By Tim Johnson
FORT WAYNE — A trio of dynamic speakers, Confessions, and Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades encouraged men to accept their role as spiritual leaders at the Feb. 25 diocesan men’s conference. Concentrating on the theme, “a call to lead,” Father Andrew Budzinski, parochial vicar of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne, offered a challenge to the 1,400 men gathered: “Consider how you will concretely lead in imitation of Christ in your parish, family and marriage.”
Held at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum and Exposition Center in Fort Wayne, the Feb. 26 event brought representatives from 70 parishes across the diocese and some participants traveling from as far away as Texas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. Rekindle the Fire and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend presented the second annual conference.
Franciscan Father David Mary Engo began the day’s talks centering on the sacrament of Reconciliation.
He described God’s mercy as the ocean and when we confess our sins, it is as if we are throwing drops of water in the ocean of mercy.
Priests from across the diocese heard confessions throughout the day.
Deepen our understanding of faith
In the afternoon session, Father Engo told the men, “We need to deepen our understanding of the faith,” and meet the challenges of the culture.
“God is very intolerant of sin,” Father Engo said. “He hates sin so much that He sent His only begotten Son to give His life as a ransom for us that we might be set free. That’s how intolerant Our Lord is of sin.”
Father Engo spoke of how every relationship has rules. And following the Church’s rules, he said, are how we reverence God, one another, ourselves and our marriages.
When the Church speaks on moral issues and moral truths, she is “saying them because they are truths, because she loves you, because she wants the greatest thing for you and your family, between you and your wife,” Father Engo said, “because she wants you to experience the greatest dignity, because she wants you to understand the great dignity you have with God, because she wants you to reverence your call to be a saint.”
Father Engo encouraged the men to honor the Blessed Mother.
“We need to entrust our families, our lives, our homes, our households, our vocations, our futures into her loving care,” he said.
“We must be men of prayer. We must be men of penance,” Father Engo said. “Men, I beg you to defend your household by bringing your family to prayer. … You must guard your family from what is happening in this world.”
“Be men of virtue, men of faith, men of hope, men of charity, justice, temperance, fortitude,” he emphasized.
Outburst of grace
Tim Staples, keynote speaker of the day, compared the outburst of grace Jesus received while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane to the outburst of grace bestowed on couples as they ratify their marriage vows.
“In marriage we are given opportunities every day to renew the ratification of the covenant,” Staples said.
To renew this ratification of vows, Staples and his wife challenge one another by finding “ways every day to say ‘not my will, but thy will be done.’”
Jesus lived His life for others, noted the Catholic Answers apologist from El Cajon, Calif.
Staples acknowledged that if husbands and wives do this, there will be an explosion of grace in their families.
“It will change our lives, our wives, our children,” Staples emphasized, “because it will be God, God’s power working through us.”
He said the essence of our spiritual lives is “to allow Christ to live in us and through us, through our cooperation with His grace, His life is lived in us and through us. We are called to take up our crosses daily. … Jesus says it’s every day. This is our reality. This is our lives as Catholics.”
Life of no regrets
Speaker Robert Rogers, a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne, experienced the loss of his wife and four children in a flash flood in Kansas in 2003.
Rogers’ message to the men was to “live a life of no regrets” and offered seven steps in which he told the story of his family, his loss, and how his faith supports him.
He encouraged the men to forgive others repeatedly. He said the men should love their spouse sacrificially as Jesus loves the Church. He gave His life for her.
He encouraged the men to love their family intentionally, to love their children “with all you got” and tell them “you love them.” He told fathers to spend time with their children, to sit down and eat together without interference of TV or other electronics. He encouraged dads to pray and read Scripture over their families and to be “the priest of their homes.”
He told fathers, “Don’t live to work; work to live.” He described “rocking chair decisions” as those they won’t regret.
Rogers encouraged the men to “trust God absolutely,” to “obey God unconditionally,” to “worship God wholeheartedly” and to “know God personally.”
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