Every year, Mike Sumpter can count on the Rekindle the Fire diocesan men’s conference to provide something he needs: spiritual adrenaline.
“This conference,” said Sumpter, a parishioner and extraordinary minister of holy Communion at St. Michael Church in Plymouth, “is a shot of adrenaline that gets us fired up and to learn ways to be better people.”
Fellow parishioner and friend Phillip Powers says the conference builds up his Catholic faith and allows him to share without judgment with like-minded men.
“Men are here to get an infusion of faith to help with the challenges in their everyday lives,” explained Powers. “By attending the conference, you see you aren’t alone in your walk.”
And they certainly weren’t alone on Feb. 18, as nearly 1,000 other like-minded men filled the Century Center in downtown South Bend for the seventh annual conference. The single largest event dedicated to men in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, the Rekindle the Fire conference once again attracted some of the country’s foremost Catholic speakers: Patrick Madrid, Doug Barry and Chris Padgett.
The all-day event also featured question-and-answer segments with the speakers, reconciliation, eucharistic adoration, a variety of Catholic vendors and Mass with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. This year’s conference theme, “Takin’ it to the Streets,” was a reminder of every man’s call to strive for holiness by how they live.
Emceed by Father Jacob Meyer, pastor of St. Monica Church, and Father Ben Muhlenkamp, pastor of St. Louis Besancon, the conference brought together men of all ages and backgrounds to celebrate and learn about their faith, reconnect and deepen their relationship with Christ and develop and strengthen friendships with other men.
“It’s our hope and prayer that every man returns to their home fed with new insights into their faith, a renewed joy to serve their family, parish and community and the knowledge that God who loves them unconditionally is at work in them,” said Rekindle the Fire conference committee chairman Greg Ketcham.
Patrick Madrid, author and host of the radio program “The Patrick Madrid Show,” got things started by emphasizing the need for Catholic men to live, speak and suffer for the truth.
“I would say because it’s the most challenging time to be Catholic, it’s the best time to be Catholic,” said Madrid. “The power of our testimony as Catholic men is amazing. We need to be willing to say yes to God’s grace.”
In his typically fiery but uplifting approach, Doug Barry, host of EWTN’s “Life on the Rock,” reminded men that we’re in the midst of a spiritual battle that has eternal ramifications.
“We are facing a home invasion from the devil, who wants to devour us, our wives and our children,” he said. “We must be alert and ready to defend our homes and families. We must put on the armor of God because we’re in the thick of the fight.”
That means praying the rosary daily, attending Mass frequently and living authentic lives in accordance with the truths of the Catholic faith.
Musician and author Chris Padgett shared a revealing, yet inspiring message.
“As men, we’re good at pretending — wearing masks — because deep down we’re afraid of our brokenness, emptiness and wounds. But can we be honest with ourselves?” he asked. “We are broken and weak, but God is bigger than our weaknesses, and we aren’t trapped by our past. He can heal us and fill our emptiness. God is a God of new beginnings and He loves us when we feel we are unlovable.”
As is the tradition, Bishop Rhoades concluded the day by celebrating Mass. As always, his message was a call to action.
“The world, and I would say our culture today, considers much of the Christian faith and the authentic Christian life as foolishness,” said Bishop Rhoades. “The question and the challenge for you and for me is: ‘Do we have the courage to be fools for Christ?’ If we wish to be holy and perfect, as our heavenly Father is holy and perfect, we have to have the courage to be considered fools and to be treated as such. May we not be afraid to be fools for Christ!”
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