February 25, 2020 // Bishop

Conference urges men to grow in holiness

On Saturday, Feb. 22, around 1,500 men attended the 10th annual Rekindle the Fire Men’s Conference. This year’s conference took place at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne with the theme of “Where Is Your Focus in 20/20?”

The daylong series of talks by renowned Catholic speakers gave those who were present a better understanding of their role as Catholic men. They also experienced a foretaste of heaven during a Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, where the hundreds of brothers in Christ from across the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend sang praises to God.

During his homily, Bishop Rhoades said: “Holiness, spiritual perfection, that’s our calling. It’s my vocation. And it’s your vocation. The reason we came to this conference is to become better men, better husbands and fathers, and all of us closer disciples of Jesus Christ. That is the test of whether this conference is successful or not. Not how much you enjoyed it or how excellent the speakers were. But if you leave here a little holier, a little more like Christ, the Holy One of God.”

Photos by Brad Spaulding
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrates Mass to end the 10th annual Rekindle the Fire Men’s Conference Feb. 22 in Fort Wayne. A record of approximately 1,500 men from across the diocese attended this year’s event, which was a joyful combination of inspiration, reflection and catechesis.

Just being a part of the record-setting crowd seemed to be encouraging for the participants. There were men of all ages — from teens to young adults and middle-aged fathers to retirees.

The day provided ample opportunity for growth and reflection. Father Benjamin Muhlenkamp and Father Jacob Meyer emceed the event. The featured speakers were Marcus Grodi, Father Michael Schmitz, Jesse Romero and Bishop Rhoades.

Grodi, the host of “The Journey Home” on Eternal Word Television Network, led the first morning general session with a thought-provoking discussion of what it really means to “win” at the game of life. Grodi used the analogy of living life in terms of a game of Monopoly, emphasizing seven characteristics of a “winner” from a Catholic perspective.

Rather than playing the game for greed and personal gain, Grodi explained, the definition of a “winner” involves self-sacrifice, personal growth, gratitude, joy and responsibility toward others and toward the Earth.

Father Michael Schmitz speaks to the crowd of men about taking responsibility for themselves and for others.

During the second general session of the morning, Father Schmitz defined what it means to be a Catholic man.

“We need to reject passivity,” Father Schmitz said. He emphasized the need for men to take responsibility for themselves and to also take responsibility for others. “We do this by ‘digging in’ and ‘staying’ in the relationships in our present context, such as our family, our co-workers and our fellow parishioners,” he said.

“If you could be doing something else with your life, what would you be doing?” he asked the crowd. “Ninety-five percent of us wish we could be somewhere else in life, in relationships. But we are missing out on what God has for us right now.”

Catholic apologist, evangelist and speaker Jesse Romero signs books following his talk at the conference.

Romero, a bilingual, full-time Catholic lay evangelist and popular radio host, provided a high-energy presentation on how to fight against the lies of the devil during the afternoon general session. Using a boxing analogy, Romero said that confession and the Mass work like a “one-two punch” offense against Satan.

Romero also emphasized memorizing the Ten Commandments and the seven deadly sins in order to “form your conscience, so you can look at life as a child of God.” Praying the rosary daily also helps “take custody of your intellect.” All of these practices help men to fight against evil by being more fully attuned to their heavenly Father. At the end of the day, Bishop Rhoades led the men in the celebration of the Mass. Citing the theologian Léon Bloy, the bishop noted, “The only tragedy in life is not to become a saint.”

That’s what Rekindle the Fire is about: helping Catholic men grow in holiness, taking small steps on the road to sainthood.

The 2021 Rekindle the Fire Men’s Conference will take place Feb. 20 in South Bend.

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