Marielle Tooley is a teen who leads by example.
In addition to volunteering for the upcoming Ignited by Truth Catholic conference, she assists with faith classes at her church, helps with children’s events at St. Andrews Church and teaches art classes for the homeschoolers in her area.
“We are called to help fellow humans and are supposed to love one another,” said Tooley, 19, who lives in Fuquay-Varina with her parents, four sisters and five brothers.
In high school, Tooley was inspired to learn more about her Catholic faith. A Fuquay-Varina High School student asked her why she prayed. Until that moment, Tooley hadn’t given much thought to praying and making the sign of the cross before eating a meal.
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She remembers pausing before responding that food is a gift from God.
“Others are starving, and this is a small period of the day to be thankful,” said Tooley, who is a member of St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Fuquay-Varina.
Since that day in the cafeteria, Tooley has pursued opportunities to learn how to defend her faith and encourage young people to become involved with the Catholic Church.
Attending the Ignited by Truth (IBT) Conference is one way Tooley learns more about Catholicism.
“IBT gives me information to understand faith issues I struggle with,” said Tooley, who has participated in the annual conference since 2007.
Tooley was amazed by Immaculée Ilibagiza when she spoke about her experiences surviving the 1994 Rwandan genocide at the 2009 conference.
“Her presentation brought it home that faith is worth fighting for,” Tooley said.
This year’s conference is scheduled March 20 and 21 at the Raleigh Convention Center. As a volunteer youth envoy, Tooley is busy speaking to groups and distributing flyers with the hope of encouraging more young people to attend.
“Teens really need a wakeup call and understand that greatness doesn’t mean being known worldwide,” Tooley said.
The conference, now in its 13th year, is sponsored by St. Joseph Catholic Church in Raleigh and is supported by the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh. It takes more than 275 volunteers to prepare for the estimated 1,700 who plan to attend this year’s event.
An estimated $103,000 is needed to pull off the two-day conference that has a mission of bringing to light the truth of the teachings of the Catholic Church and igniting in our hearts a love for the Catholic faith. Some of the funds for the event come from a walk-a-thon that was held at Bond Park last fall.
“God has truly answered our prayers by providing the Raleigh Convention Center and another incredible line-up of dynamic Catholic speakers from across the country,” said Christine Sulzen, the conference’s coordinator.
Tooley is looking forward to hearing “Made for Greatness” presented by David Calavitta, Catholic speaker and graphic designer for Life Teen International in Atlanta. Calavitta believes that teens are critical to the life of a church.
“Teens are meant to be empowered with the Holy Spirit to live lives of greatness in the midst of a world that desperately needs their example,” Calavitta said.
I think when Calavitta meets Tooley, he will see a young woman who knows she is made for greatness and is on fire for her faith.
Ignited by Truth Catholic Conference is March 20 and 21 at the Raleigh Convention Center, 500 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh. A free Friday evening workshop for people considering joining the Catholic church is 7 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday workshops cost $30. For a complete line-up of speakers and to register, go to ignitedbytruth.com.