” for Catholics who are separated or divorced. For more information, go to