UPDATE: ‘Proud to practice faith’: Speakers urge men to pray, reignite beliefs

February 26, 2024 at 5:14 p.m.
New York Jets Hall of Famer and Colts Neck resident Joe Klecko presents a keynote address during the annual Catholic Men for Jesus Christ conference Feb. 24 in St. Mary, Mother of God Church, Middletown. Hal Brown photo
New York Jets Hall of Famer and Colts Neck resident Joe Klecko presents a keynote address during the annual Catholic Men for Jesus Christ conference Feb. 24 in St. Mary, Mother of God Church, Middletown. Hal Brown photo


Several prominent Catholics — including a pro football Hall of Famer — challenged diocesan men to pray, understand sin and face temptations head-on, especially during Lent.


Former New York Jets lineman Joe Klecko, a member of the team’s notorious “New York Sack Exchange,” shared his life’s playbook during the 27th annual Catholic Men for Jesus Christ Conference Feb. 24.


PHOTO GALLERY: 2024 Catholic Men for Jesus Christ conference

“People think all football players are tough as nails, but it’s not always true. In 1992, I filed for bankruptcy,” he told the men gathered in St. Mary Mother of God Church, Middletown.


“I had to work again and, with the inspiration of my wife, I began to pray rosaries to Our Lady of Success on my commute. I started a new life as a daily communicant as well,” the Colts Neck native said of his second career, which began when he retired from the Indianapolis Colts after the 1988 season.


Strengthening Faith

 

“This Rosary is more powerful than you think,” he said, explaining how it strengthened his faith.


“Only 17% of Catholics in America attend Mass, but we can change that,” he added. “When I speak at other events, I make it known that I am proud to practice the faith.”


The daylong conference included a Mass and, in his homily, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., urged the men to “face temptations head-on” this Lent.


“My brothers, we have entered the desert like Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit. But we are not alone,” he said.


The Bishop also encouraged them to go to Confession: “Don’t be afraid to go. Priests, like all of us here, need Confession too.”


He issued a challenge: “If you have been lukewarm, light that fire again; if you have been active, become even stronger in living our baptismal commitment as Catholic Men for Jesus Christ.”


Old Testament stories still resonate


Colorado-based evangelist Tim Glemkowski focused on the “whys” of the faith and said the Old Testament remains relevant.


“I grew up in a Polish household. We were average Catholics; like many, we never questioned the 'whys’ to these things,” he said.


“We look at Adam; this famous story relates to us men today. Adam lacked courage to defend his wife, Eve, when the serpent tricked them,” he said.


“Like in Genesis, we must understand how evil sin is, in order to know what true freedom is. The only one who can save us is Jesus, and Mary, the one who crushes the serpent.”


Marian devotion


Another speaker, French author Xavier Reyes-Ayral, told of his family’s struggles during World War I and of his devotion to Mary, especially her messages as Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Akita.


“Repent now, while you still have the chance! Do not be in a state of mortal sin,” he said, repeating the message of Our Lady of Fatima. He said this message must be spread.


He also warned about division and insider attacks in the Church.


“We must not point fingers at each other in the Church: Our Lady asks us to stay close to her and her son,” he said.

French author Xavier Reyes-Ayral offers his presentation during the conference. John Spinelli photo 

 

During the conference, the Catholic Men for Jesus Christ organizing committee posthumously awarded its Champion of Faith award to George Rose, who died in August. Rose was a lay leader in the Diocese and one of the founders of the men's rally.


The day ended with a Eucharistic procession, assisted by members of the Vincent T. Lombardi Knights of Columbus Council.


Making an impression


Young adults Justin McCarthy of St. Theresa Parish, Little Egg Harbor, and Eric Dzenis of St. Denis Parish, Manasquan, said they found common interests at the event.


Dzenis, noting it was his first conference, said: “I wanted to get out of my comfort zone this Lent and wanted to hear different perspectives in people’s faith.”


Noting he had a science degree, Dzenis said he “found it interesting how Glemkowski showed how the Big Bang Theory was biblical” and “said it was Catholic scientists who supported the theory at first, not secularists.”


McCarthy said he has attended the conference each year since 2017.


“It’s amazing see brothers come together and love Jesus; I look forward to it every year.” He said he thought Klecko “explained very well how to be an example of faith, especially regarding our families. How do we expect them to follow the faith, if we are not faith role models ourselves?”


Roger Stolte of St. Catherine Laboure Parish, Middletown, said some of the speakers surprised him,


“Who would have known Klecko is devoted to praying the Rosary 10 times a day? It’s incredible to see both celebrity speakers and fellow Catholics come together with this same life mission and purpose,” he said.



