The National Catholic Singles Conference is back in Denver this winter, Jan. 27-29, 2012. It’s being coordinated by Darin and Molly Ries, a couple who met on CatholicMatch. Darin, what compelled you to choose that location?
The National Catholic Singles Conference was founded in Denver in 2005 and we’ve had a great reception there in the past. When we learned that scheduling conflicts in San Antonio would make it difficult to hold it there in 2012 we started looking for a new site to hold the conference. We seemed to be guided by the Spirit as we started the search and all roads seemed to lead to Denver.
What’s different about NCSC this time around?
We’re bringing in some new speakers that we’re really excited about and we’re partnering with Denver Catholic Speed Dating for pre- and post- conference activities, which should be a lot of fun!
Give me an example of a change you’re making based on feedback from attendees of the last conference?
We often are asked for more opportunities to socialize and to meet other people. While we don’t think of the weekend as a place you go to get paired up, many singles do come with the hopes of meeting people and making some great connections.
The speed dating will give attendees a great opportunity to do just that. I think many people haven’t tried speed dating because you never know what kind of people you’re going to meet. That’s why I love this concept of Catholic speed dating. Because other NCSC attendees will be the ones there, you know that you are going to meet other great people who are there for the same reason you are.
What’s something you’re maintaining from past conferences based on overwhelmingly positive feedback?
It is important to us to keep the balance through the weekend and to make sure it is rooted in the sacraments and in our Catholic faith. It’s not any of the work that we do that makes the conference successful, it’s the work of the Holy Spirit that is alive throughout the weekend.
The format of the weekend has been tweaked a bit over the years, but it seems to work well and we get a lot of very positive feedback about it. We’ve worked to keep the same basic format with speakers, adoration, Masses and the dance and we’re not planning to move far from it.
But there may be a few surprises this year.
I’m interested in the fact that iconographer David Clayton will be speaking. What role does creativity and art play in the lives of Catholic singles?
I think it’s more about the recognition of beauty that is all around us. I remember watching a TV show in which a young lady was having a conversation with God. She didn’t believe he was really God, so she asked him to show her a miracle and he pointed to a beautiful tree. She said, “That’s just a tree!” to which he responded, “Let’s see you make one.”
I think that makes a good point in a lighthearted way. How often do we stop to recognize the beauty around us and in every part of God’s creation? Can we see it in everyone we meet? If we can’t, how much are we missing?
The first reading at Mass a few Sundays ago was from Proverbs 31. It speaks to the need to value a good wife for the right reasons and that “charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting.” We’ve been conditioned by secular culture to look at that outward beauty and not the true beauty that is in the gifts and graces that God has given us. Many of us need to learn how to see that true beauty, and David will share some great insight into how to find that in others and in our daily lives.
Roy Petitfils, a Catholic counselor, will also be speaking. What message will he be sharing?
I’ve heard Roy speak and I thought he had a great message about how we have to see the beauty and value in our selves, to love ourselves as God loves us so that we can better love others. Roy is a really inspiring speaker and I think attendees are going to be really fired up after having a chance to hear him on Sunday.
We all need to be self-aware to be healthy people and there is value in having the right counselors to help us grow. Sometimes those people are professional counselors, other times they aren’t.
G.K. Chesterton said that “psychotherapy is confession without absolution.” If we think about that, it highlights that we really do need to have the opportunity to examine and talk about our struggles in order to grow as God’s children. That’s one of the great benefits of being Catholic, though: You can go to see your therapist before Mass and not worry about how your insurance will be billed!
Molly, what will single Catholic women get out of the weekend?
First and most importantly, the single Catholic women who come to the conference will get a fun and relaxing weekend with like-minded people and the chance to be inspired and renewed by the wonderful speakers we have lined up.
We live in a culture that does not often appreciate our values. This is a chance to be strengthened and reaffirmed in our struggle to live good Catholic lives in a secular culture.
The second great advantage of the conference is the opportunity for networking, both social and professional. When I was single and on my own, I worked full time as a nurse in women’s health. Talk about a hostile environment for faithful Catholic! I was challenged every day by those who did not agree with my stance on life issues and human dignity.
I remember being so refreshed by the other women that I met each year at the National Catholic Singles Conference. We shared stories about our struggles, made wonderful friendships, and gave each other great advice. In addition, there are many young professionals who attend the conference, and it’s a great opportunity to get new ideas and learn about the initiatives that some Catholic singles are making.
Lastly, there is definitely the possibility of romance! This is a great opportunity for men and women to meet and perhaps hit it off! My own brother met his wife at the NCSC three years ago, so it can definitely happen.
Darin, what will single Catholic men get out of it?
Well, the food’s pretty good.
Seriously though, I think there are a lot of things that men can get out of the weekend. The weekend is definitely influenced by the Holy Spirit and people seem to always hear what they need to. I know it happened to me as well at my first NCSC; I heard what I need to and it really helped to transform me into a better Catholic and a better man, which ultimately has made me a better husband and father.
There aren’t very many venues where you’ll hear people talk directly about the challenges we face as men living in the culture as it is. There are images and temptations to be something other than what we are called to be all around us. At the conference, not only will you hear it talked about, you’ll be challenged and grow as a man.
For me, I’m always on the go and it’s hard to unplug. I’m one of those guys that will get phantom Blackberry vibrations because I’ve trained myself to respond to it, which isn’t a good thing. The conference is a great place to turn it off and experience the weekend. I wonder when the last time many of us made a conscious decision to unplug from the grid and focus on our faith.
How can we register online?
You can register online here.
What’s the early bird discount and when does it expire?
The early bird discount is a preregistration discount of $30 off the normal price of $159 and ends on Nov. 30, so you’d better hurry!