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Sr. Briege McKenna, Fr. Don Calloway headline women's conference

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The sold-out annual women’s conference at St. Joseph Church in Herndon featured Poor Clare Sister Briege McKenna; Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception Father Donald Calloway; and Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge March 2.

Sister McKenna, author of Miracles Do Happen, celebrated a healing service the night before at All Saints Church in Manassas.

During his homily, Bishop Burbidge said in times of struggle, people don't run away from God, they run to God. "We are here today to ask God to hold us, embrace us and heal us," he said. "We do so mindful of the theme of this conference, 'Miracles Do Happen.'" 

Bishop Burbidge said miracles continue to happen and the Eucharist is the greatest of these miracles. 

"As you come forward, entrust in Jesus anything in your life at this moment that is in need of healing," he said. "Believe, trust and go forth in joyful hope for the miracles Jesus will work in your life today and always."

Sister McKenna encouraged the attendees not to let fear get in the way of striving for personal holiness. "Just do what Jesus wants you to do," she said. "The Holy Spirit is the grace needed to mediate the Gospel."  

Father Don shared the story of his conversion to a Catholic priest from an angry, drug-addicted teen.

Karin Ebert, a parishioner of St. Timothy Church in Chantilly, is attending her third conference. "I was looking forward to seeing Father Calloway. "I realize there is still hope for the teens after hearing his conversion story, that miracles do happen. It was very inspirational."

Sister McKenna, 73, was born in Ireland and entered the convent at 15. She suffered with rheumatoid arthritis and was transferred to her community in Tampa, Fla. She was miraculously healed at age 24 and says she later received the gift of healing.

Father Don was rebellious when he was younger. He was into drugs, the Grateful Dead band and wanted nothing to do with the church. His mother prayed and prayed. One night after declining to go out with his friends, he took up the book, The Queen of Peace Visits Medjugorje, and it changed his life. He converted to Catholicism, eventually becoming a priest, and is the author of No Turning Back and other devotional books.

The conference was co-sponsored by the Office of Marriage, Family and Respect Life and the Arlington Diocesan Council of Catholic Women. 

“I was blown away by the number of women who wanted to attend the conference,” said Therese Bermpohl, director of the office. “We had to close registration Jan. 19 because the conference was already full.

“The G-Force from Father Don’s dramatic conversion story was the perfect balance to Sister Briege’s calm, prayerful witness to the healing love of Jesus Christ present in the sacraments,” Bermpohl said.

“As Sister Briege said Friday night at the Eucharistic healing service, the same Jesus who walked the earth over 2,000 years ago is before us today in the Blessed Sacrament,” she said. “Every encounter with him is a life-changing event.

“Father Don’s story is a powerful reminder that our prayers and sacrifices can work miracles in the lives of those who are far from the Lord. Never lose hope in Jesus.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019