Reflecting Pope Francis’ call to share the Gospel of the good news of the family, the premier event of this year’s celebration of the Year of the Family in the Diocese of Burlington will take place on Saturday, Aug. 25, at the Capital Plaza Conference Center in Montpelier.

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

The conference is 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.”

It is hoped that every parish in the Diocese will send at least or two people to the conference.

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

Lisa Lickona, editor for Saints for Magnificat, will give the keynote address at the August conference; her topic will be “Mercy, the Good News and the Family.” She earned a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. She is an experienced speaker on the family and a nationally known spiritual writer. She and her husband have eight children and run a small organic farm.

Breakout sessions will include such topics as marriage enrichment, foster care, creating a family-friendly parish, family-based catechesis, the domestic Church and supporting families during life’s difficult times.

Breakout session topics include:

+ Simcha Fischer, author of “The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning,” speaking about NFP;

+ Lisa Lickona on the family of saints;

+ Cathy Frost of the Vermont Department for Children and Families on foster care and adoption in Vermont;

+ Father Jon Schnobrich, vocations director for the Diocese of Burlington on fostering a culture of vocations in the family and on the challenges of raising a family amidst the current changing cultural landscape;

+ Josh Perry, director of worship for the Diocese of Burlington, on family-friendly parishes and liturgies;

+ Father Luke Austin, judicial vicar for the Diocese of Burlington on annulments; and

+ Deacon Lawson on supporting and strengthening marriages.

Breakout sessions are geared toward ministers who encounter these issues not toward people who experience them.

“The breakouts are designed to be very concrete and practical, providing tangible tools to take back to your parish,” Deacon Lawson said.

Hosted by the Diocese of Burlington, this daylong conference will explore, reflect upon and respond to the message of Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”). In it he confronts the challenges facing families today while offering a hopeful message to help people be courageous believers who strive to live as holy families and encourage the healthy lives of families in today’s culture.

The cost of the conference is $30.

For more information and to register, go to

Originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.