Headliners announced for Fire at the Beach, set for Sept. 18-20

HILTON HEAD — Fire at the Beach will be hosted by St. Francis by the Sea Church from Sept. 18-20, with registration at 5 p.m. Sept. 18 at the church.

Two high-profile speakers and champions of life, faith and family, will kick off the conference, according to Sister Pamela Smith, SSCM, director of the Office of Catechesis and Christian Initiation.

Marcus Grodi, founder of the Coming Home Network and host of EWTN’s “Journey Home” program, will offer the opening address Sept. 18. Janet E. Smith, Ph.D., internationally known speaker, author, professor, and consultant to the Pontifical Council on the Family, will start the day Sept. 19.

Fire at the Beach has been a biennial event since September 2005 when Bishop Robert J. Baker, now with the Diocese of Birmingham, Ala., initiated it as a conference geared toward catechists, parish ministers and parish volunteers. The past two gatherings were held in Myrtle Beach.

This year’s events were planned by Sister Pam of the Sisters of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, and with Elena Ziegler, Donna Tomasini, Thereasa Crabb, Norma Stokes and Mitzi Weaver, part of the Diocesan Board of Catechetical Advisors; Jerry White, director of Youth and Young Adults Ministry Office; and Brother Carlos Parrilla, associate director of Young Adult and Hispanic Youth Ministry.

“We have such high quality speakers that we hope this will broaden our attendance,” Sister Pamela said. “Fire at the Beach is more than a catechetical conference. It’s a great opportunity for any Catholic adult in the diocese.”

Grodi, a former Presbyterian minister and well-known spokesman for the Catholic tradition, will speak on “The Verses I Never Saw: The Eucharist and Sacred Scripture.” He will recount his own journey to Roman Catholicism as a discovery of authenticity and the depth of Christian tradition, particularly in the Eucharist.

During workshop and small group sessions Sept. 19, he will present “Keeping Kids Catholic.” His experiences as husband, father, media host, author, and widely traveled evangelizer inform his practical observations on this challenging topic.

Smith is a philosopher, theologian and ethicist who came to the fore through writings on Catholicism and her defense of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae: On Human Life,” which reaffirmed Catholic teaching on human sexuality, natural law, and the purposes of marriage. She also was a key interpreter of “Veritatis Splendor: The Splendor of Truth,” the encyclical on the moral life authored by Pope John Paul II.

Smith serves as a consultant on the Pontifical Council of the Family in Rome and holds the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. Her keynote address Sept. 19 will be “The Modern vs. the Christian View of the Human Person.” Also, in a small group session she will speak on “A Culture of Life vs. a Culture of Death.”

Other featured speakers at smaller elective sessions include: Margaret Nutting Ralph, Ph.D., “The Catholic Approach to Scripture” and “The Scriptural Basis for Our Beliefs about the Eucharist;” Sister Susan Pontz, SSCM, Ed.D., “The Church in Cyberspace;” Jane Myers and Michael Meyers, “Small Christian Communities: Nourishing the Body of Christ” and “Couples Called, Nourished, and Sent: The True Potential of Sacramental Marriages in Eucharistic Communities;” Daniel Mulhall, “Catechumenate, Catechesis and the Whole Community;” Brother Carlos Parrilla, CSC, “Eucharist, Vocation and La Familia;” and Sister Pamela Smith, Ph.D., “Eucharist, Care, and the Problem of Pain.”

The conference will conclude with a special Mass at St. Francis by the Sea Church Sept. 20.

Registration forms, area hotels and rates are available on the event Web site, www.fireatthebeach.org. Informational flyers with registration forms will be sent to parishes and schools by May.

For more information, e-mail Sister Pamela Smith at psmith@catholic-doc.org.