Editor’s note: Catholic men’s conferences began in 1995 in Cincinnati, organized by the Greater Cincinnati Men’s Fellowship. These encounters with Christ, some drawing upwards of 4,000 men, have since spread to 65 venues across the country. The oldest conference associated with a diocese is in Worcester, Mass., and Bishop Robert McManus reflects his diocese’s 10th-anniversary event.
With great enthusiasm, I am looking forward to the 10th anniversary Worcester Diocesan Catholic Men’s Conference. We will convene at the DCU Center March 20.
I am very proud of the fact that we are the first diocese in the United States to have a 10th anniversary conference. The conference is one of the finest developments in our diocesan history. And, there are now 65 such conferences in the nation.
This gathering represents an important opportunity for evangelization every year. It is always celebrated in late Lent and has become a wonderful way to prepare for Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter.
Its purpose is to assist Catholic men to conform themselves more closely to Christ. Our men seek to increase their participation in the life of the Church and strengthen themselves spiritually to be faithful witnesses in a changing world.
It is inspiring to see 1,000 Catholic men, with their sons and grandsons, their brothers and fathers and their friends, join together to listen to stimulating presentations, go to confession, actively participate in the Mass, and return to their families and their parishes renewed in the faith.
A conference staple is always offering the sacrament of penance. Fifty of our diocesan priests and our two retired bishops will join me in hearing confessions.
It is a sacrifice for our priests to hear confessions on a Saturday afternoon as they are preparing for their own parish liturgies. It is equally inspirational to see virtually every man at the conference go to confession and receive the grace of the Lord’s forgiveness.
In addition, we have some marvelous keynoters.
Jesse Romero, a lay evangelist from southern California, will be with us once again. He spoke here in 2003. He will address our men on “Evangelizing Like an Apostle.” He brings both humor and fire to his talks, and I know all the men will enjoy him.
We live in a time of renewed interest in the works of G.K. Chesterton, the most famous convert to the Catholic Church in his time. Dale Ahlquist, the president of the Chesterton Society of America, returns to our conference as well. He will speak on the 100th anniversary of Chesterton’s celebrated book What’s Wrong With the World?, and I’m confident that his talk will win still more disciples to Chesterton.
We are honored to welcome Australian-born Matthew Kelly to Worcester for the first time. This fine man has already spoken to more than 4 million people in 50 countries. One of his numerous books, Rediscovering Catholicism, has helped many on their journey back to the Church. “Is Catholicism Still Relevant?” will be his subject.
Msgr. Stuart Swetland of Mount St. Mary’s University is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Rhodes Scholar and convert (while at Oxford University). He will give the talk that will precede our participants’ receiving the sacrament of penance. He simply entitles the presentation “To Be Reconciled to God.”
Finally, it will be a joy to welcome Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa to our conference. The president of Ignatius Productions, he will offer us a reflection on St. Paul’s theology of the cross. I know we will have a richer experience of Holy Week for his presence among us.
It is my hope that many Catholic men, from the Diocese of Worcester and beyond, will join us for this marvelous day of faith and have a more blessed Easter for participating in it.
Most Reverend Robert McManus is bishop of the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts. For more information on the men’s conference, go to www.firstmensconf.org.