Wednesday, June 21, 2006

25th Anniversary of the Chesterton Conference

Here is a picture of the very first Chesterton Conference, 25years ago. 8 people attended. But note this: two of these people were there this past weekend, Frank and Ann Petta. Apparently, Frank has attended every one, and Ann has missed just one.

I think it is particularly amazing to see how big we've grown. There were close to 400 people at the conference this past weekend. And I think the credit for that goes mainly to top management, that is, Dale Ahlquist. His EWTN series and all of the talks he gives around the country have really inspired people to get interested or re-interested in "the big guy"--Gilbert.


  1. I heard it used to be in Milwaukee too. Boohoo

  2. It was in Milwaukee for many years. Then Dale Ahlquist showed up for his first conference. He was the youngest one there. Everyone else was starting to get, well, let's say they were getting well preserved.

    So they started asking Dale to do things, giving him more and more responsibilities having to do with the conference. Until one day when they said, "O by the way, could you host it in Minnesota next year?" ;-)

    What has been most gratifying to me every year I've gone is that now the conference is dominated by young people. Everywhere you looked last weekend there were teenages and young adults, all full of life and hope -- as opposed to the sort of slack-jawed nihilists one sees at the typical high school today -- and all eager to immerse themselves in Chesterton.

    Funny thing is, all the old people who were there, especially the long-time Chestertonians, also had the same youthful gleam in their eyes that shines from the eyes of the young people. I don't think that is coincidence.

  3. "So they started asking Dale to do things, giving him more and more ..."


    (It's a Star Wars reference. Julian would understand.)

  4. The conference sounds fabulous. I hope we can make it some day. The problem is that we have a semi-permanent conflict with that particular weekend. It took a bit of juggling to... almost make it to the conference this year.

  5. I recognize Frank and Ann - can anyone tell us the names of the others?

  6. Is that Art Livingston on the far left?

  7. Is that Father Schall, third from right?

    The guy in the suit, back in the corner (technically, fourth from right because of the angle, though he is sitting almost opposite from Father Schall) looks like Joseph Schwartz.

  8. Ok, now that I've blown up the goramn picture, that is NOT Father Schall and I don't think the other guy is Joseph Schwartz.

    And Art Livingston is the guy in the white short-sleeved shirt, with the goatee, NOT the guy on the left.

  9. Four HUNDRED people? Whoa! I knew it was getting big, but I didn't expect that high of a number. I guess I didn't really think about it. It sounds almost too big - but what a great success story!

    Since I don't know any Chestertonians in person I wonder how lost I would feel. Anyone willing to let me be your conference shadow next year? Harhar.

  10. Ah, rather you would feel found.

    You will find, to your real surprise, that there are LOTS of friends there.

    You'll also find that Nancy and Chestertonian and the others you read here are just about as interesting and crazy and delightful to be with in person as they are to read.

    And me? well, you will find out how loud that "hee hee" actually is.

    It is far more disconcerting to the academics, who come thinking it will be the usual dull lectures with people trying to appear interested. Then they give their talk and find amazing questions and ideas coming from people who have nothing more to their academic record than a careful reading of GKC... or people with two doctorates to ask pungent questions - and then we all go out in the lobby and eat Stilton and talk and laugh.

    I haven't timed the process, but usually one is completely accomodated when sits down for the first dinner - and if not then, after Dale's welcome, the first talk, and the first "intermission" in that lobby full of books and wine and cheese and talk and laughter...

    Hee hee.

    So! Plan on being there next year - any of us will be glad to assist you.

  11. That is incredibly kind of you and very encouraging. Thank you.

  12. I think the priest is Father David Wilbur, whom Dale mentioned was the priest who actually started the first Chesterton conference. Dale also mentioned that Bernice Haas, Fr. Wilbur's housekeeper was there, so she must be one of the other women in this picture.

    If anyone knows any of the others, let us know.

    Candlestring, it would be so fun if you came next year! I hope you can.


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