By Arlene Edmonds
Special to The CS&T

BLUE BELL – Catholics throughout the Delaware Valley were among those who attended the 2010 National Theology of the Body Congress last week. It was a full house at Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Center on the campus of the Blue Bell Country Club for the July 28 to 30 event. Registration for the annual event closed well before its official deadline in mid-May as hundreds sent in early registrations. So two months before the conference it already had 50 people on the waiting list.

But there was good news for those who were unable to attend, according to the Theology of the Body Institute’s director of operations and programming, Maria Stumpf. The keynote addresses at this year’s conference were live streamed on the Internet. One only had to log on to the institute’s web page to listen to these lectures.{{more}}

“We are so excited about the many different people coming to this congress,” Stumpf said. “There was some amazing information. There were 50 priests there, 111 dioceses represented and people from 11 countries registered. We had two bishops, Bishop Lawrence Brandt from Greensburg, Pa., and Bishop Hugh Slattery from Tzaneen, South Africa. Cardinal Justin Rigali was there. We also had so many laity.”

Stumpf noted that of the 450 who were registered at last week’s event more than 350 were lay persons. This, Stumpf said, will serve as an impetus for evangelization at the parish level across the region, nation and abroad.

“The beauty of the Church is that we are given this great gift,” Stumpf said. “Now so many will have access to information to learn more. If you are an academic, there were sessions for you. If you are interested in marriage and the family there were workshops in that direction. We’ve been having these for five years and we know that people have an opportunity to come together to share. They leave very blessed, and that’s why this event sold out so quickly.”

This year’s speakers included Cardinal Rigali; Father Richard Hogan, author; Helen Alvaré, associate professor of Law at George Mason University and an adviser to Pope Benedict XVI’s Pontifical Council for the Laity; Father Brian Bransfield, executive director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis; Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, director of the Institute for Marital healing; and Sister Helena Burns, F.S.P., among others.

Among the panel topics were “The Challenge of Same-Sex Marriage,” “Humane Vitae and Theology of the Body: John Paul II’s Profound Defense of Paul VI’s Courageous Encyclical,” “The Future of the Theology of the Body,” “Theology of the Body and Pastoral Ministry” and “How to Reach the World with the Theology of the Body.”

The panel moderators, respectively, were “Fatherless” author Brian Gail, National Catholic Register writer Joan Desmond, EWTN host and founder of New Jersey Natural Family Planning Association Damon Owens, Catholic author and podcaster Lisa Hendey and author and publisher Matthew Pinto.

“This was an action-packed program,” Stumpf said. “We are hoping people leave invigorated, renewed and passionate for this. We hope they become vehicles in the service of the Holy Spirit to do the work of spreading this message. Now that they have gained new knowledge, it is hoped that they will talk about it with a renewed Spirit-filled and heart-filled desire to come together with others to share. After all, this conference is about sharing this important gift with others.”

For more information about the conference, or to watch the live stream portions of the program, visit

Arlene Edmonds is a freelance writer and St. Raymond of Penafort parishioner. She may be reached at