2016 Theology of the Body Congress addresses issues that plague families


Author’s Note: This article includes my interviews with two featured speakers from the TOB Congress as well as a press release from the TOB Institute. –Lisa

Theology of the Body Congress 2016 (CatholicMom.com)

Christopher West addresses the Theology of the Body Congress, September 2016. Photo courtesy of the Theology of the Body Institute. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Theology of the Body is the answer to problems of modern society

The 2016 Theology of the Body Congress officially closed September 25 in Southern California after three days of workshops, panel discussions and keynotes on the teaching of the Theology of the Body and its ability to address many of the problems that plague modern families.

The Congress gathered a record number of nearly 1000 Catholics from across the country centered on the theme “Love, Mercy and the Gift of the Family.” It was held for the first time in Southern California, and many of those who attended came from the area.

TOB Congress 2016 (CatholicMom.com)

Photo courtesy of the Theology of the Body Institute. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

“It was a blessing to hold the Theology of the Body Congress in Southern California,” said Jen Settle, Managing Director of the Theology of the Body Institute, the sponsoring organization of the Congress. “Our hope is that TOB will flourish in the area and give families hope, creating an alternative to what the world is telling them.”

Over 30 presentations in English and Spanish were given through keynotes, panel discussions and workshops on how Theology of the Body can provide essential help for issues that affect the family such as addictions, pornography, gender confusion, and feminism. Many of the speakers noted that TOB is one of the strongest answers to these problems.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of the Archdiocese of San Francisco presented a keynote speech on the opening night of the Congress. The Archbishop linked Theology of the Body with stewardship of God’s gifts and spoke of the power of TOB to help us understand how stewardship of the body is practiced in the Catholic approach to issues such as abortion, marriage, and chastity.

Speaking directly to those who teach Theology of the Body, Archbishop Cordileone said, “I’m sure many of you have encountered young people, who when they are taught these truths and come to understand them, a big light comes on in their head, and they typically say ‘why didn’t someone tell me this before? It would have saved me so much heartache.’”

Theology of the Body Congress 2016 (CatholicMom.com)

Closing Mass of the Congress. Photo courtesy of the Theology of the Body Institute. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Juan Garcia attended from nearby Orange County and called the Congress an “amazing opportunity.” “I received many blessings, healing, love and wisdom, which I am already sharing with my wife and daughter,” said Garcia. “I will begin to walk through the steps and processes of the Theology of the Body so that I can also be free in Christ and fulfill His Divine Will in my life, marriage, and family.”

I had the opportunity to interview Bill Donaghy, a presenter at the Congress, whose workshop was titled “The Beautiful Mess of the Family.”

Lisa Hendey: What were some of your personal highlights from the Theology of the Body Congress?
Bill Donaghy (Theology of the Body Congress 2016, CatholicMom.com)

Photo courtesy of the Theology of the Body Institute. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Bill Donaghy: One of my favorite Congress moments was actually at the close of it. I was sitting at a table before the final Mass near the coffee station, talking about the connections of the theology of the body with a small group of young adults. We touched on philosophy, anthropology, science, medicine, hospice care for the dying, art and literature. At that moment Dr. Angela Franks was walking by and I invited her into the conversation. The talk dipped into creativity and how St. John Paul II called human life a “creative task.” I mentioned the words of author J.R.R. Tolkien who said through art “we create in the image in which we were created” – in love as God as created us. Then Dr. John Grabowski, who served as an expert advisor at the Synod on the Family in Rome last year, was walking by. I knew he was a Lord of the Rings fan, so I drew him into the talk! After this spontaneous “panel discussion” wrapped up and we left the coffee shop, one of the young adults said “That was the best part of the Congress!” I had to agree! We were “continuing the conversation.” That’s what happens when this teaching moves from the head to the heart.

Lisa Hendey: What are your hopes for the impact of this event on our Church and the families we serve?
Bill Donaghy: My hope actually follows this experience of “continuing the conversation.” I know personally that the more I open my own mind and heart to this teaching of St. John Paul II, the more I feel God inviting me into new initiatives, ideas, and relationships within the Church and the culture at large. I hope that those who attended our Congress continue to pray and study and allow the Lord to draw them into this “new creativity” for a New Evangelization. As Pope Benedict once said, “The family: this is the place where the theology of the body and the theology of love are interwoven.”

– Pope Benedict XVI, May, 2011

I also spoke with keynote speaker Msgr. Brian Bransfeld, who spoke about “Compassion: The Thirst for God.”
Lisa Hendey: What were some of your personal highlights from the Theology of the Body Congress?
Msgr. Brian Bransfeld, David Savage, Jeannine Peters (Theology of the Body Congress 2016; CatholicMom.com)

Msgr. Brian Bransfeld, pictured here with board members David Savage and Jeannine Peters. Photo courtesy of the Theology of the Body Institute. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Msgr. Brian Bransfield: “My personal highlight from the Congress is the eagerness of the participants.  Their hunger to learn more is their greatest strength. The same deep devotion that led St. John Paul II to write the theology of the body is present in the form of deep dedication among those eager to learn its paths. The theology of the body naturally aligns with the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis’s timely and timeless gift to the Church. My hope is that the message of the Congress leads deep into the heart of our accompanying our brothers and sisters in missionary discipleship.”

The event was sponsored by the Theology of the Body Institute, whose mission is to permeate the culture with the life-giving message of Theology of the Body through graduate level courses, on-site speaker programs and clergy enrichment training.

About the Theology of the Body Institute: The Theology of the Body Institute is a 501(c)3 non- profit, educational organization located in Downingtown, PA, celebrating ten years of promoting the Theology of the Body at the popular level of both the Christian and the secular cultures. Through graduate level courses, on-site programs and clergy training, Theology of the Body Institute seeks to penetrate and permeate the culture with a vision of true sexuality that appeals to the deepest yearnings of the human heart for love and union. Find out more about the Theology of the Body Institute at tobinstitute.org.

Copyright 2016 Lisa Hendey.


About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at www.LisaHendey.com for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.

1 Comment

  1. Lisa,

    So glad you were with us at the 2016 TOB Congress this year. I wish we could have had some time to catch up! Glad you had a chance to chat with Bill Donaghy – he is a treasure. Just as he described it was a big 3-day TOB party with joy and wisdom to the left and to the right!


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