An Opportunity for Collaboration:
Converging Roads

Faculty of the Converging Road Conference (L to R): Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, director of education for the National Bioethics Center; Dr. Jack Lane, president of the Winona-Rochester Guild; Msgr. James Shea, president of the University of Mary in Bismark, North Dakota; Sister Terese Auer, O.P, PhD, chair of bioethics at St. John Paul the Great High School; Melissa Moschella, associate professor of philosophy at the Catholic University of America; Roland Milliare, STD, vice president for curriculum development at the St. John Paul II Foundation; and Dr. Paul Hruz, professor of pediatrics at the Washington University School of Pediatrics.

Five guilds of the CMA recently collaborated with the St. John Paul II Foundation to present a Catholic medical ethics conference at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in Minneapolis that drew 184 Catholic medical professionals from the upper Midwest. The April 2 Converging Roads conference, co-sponsored by CMA guilds of Duluth, La Crosse, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Sioux Falls, and Winona-Rochester along with the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the Curatio Apostolate of Healthcare Professionals, and the St. John Paul II Foundation, provided an opportunity for Catholic health care professionals to be renewed in their commitment to treating the whole person, body and soul, with the dignity and respect cultivated by a Catholic understanding.

Dr. Jack Lane, current president of the Winona-Rochester Guild, spearheaded the collaboration efforts, inspired by his prior experience in working with the St. John Paul II Foundation.

“Arland Nichols, the founder of the Foundation, has been a sponsor of the AEC [Annual Educational Conference] in the past,” said Dr. Lane. “[We] discussed the possibility of sponsoring a Converging Roads conference while in Nashville during the AEC in 2019. COVID delayed the launch, but we finally pulled it off this past April.”

The St. John Paul II Foundation is “a national Catholic apostolate that proclaims the Good News about life and family through education and formation,” according to its website. One of the initiatives of the apostolate is the Converging Roads conference series, which offers “continuing education for health care professionals that equips them to practice the highest ethical and medical standards of their profession.”

Dr. Lane said that working with the St. John Paul II Foundation provided the guilds the support that alleviated many of the burdens of hosting a regional conference.

“CME, registration, administrative support and solicitation of additional donors was all covered by the JPII Foundation,” he said. “These are all major impediments for CMA guilds with limited resources who wish to host local or regional meetings, so working under the Converging Roads model was a huge benefit.”

Dr. Timothy Millea, president of the St. Thomas Aquinas Guild of the Quad Cities, said that the quality of the conference reminded him of attending a CMA Annual Educational Conference.

“It was a one-day conference with very high-quality information,” he said. “Developing regional conferences such as this throughout the country, particularly in the spring months, could become a significant benefit to CMA members.”

Dr. Stephen Pavela, president of the La Crosse Guild, agreed, adding that the CMA conference is a wonderful opportunity for Catholic medical professionals from all over the country to gather together annually, but he and the other guild presidents work locally to provide additional opportunities for the Catholic physicians and other health care professionals to have access to the ongoing formation that is so important, especially in an increasingly hostile culture.

“You get a lot of the same speakers that would go to CMA,” Dr. Pavela said. “We had Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, we had Msgr. James Shea, a fantastic speaker. Dr. Paul Hruz did an outstanding talk on Gender Dysphoria. It was one of the best talks I’ve ever heard.”

In addition to Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, director of education for the National Bioethics Center; Msgr. James Shea, president of the University of Mary in Bismark, North Dakota; and Dr. Paul Hruz, professor of pediatrics at the Washington University School of Pediatrics, the conference featured Melissa Moschella, associate professor of philosophy at the Catholic University of America; Sister Terese Auer, O.P, PhD, chair of bioethics at St. John Paul the Great High School; and Roland Milliare, STD, who is the vice president for curriculum development at the St. John Paul II Foundation.

Milliare said that the subjects of gender dysphoria and end-of-life issues were especially appreciated by the Catholic medical professionals who attended.

“Discussions relating to gender identity and sexuality are an important topic, which Catholic health care professionals want to address based upon science (not ideology) and above all out of compassion and concern for people,” Milliare said. “Dr. Hruz addresses the topic carefully, compassionately, and sincerely. He is one of the top experts on the issue. Fr. Tad Pacholczyck’s presentation on end-of-life issues was also received very well because he presents in a manner that is concise, humorous, and very clear.”

Dr. Robin Goldsmith, who currently serves as the Wisconsin State Director of the CMA, said that while she was attending the conference, she became convinced that a regional conference should become an annual event.

“This conference could serve as an example where each region of the country might have similar conferences at a different time then the CMA’s annual conference, thereby expanding the reach and influence of the CMA upon members throughout the country,” she said. “The conference was absolutely outstanding and very well done.”

For more information about how to bring a Converging Roads Conference to your area, contact Susie Lopez, vice president of operations at the St. John Paul II Foundation at [email protected]