Vatican II conference draws larger crowd than expected

More than 150 people from across the country flocked to St. Thomas Thursday, Sept. 20, for a three-day conference marking the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.

The conference featured four keynote speakers, two of whom were St. Thomas faculty members. The Rev. Jan Michael Joncas told the crowd Friday night that he was honored to give a speech titled “Sacrosanctum Concilium and its Reception: A Key to the Interpretation of the Second Vatican Council.”

“This is a magnificent program, and I cannot tell you how important I think it is for us to mark the 50th anniversary of the council,” Joncas said.

Bernard Brady, theology department chair, agreed the gathering was significant.

“There’s a huge need in the area to talk about the last 50 years in the Catholic Church, and Vatican II, and how the church has changed since Vatican II,” Brady said.

Theology Club President Sophomore Corey Stephan helped organize the event and said registration for the conference exceeded expectations.

“The original estimate of the department was that there would be something like 40 participants,” Stephan said. “All of our talks have been completely filled … and the official number of registered participants is something around 150.”

Stephan said the overwhelming response was a testament to the dedication of scholars to Vatican II.

“That means we literally have 150 people from across the country for whom Vatican II itself, which is a very specific topic, is extremely important,” Stephan said.

Sophomore Emily Casey said she was excited to see so many people in attendance.

“Just having all these people from all over the country, maybe even all over the world, at St. Thomas is a huge honor for our campus,” Casey said. “Having such incredible speakers from our own department is absolutely amazing.”

Casey also said she appreciated the fact that several generations were represented.

“Being a young person sitting in a room full of the church elders, that is so cool to me,” Casey said.

Brady said the committee that planned the weekend invited college professors across the nation to present papers for potential breakout sessions.

“We advertised nationally and locally. So, we have a lot of religious educators, we have parish people, we have people in the archdiocese, we have high school teachers and grade school teachers here,” Brady said. “There’s a good mix, and we’re so happy to have some students here.”

Brady and Stephan both said they received only positive feedback from participants, especially about student involvement.

“I love to show off our students,” Brady said. “I was so happy to have our students get involved.”

Brady also said participants were impressed by the beauty of the campus.

“This is giving us a great name in the community,” Brady said.

Stephan attributed the success of the weekend to a higher power.

“It’s very clear that God has a strong hand in everything that is taking place here,” Stephan said.

Baihly Warfield can be reached at