The Retreat and Conference Center at Bon Secours is gearing up to celebrate an important period in the history of the Catholic Church: the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.

This council, which met in four fall sessions between Oct. 11, 1962, and Dec. 8, 1965, spanned the papacies of both Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI. It produced 16 documents of progressive reforms and helped shape the modern Catholic Church. For instance, Vatican II encouraged collaboration between clergy and laypeople and allowed parishes to celebrate mass in the common vernacular, rather than in Latin.

In October 2011, Pope Benedict XVI declared a celebration of Vatican II through a "Year of Faith," running from October 2012 through November 2013. Lay Catholics in Maryland have responded by creating the Open Windows Festival, a multi-year event that will take place right here in Marriottsville, at the Retreat and Conference Center, 1525 Marriottsville Road.

Heather Miller Rubens, one of the festival's steering committee members, says that this event is a time to "remember, renew, and perpetuate the legacy of Pope John XXIII's vision to open the windows of the Roman Catholic Church to the world. This visual image of an open window helps us better understand the different kind of engagement that the Church leadership envisioned with this Council. An open window invites a person to look out into the world, while at the same time welcoming the gaze of the outside world in." People of all faiths and backgrounds are welcome to attend.

This year's festival will take place on Sunday, Sept. 8 and will feature guest speakers Sister Simone Campbell and Dr. Massimo Faggioli. Campbell, who is best known as the organizer of the "Nuns on the Bus" social justice lobbying group, will talk about how Vatican II continues to inspire and encourage Catholics to live in "right relationship with each other and the earth." Faggioli will speak about the legacy of Vatican II in the contemporary Church.

Additionally, Father Ray East will lead the liturgy at 4:30 p.m. East is a nationally-recognized inspirational speaker from St. Therese of Avila Parish in Washington, D.C.

Check-in begins at 12:30 p.m., and the program will run from 1 to 6 p.m., at a cost of $25. For an additional $10, participants may choose to attend lunch beforehand, at 11:30 a.m. Advance registration is required for both events.

To print and mail a registration form, go to http://www.openwindowsfestival.com. To register by phone, call the Retreat and Conference Center at 410-442-3120 between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. Direct any questions to either Tessa_Barnett@RCCBonSecours.com or Lynn_Lieberman@RCCBonSecours.com.