Behind the Hashtag: A Staff Member’s Perspective of Congress



So we held our third International TOB Congress in southern California last week, and apparently it was a “success.”

tob-2016-friday-31We hosted nearly 900 people from every vocation, from 30 states across the country and several nations as well, including Poland, Canada, Columbia, Gibraltar, Mexico, Malaysia just to name a few. We offered nearly 30 workshops, breakout sessions, and keynotes on a host of topics and themes, all seen through the lens of the theology of the body.

As a staff member of the Institute, I can honestly say we suffered from a touch of MMS (Martha Martha Syndrome) in the weeks, ok MONTHS, leading up to the Congress. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and concerned about many things… one thing is necessary.” Right Jesus, I totally get that, but the folders, we have to get the folders with the speaker bios into each of the classrooms before the first keynote ends and then make sure Ballroom C is prepped for the WAIT, we need to get the flash drive to the tech guy first because the slides have to be uploaded by the… Martha Martha… “How are you doing?”  “Oh, good! I’m good, just busy.”

We laughed a lot, scrambled a bit, and had our share of crazy obstacles to hurdle. We threw the hashtag #CongressBrain around quite a bit too. Now Martha’s posture of productivity is important, no doubt. Stuff needs to get done, but it’s a means to an end. We’re all familiar I’m sure with the fact that it was Mary who “chose the better part.” For all of the work of my incredible colleagues and our friends at Kennedy-Brownrigg Group, this end is the goal. And that end is an encounter and communion with the Lord for everyone we serve. I got a little taste of it at the close of our time together in California.

We laughed a lot, scrambled a bit, and had our share of crazy obstacles to hurdle.

14434814_10154505267799085_6991141791162598782_oI was sitting at a table before the final Mass near the coffee station, talking about the connections of the theology of the body with a small group of young adults. We touched on philosophy, anthropology, science, hospice care for the dying, technology, art and literature. At that moment Dr. Angela Franks was walking by and I invited her into the conversation. The talk dipped into the great mystery of human life, which St. John Paul II called a “creative task.” I mentioned the words of author J.R.R. Tolkien who said “we are sub-creators who make in the image in which we are made” … in love and freedom as God created us. Then Dr. John Grabowski, who served as an expert advisor at the Synod on the Family in Rome last year, was walking by. I knew he was a Lord of the Rings fan, so I drew him into the talk! After this spontaneous “panel discussion” wrapped up and we left the coffee shop, one of the young adults said “That was the best part of the Congress!” I had to agree!

We are sub-creators who make in the image in which we are made … in love and freedom as God created us.

Why? Because after the whirlwind of sessions at that Congress we were finally given a chance to sit at His feet. Like Mary, we were at last able to listen, to be attentive. And it was not merely a passive but an active kind of receptivity. I saw in the half dozen young faces at those coffee tables, minds and hearts opening up to the great truths and beauties of the theology of the body. We were treasuring all of these things in our hearts, like another Mary we all know and love. And we were continuing the conversation. The Great Conversation that’s been running like a silken cord throughout all of human history, tying things together, joining thoughts and disciplines and differences together to make a mosaic of all of the diversity that fills this human life. That’s what happens when this teaching moves from the head to the heart. Our minds start to connect things, and we leap with renewed dynamism into this human race.

14379598_10154511858599085_8559763823278550486_oSo we hope this Congress has planted those seeds of stillness, and calls hearts to, again, continue the conversation. Go deeper, experience the wonder in the words our speakers gave us so that we can all of us encounter the Word Who inspires them all.

Now, if I can only find where I put those extra folders …



Bill-squareBill Donaghy has spoken internationally on faith and the New Evangelization since 1999. Through his work with the Pontifical Mission Societies, Bill gave hundreds of talks on the spirituality of mission to young people throughout the greater Philadelphia area and beyond, creating a teaching and speaking ministry known as He holds an Associates Degree in Visual Arts, a Bachelors in Philosophy and a Masters in Systematic Theology. In addition to his full-time work for the Theology of the Body Institute, Bill teaches at Immaculata University. He and his wife, Rebecca, live outside of Philadelphia, PA with their four children.


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