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Catholics to have role in Luis Palau festival: A first

OMAHA, Neb. (The Catholic Voice) - Luis Palau's Heartland Festival taking place in Omaha this summer will be unlike any other - even for the internationally-known evangelical preacher.

For the first time in the history of Palau's festivals, the local Catholic Church has endorsed the event and plans to send representatives to participate in the festival July 14-15 on the Qwest Center grounds. Since Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss showed his support for the festival, at least 11 Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese of Omaha have signed up to participate. "We're very, very excited that every sector of the city is covered from the Catholic perspective," said Father Ryan Lewis, vice chancellor and a member of the festival's local organizing executive committee. Our Lady of Guadalupe/St. Agnes Parish will represent the Hispanic community in South Omaha, Holy Name Parish will represent the North Omaha African American community, and parishes in Midtown, Bellevue and West Omaha will represent the other areas of Omaha, he said. "We want strong, active, motivated Catholics who are very secure in their faith down at that festival doing evangelization and speaking articulately about the faith," Father Lewis said. "I would say the archbishop is very pleased with the response from the Catholic community and he continues to see it as a real opportunity to bring back the lost, those who have fallen away and those who've never really heard the message to begin with." For the first time at a Palau festival, all participants will fill out a card indicating their religious denomination. The cards on which a person states he or she is Catholic or once was Catholic will be given to representatives from Catholic parishes who will follow up after the festival, Father Lewis said. The archdiocese will have a large tent on the grounds where Catholic literature and items will be available and where priests will hear confessions all day long, he said. " Initially there was so much fear about whether we were making a terrible mistake by getting involved, but I think it's quite the opposite," Father Lewis said. "I've been overwhelmed by how strong the Catholic response has been. It's certainly going to be a Luis Palau festival unlike anything he's ever experienced before and he's taking a risk by coming into this Catholic town and inviting the Catholics in." Palau told the Catholic Voice he has been looking forward to the Omaha festival for some time. "Since our team was invited by local leaders to bring the festival to Omaha, I've been impressed - and energized - by the vitality of the parishes and churches and by the visionary leadership in business and government," he said. "The Heartland Festival is sure to be a ministry highlight."

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This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of The Catholic Voice (www.catholicvoiceomaha.com), official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb.

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