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Catholic Vancouver Feb. 15, 2019

God calls you to ‘do crazy things,’ Catholic teachers told

By Agnieszka Ruck

Hallie Lord, speaking at the Catholic Educators' Conference in Vancouver Feb. 14. (Agnieszka Ruck photos)

“God calls us to do crazy things all the time,” mother and radio show host Hallie Lord told 1,300 Catholic school teachers and administrators Feb. 14.

“I believe that God would rather you leap and fall than sit in your safe little bubble and not leap at all.”

Lord, a mother of eight, author, and Sirius XM radio host, said there were times in her life she felt paralyzed by fear and felt unsure of or unable to do what God asked. After she had her sixth child, that leap of faith was launching a Catholic women’s conference with friend and radio show host Jennifer Fulwiler. They dreamed about inspiring women while offering a unique experience involving karaoke, wine, and a dance party.

“For several years, we had been thinking of running a conference, but I had a bunch of babies and she had a bunch of babies and we were super broke and I thought it must be the wrong time.”

After both women gave birth to their sixth children a week apart, Fulwiler and her infant suffered serious health complications. A sleep-deprived Lord didn’t feel financially secure enough to launch a conference for hundreds of women.

About a month later, Fulwiler phoned Lord. “She said: Hey Hallie, I was praying and I think it’s time to start our conference.”

Lord responded: “Nothing about this makes sense. You are still recovering. Your son is still recovering. I never sleep. We have no money. You have lost your mind.”

Fulwiler suggested both women ask God for a vision of what the conference would be like. They paused, letting the phone line go silent for a long moment, and Lord opened herself to the idea. Instantly, a scene from the movie Beautiful Girls came to mind, where the film’s characters are huddled in a bar during a blizzard, singing Sweet Caroline around the piano.

Lord told Fulwiler about the scene, its “sense of camaraderie,” and said she hoped their dream conference would also offer women a community that would support them amid life’s storms.

On the other end of the phone line, Lord heard Fulwiler choking on her coffee. Then, her friend spoke: “That is the exact same image that just popped into my head.”

“I didn’t know she’d seen the movie! We’d never talked about it,” Lord said. “But that was the first hint that thought it didn’t make sense, and though it seemed insane, God might be doing something. So, we started to research what it would take to put on a conference.”

Edel Gathering has since been hosted three times, in three U.S. cities, and drawn hundreds of women to hear talks, socialize, and dance the night away.

Hallie Lord signs a book for a Catholic Educators' Conference participant.

Lord said putting on the conference, raising eight children, suffering after miscarriage, and getting through difficult financial times all required the courage that comes from listening to God and trusting in his plan.

“How often are we afraid because we’ve let our imaginations run wild and have created these crazy scenarios that may or may not come to pass? And how often, when you do that, do you include God in that vision?”

She also encouraged educators to show love in seemingly desperate situations and to voice their fears to trusted friends, exposing them to the light and to God’s mercy.

“As Catholic educators, the work that has been entrusted to you is hugely challenging, but God will not abandon you. You just have to keep asking the questions, listening for his response, acting, and then leaping,” she said.

“If you do, you are going to light a million tiny sparks in the souls of your students, and God is going to breathe his very life into those sparks, and they are going to go forward and set the world on fire. What an honour, what a responsibility, and what a gift you have for the world.”

Michel DesLauriers, principal of the Saint John Paul II Academy, was inspired by Lord’s remarks.

“It reminded me of the words from the hymn Here I am, Lord. The words are as follows: ‘Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart,” said DesLauriers.

“Thank you, Hallie, for reminding me that these are more than just words, but our prayer to God, that we will follow the mantra of our high school’s patron saint John Paul II: ‘be not afraid.’”

The Catholic Educators’ Conference drew about 1,300 Catholic teachers and administrators to the Vancouver Convention Centre Feb. 14-15 for Mass, talks, and keynote presentations from Hallie Lord, as well as from burn survivor John O’Leary and Operation Smile founders Bill and Kathy McGee.