Every year in October, I attend the Connecticut Catholic Men’s Conference, an event that challenges Catholic men to look into their hearts and discover their worth as servants of Christ and His Church. The conference calls the men to consider their call to personal apostolate. Each man of God has a mission to love his family, to do his work as to the Lord, and to carry the Gospel to a world that is lost.
For the past two years, I have served as a member of the conference planning committee, mostly posting videos and blogging for the CCMC website. In some ways, my position has given me a unique insight into the spirit behind this incredible event. Now that the 2018 conference is over, I wanted to offer a few thoughts on what impressed me most about the men who worked to put the event together, the speakers who offered us great insights, and the attendees who brought their willing hearts in a spirit of fellowship with their brothers in Christ.
In the End, Grace…
I am always amazed that a group of ordinary believers, committed Catholic men who care deeply about the spiritual welfare of their brothers, can put together this incredible spiritual experience and see it through to completion. For my part, I must confess that my efforts on behalf of the conference are always very little compared to the work of the other men who secure our speakers, handle registration, work with our vendors, organize Confession and Adoration, plan the Mass, and carry out every little task from beginning to end.
That these men are able to deal with this monumental undertaking is a testament to the power of the Holy Spirit to impart God’s grace into the hearts of willing servants who roll up their sleeves and get the job done. I am always overwhelmed with the joy, the passion and the sense of satisfaction the men of the planning committee express as they willingly pour themselves into their roles and bring their own unique gifts to bear on the conference.
But grace works too in the hearts of the speakers, who, while not coordinating with one another, are able to present a unified message of hope and healing to the men who attend. It speaks powerfully in the words of our vendors who become ministers of the Gospel to the men who are looking for materials to enhance their spiritual life. It overwhelms the men who come to Confession as they encounter Christ in the godly priests who hear their sins and offer absolution. But most of all, it shines brightly in the fellowship these great men experience with one another throughout the day.
The Wounds that heal…
One presentation at the conference that moved me in a particularly profound way was “The Father Wound and Beyond” by speaker Bob Kroll of With All Your Heart - An apostolate for Healing (https://www.withallyourheart.org/). Bob had a message of hope for men – and indeed for all people – who have experienced the pain of abuse and neglect at the hands of their fathers.
Bob offered examples from his own life to bring the reality of the inner hurt home to the men in the audience. His story of personal healing provided a foundation for understanding the scars that are left upon our lives by our fathers’ sins and personal struggles. It brought the hidden inner agony so many men experience into the light of Christ’s love. Bob’s words allowed the audience to come to a deeper understanding of how these wounds can influence their actions and interfere with their Christian journeys; as well as how they can find healing and grace to overcome the hurt and find wholeness and peace in their lives.
However, as moving as Bob’s presentation was, the most profound aspect of the experience was what happened afterward. I watched as men met for lunch and shared openly and freely their own stories of abuse and fatherly neglect. I saw the catharsis and empowerment it brought to the men, many of whom were revealing these hurts for the first time in their lives. For some, it brought tears; for others, deep joy and deliverance. Truly strongholds were broken that day, and the lines for Confession were longer than usual, as men patiently waited to experience the healing power of the sacrament and find renewal and release in the love of Christ.
What Else the Conference Offered…
In addition to all that I observed during my time there – for there were parts of the event I missed while taking care of many important tasks during the day – I know the men were blessed by the other speakers: Deacon Doug Hoffman, Jason Calvi, and Father Bill Casey. These men spoke to important issues facing Catholic men today, challenging their grateful audience to step up and take hold of the calling God has placed on each and every heart there. They learned important truths about their faith and were comforted in their concerns about the struggles and scandals facing the Church today.
I took great comfort too in knowing that throughout the day, men had the opportunity to come before the sacred presence of Christ in Eucharistic Adoration and to celebrate the Eucharist with their brothers at the end of the day. I know also that Hartford, Connecticut Archbishop Leonard Blair was there to answer important questions on the hearts of the men; that the musicians gave men the opportunity to hear and sing words of praise to their Creator; and most of all, that the men themselves were there to build up one another in the faith by the strength each one brought to the conference.
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You…
For the past six years, I have had the privilege of attending the Connecticut Catholic Men’s Conference. That wonderful journey for me began with a simple invitation from my father-in-law, Gerald Davino, one of the greatest men I know. He bought my ticket and met me at that first conference, and I have been coming ever since. I have seen how the conference has helped him to grow; and I have seen how it has humbled me and helped me to see my need for God. Thank you, Dad, for that.
My place on the planning committee came about because an article I posted online caught the attention of the CCMC’s director, Ken Santopietro. His invitation brought me into a fellowship of beloved brothers and allowed me to share my meager talents and help promote the event online. It led to many more encounters with godly men for video interviews, time with the speakers on trips to and from the airport and deep conversations with the men who have become part of this special family of faith. Thank you Ken, for asking me to come on board.
Finally, I am grateful to my Savior, for all the various happenings that have brought me to this point on my journey as a man seeking to honor God by all I do. The unfolding of His plan in my life and the divinely ordained meetings and events have led to many blessings in my life. I have experienced great times with these incredible men, and it leaves me in awe of the greatness of the One who has called me to follow Him forever. Thank you Jesus, for inspiring the leaders to serve you, for helping them to create conferences to bring men together in fellowship and purpose, and for sending the men who attend back to their parishes and families to live out the lessons you teach them day by precious day.
A Message to Those Who Haven’t Come…
I urge all men who are looking to know more about their relationship with Christ to search out similar men’s events in your area. Consider what it can mean for you to take that step of faith and come out to a conference like the one I attended. If you do, I challenge you to bring your best self and to be open to all that God will do through the speakers, the shepherds, the songs and the sharing that will take place.
I challenge men also, to grow in the knowledge of your own manhood and to find your own place within your parishes as you carry out God’s specific calling on your life – your personal apostolate. Love your families well. Study God’s Word, attend Mass and read all you can about your faith. Seek out good men like the speakers I heard and learn from them as well. It can and will change your life. God bless!