Annual conference calls men of all generations to rebuild the Church
By Lois Rogers | Correspondent
Noted author Curtis Martin opened the annual Catholic Men for Jesus Christ Conference by inviting all to step forward on behalf of the Church.
Referring to the Apostles who responded to Jesus, Martin said, “Each had a love for Christ, and all lived with the radical fact that he was leading them to a different path. Jesus tells us to put out into the deep and have no fear. … What if you look at all the suffering on earth? What if we, like the Apostles, live in a radically different way in the time we have?”
Photo Gallery: Annual Catholic Menfor Jesus Christ conference
“What if we gather as a band of brothers … and go for it! Go forward in mission mode and move from mission to mission,” sharing the Good News, he continued. “It is time for us to recognize what God meant for us to do. It is time to do the uncomfortable thing – we can have a great impact on the world around us” addressing the ills that plague society with faith.
Martin, a Catholic radio/TV host and founder of FOCUS – the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, one of the fastest-growing apostolates in the United States – was among the keynote speakers at the 22nd annual conference held Feb. 23 in Middletown’s St. Mary Church.
Upward of 500 men of all generations from around the Trenton Diocese and beyond responded to the day’s theme, “Rebuild My Church,” a mandate given by Jesus to St. Francis of Assisi some 800 years ago in a time of crisis for the Church that echoed throughout the day. It was there in the words of Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., who celebrated the Mass.
Christianity, Martin said, is a “team sport, a contact sport. When Jesus gave the Apostles their commission, he launched them into the deep” to become fishers of man. He urged his listeners to make the Apostles their inspiration to do the same. “Go,” he said, “and set the world on fire.”
Called to Action
That call was underscored by Bishop O’Connell during the Mass that was concelebrated by Father Jeffrey Kegley, pastor of St. Mary Parish, and other priests in attendance.
In his homily, the Bishop urged participants to overcome arguments that the “gates of hell” have been “thrown wide open” by the crisis in the Church today and a society that “seduces us with evils” including abortion, disintegration of families and discrimination.
“It is this world, this life, that needs the Church, that needs faith, that needs Catholic Men for Jesus more than ever,” Bishop O’Connell said.
“We must ‘rebuild the Church’ in the face of all this – it is not an option, it is not a matter of choice. It is a matter of faith and hope and trust in the God who has placed this world and this life in our hands,” the Bishop said.
“We – all of us who have been baptized and have lived our lives since then trying, struggling to be Catholic Men for Jesus Christ with all our strengths, with all our weaknesses, with the grace and mercy and love of God at work in us in even in the darkest moments – we are the Church, a community of Faith in the Lord Jesus,” he continued.
The conference was open to all men seeking to grow in their walk with Jesus as they live out the Catholic faith. The busy lineup included morning and afternoon presentations by Martin as well as testimony by former NFL player and Philadelphia Eagles radio announcer Kevin Reilly on how his faith helped him fight to survive a rare cancer, which kept the audience in rapt attention.
Rounding out the program was Maximilian Ford, an English evangelist, singer, songwriter and founder of The Holy Spirit House, who is gaining a wide audience on both sides of the Atlantic. In his presentation, Ford focused on the healing power of Jesus as reflected in the Gospels.
Participants were also able to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation throughout the day, and long lines testified to the appreciation for the opportunity.
A youth track breakout session was offered for young men from eighth grade to college. Among them was Kyle Donlon, 14, who accompanied his dad, Daniel, to the conference. Members of St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, the two called it a great father and son event.
“I’ve attended for five or six years,” said Daniel Donlon, “but to share it together was a very good experience. It was very meaningful, as it was a great day to share one of the things I have been stressing with Kyle – the importance of a vocation as a man – to grow into his [future] role of husband and father.”
“I’m thankful that he is very enthusiastic about the Church – he’s an altar server in the parish,” Daniel Donlon continued.
Eric Starrs, 23, who recently moved from Philadelphia, was a first-time participant. He said he appreciated the scope, focus and atmosphere of the conference, adding that he was especially moved by Kevin Reilly’s story of faith and resilience of the human spirit. Starrs said it was great to be able to speak with the speakers during breaks.
“Being able to make that one-on-one personal connection was very meaningful to me,” he said. “I really loved it.”[[In-content Ad]]