Catholic Herald staff
A Diocese of Superior conference celebrating the beauty and dignity of life is taking place Friday, Sept. 29, and Saturday, Sept. 30, in Superior.
“God’s Gift – To Love Every Body” is a gathering “focusing on the meaning and importance of life in all forms, and loving every body at every stage.”
“We hope that this will be a wonderful, powerful opportunity for anyone and everyone,” said event organizer and Diocese of Superior Chancellor Deb Lieberg, who also heads the Respect Life Office.
Events kick off Friday night with a buffet dinner with the speakers at a local restaurant. About 200 people are expected to attend the Saturday conference, which begins at 8 a.m. at the Yellowjacket Union at UW-Superior.
“Five years ago, we had our first God’s Gift in the diocese, and we wanted to do it every couple of years, but that got away from us,” said Lieberg. “Now, it’s a five-year anniversary.”
The format is different for this year’s conference, Lieberg said. Last time, there were many speakers and breakout sessions; at this conference, Gloria Purvis will give the morning keynote address, and Nic Davidson will speak at morning and afternoon sessions.
The co-host of “Morning Glory,” a show that airs on EWTN Radio and Real Presence Radio, Purvis is a well-known and well-traveled speaker. She’s told her story many times: She converted to Catholicism after a mystical experience at age 12. Raised Baptist in the South, she was attending Catholic school when, during adoration, she felt fire consuming her body, although it didn’t burn. The experience so touched her, it changed the course of her life.
Purvis, who is a wife and mother and Third Order Carmelite, has been deeply involved in ministry for decades – she particularly focuses on issues related to sexuality, marriage and respect for life – and she is the chairwoman of Black Catholics United for Life. She was also a speaker at Minnesota’s Catholics at the Capital gathering in March, which drew more than 1,000 people, the Catholic Spirit reported.
At the God’s Gift conference, Purvis will speak on respecting life in the comprehensive sense, according to Lieberg, while Davidson’s morning and afternoon sessions will focus on Theology of the Body and related topics.
Davidson, who is a Duluth native, became a youth minister at Lieberg’s parish, St. Benedict in Duluth, before converting to Catholicism. He and his family now live in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
“He’s wonderful,” Lieberg said. “He’s really good.”
Davidson shared the story of his ministry in a 2016 article in the Superior Catholic Herald. He and his wife, Jacelyn, were raised in the Assemblies of God and converted in 2008. They later moved to the Caribbean so she could go to medical school to become a medical missionary; there, they adopted three siblings before returning to Minnesota for her residency. They’ve since welcomed a new baby into their family as well.
Davidson’s passion is for ministering to Catholics of all ages, but he is especially inspired by the lifelong faithfulness of older adults. He writes curriculums and articles as well, and speaks on a variety of topics: catechetics, liturgy, TOB and more.
Besides the presentations, the God’s Gift conference will also include vendors and exhibits, adoration and confession, and lunch. Bishop James P. Powers will preside over a concluding 4 p.m. Mass Saturday at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior.
A parenting room will be set up for anyone with infants or toddlers. Grants are available for parishes that offer bus transportation for their parishioners.
High school and college students ages 14 and older can attend the conference for free; lunch is included with registration. Students who show up at the door are not guaranteed lunch, but they will be welcomed.
“We want the message to get out to all, especially to students, about the beauty and dignity of our bodies, and what God’s purpose was in creating us, which is why we’re having it at UW-S and letting students 14 and older come in free and offering the bus,” Lieberg said. “We really want the news to spread.”
The buffet dinner and cash bar is from 6-9 p.m. Friday night at Epic Restaurant & Lounge, Superior. A block of rooms has been reserved at Barker’s Island, Superior, for anyone needing accommodations; on Saturday, the doors at UW-Superior open at 8 a.m. Purvis speaks at 9 a.m., followed by Davidson at 10 a.m. Lunch is at noon; Davidson resumes at 1 p.m., and the closing Mass is 4 p.m. at the cathedral.
“Getting a ticket for Friday night includes Saturday, so that’s the best rate,” Lieberg said.
Cost to attend both days is $60 or $30 for Saturday only for those registered by Sept. 20. After that date, the Saturday conference costs $40, and lunch is not guaranteed.
Anyone interested in sponsoring the event, being a vendor or hosting an exhibit can contact Lieberg at 715-394-0240 or . For information, visit the Diocese of Superior website, catholicdos.org, and clink on the God’s Gift logo on the homepage.