A woman prays below a carving on Apparition Hill in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, June 25. Millions of pilgrims from all over the world have visited the site where six village children first claimed to see Mary in June 1981. (CNS photo/Dado Ruvic, Reuters)

The MIR Center of Arizona will hold its annual Marian conference Aug. 24-26 at the Double Tree Paradise Valley Resort in Scottsdale. The conference focuses on a deeper prayer life and devotion to the sacraments while promoting the purported messages of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje.

Although the Catholic Church has neither condemned nor approved the reported apparitions, millions — including many priests and religious — have traveled to the village of Medjugorje, nestled in the mountains of Bosnia, during the last 30 years.

Helen Zec, who has served on MIR’s board of directors for the last 25 years, said the upcoming conference weekend is an opportunity for reflection and prayer. The theme of the weekend, she said, is “Be Not Afraid: Living Faithfully in Challenging Times.”

“The purpose is to honor Our Lord and Our Lady,” Zec said. “It’s a weekend that gives the attendees time and space away from the business of their lives.”

The conference begins Friday evening with a rosary, communal penance service, adoration and Mass. Judy Webber, past president of MIR, hopes many will participate in the free events Friday night.

“It will be a night devoted to prayer for America,” Webber said. “We’ll have 14-16 priests available for confessions.”

Zec said speakers will focus on current social issues such as the HHS mandate, abortion and same-sex marriage.

“We need to remember we are Catholics and vote according to the teachings of our Church,” Zec said. “There are so many moral issues in this year’s election and we need to know what is expected of us as Catholics.”

Among the array of speakers are several priests, including Fr. Doug Lorig, pastor of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Scottsdale, and Fr. Jozo Grbes, OMF, a native of Bosnia who is now pastor of St. Jerome Parish in Chicago. There’s also Fr. Michael Lightner, director of the Apostolate of Prayer for the Milwaukee Archdiocese and campus ministries at the University of Wisconsin.

“‘Be Not Afraid’ is a great theme for the conference,” Fr. Lorig said. “Jesus said that… but I’m guessing [Our Lady] said it many times to Him — and to herself. The Mary we know was a woman of great faith — in God and in His great providential care of this world.”

An adoration chapel and bookstore will be available throughout the conference. The annual event attracts people from all around Arizona as well as Texas, California, New Mexico and other states.