Bishop O'Connell accepts the gifts of bread and wine from two young participants during the Mass he celebrated at the Catholic Men for Jesus Christ conference. Hal Brown photo

 



Related Stories

Several prominent Catholics — including a pro football Hall of Famer — challenged diocesan men to pray, understand sin and face temptations head-on, especially during Lent.


Former New York Jets lineman Joe Klecko, a member of the team’s notorious “New York Sack Exchange,” shared his life’s playbook during the 27th annual Catholic Men for Jesus Christ Conference Feb. 24.


PHOTO GALLERY: 2024 Catholic Men for Jesus Christ conference

“People think all football players are tough as nails, but it’s not always true. In 1992, I filed for bankruptcy,” he told the men gathered in St. Mary Mother of God Church, Middletown.


“I had to work again and, with the inspiration of my wife, I began to pray rosaries to Our Lady of Success on my commute. I started a new life as a daily communicant as well,” the Colts Neck native said of his second career, which began when he retired from the Indianapolis Colts after the 1988 season.


Strengthening Faith

 

“This Rosary is more powerful than you think,” he said, explaining how it strengthened his faith.


“Only 17% of Catholics in America attend Mass, but we can change that,” he added. “When I speak at other events, I make it known that I am proud to practice the faith.”


The daylong conference included a Mass and, in his homily, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., urged the men to “face temptations head-on” this Lent.


“My brothers, we have entered the desert like Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit. But we are not alone,” he said.


The Bishop also encouraged them to go to Confession: “Don’t be afraid to go. Priests, like all of us here, need Confession too.”


He issued a challenge: “If you have been lukewarm, light that fire again; if you have been active, become even stronger in living our baptismal commitment as Catholic Men for Jesus Christ.”


Old Testament stories still resonate


Colorado-based evangelist Tim Glemkowski focused on the “whys” of the faith and said the Old Testament remains relevant.


“I grew up in a Polish household. We were average Catholics; like many, we never questioned the 'whys’ to these things,” he said.


“We look at Adam; this famous story relates to us men today. Adam lacked courage to defend his wife, Eve, when the serpent tricked them,” he said.


“Like in Genesis, we must understand how evil sin is, in order to know what true freedom is. The only one who can save us is Jesus, and Mary, the one who crushes the serpent.”


Marian devotion


Another speaker, French author Xavier Reyes-Ayral, told of his family’s struggles during World War I and of his devotion to Mary, especially her messages as Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Akita.


“Repent now, while you still have the chance! Do not be in a state of mortal sin,” he said, repeating the message of Our Lady of Fatima. He said this message must be spread.


He also warned about division and insider attacks in the Church.


“We must not point fingers at each other in the Church: Our Lady asks us to stay close to her and her son,” he said.

French author Xavier Reyes-Ayral offers his presentation during the conference. John Spinelli photo 

 

During the conference, the Catholic Men for Jesus Christ organizing committee posthumously awarded its Champion of Faith award to George Rose, who died in August. Rose was a lay leader in the Diocese and one of the founders of the men's rally.


The day ended with a Eucharistic procession, assisted by members of the Vincent T. Lombardi Knights of Columbus Council.


Making an impression


Young adults Justin McCarthy of St. Theresa Parish, Little Egg Harbor, and Eric Dzenis of St. Denis Parish, Manasquan, said they found common interests at the event.


Dzenis, noting it was his first conference, said: “I wanted to get out of my comfort zone this Lent and wanted to hear different perspectives in people’s faith.”


Noting he had a science degree, Dzenis said he “found it interesting how Glemkowski showed how the Big Bang Theory was biblical” and “said it was Catholic scientists who supported the theory at first, not secularists.”


McCarthy said he has attended the conference each year since 2017.


“It’s amazing see brothers come together and love Jesus; I look forward to it every year.” He said he thought Klecko “explained very well how to be an example of faith, especially regarding our families. How do we expect them to follow the faith, if we are not faith role models ourselves?”


Roger Stolte of St. Catherine Laboure Parish, Middletown, said some of the speakers surprised him,


“Who would have known Klecko is devoted to praying the Rosary 10 times a day? It’s incredible to see both celebrity speakers and fellow Catholics come together with this same life mission and purpose,” he said.



Bishop O'Connell accepts the gifts of bread and wine from two young participants during the Mass he celebrated at the Catholic Men for Jesus Christ conference. Hal Brown photo

 


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