By Tim Johnson
FORT WAYNE — “You and I are called to be men of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are called to be men of the Eucharist. We are called to live the truth in charity. In a word, we are called to be saints.” These words of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades during his homily at the Mass that concluded the first Diocesan Men’s Conference on Saturday, Feb. 19, summed up the message that was heard by 1,300 men gathered from across the diocese and beyond.
The first Diocesan Men’s Conference with the theme, “Can You Handle the Truth,” was sponsored by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and Rekindle the Fire men’s ministry, prominent at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne, which was active in the promotion and presentation of the conference, including a display of stage fireworks at the opening of the event.
Throughout the day, W. Keith Moore, a Catholic singer-songwriter from Nashville, Tenn., and Oxford, Miss., shared his music and told his story of conversion from being an Evangelical Protestant and Methodist to finding the Catholic faith.
He asked the men gathered at the Fort Wayne Memorial Coliseum Exposition Center to “dig” and not become complacent in their faith.
Moore also encouraged the men to get to know the Blessed Mother. Getting to know Mary helped Moore to know Jesus.
Father Donald Calloway, a priest of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception from Steubenville, Ohio, spoke about the sacrament of Reconciliation. He stressed the importance of frequent Confession. He used an analogy of parents changing a baby’s diaper. Parents do not delay in cleaning the child who has soiled himself. When we spiritually soil ourselves, Father Calloway said, “you will need a spiritual ‘diaper change.’” And because we sin so often, and “sin stinks,” we need to frequent the sacrament of Reconciliation.
Throughout the day, long lines were the norm as many men took time to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation.
In the afternoon session, Father Calloway told the compelling story of his conversion. The conversion story from a runaway teen with drug addictions to a Marian priest is told in his book, “No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy.”
Through the reading of a book about the alleged apparitions of the Blessed Mother in Medjugorje and then follow-up with a parish priest, Father Calloway experienced a radical conversion. His humor and curtness of his own disordered passions and sins hit a nerve with many of the men at the conference drawing long lines outside his booth in the lobby for autographed copies of the book and to briefly chat with the priest.
Catholic theologian, author and professor of philosophy at Boston College Dr. Peter Kreeft spoke about his book, “Jesus Shock,” and what about the name of Jesus is so shocking in the world. He said the Church has two tasks: to comfort the afflicted; and to afflict the comfortable.
He spoke of how Jesus shocked everyone He ever met. Whenever, for example, the Pharisees would try to “pin Him down,” they never got their way.
He encouraged the men to spend more time listening in prayer, and less time talking.
Kreeft spoke of beauty in the Church, which was why, he said, he became Catholic. He recalled as a child, before his conversion to Catholicism, he visited St. Patrick Cathedral in New York. He recalled the church’s magnificent beauty. He asked his father, who could not provide an answer, if the Catholics have it wrong, how can they build something so beautiful?
He encouraged the men to partake of Eucharistic Adoration. Every man, Kreeft said, is a cathedral — made in the image of God — and our prayer should be that we have eyes to see beauty in Jesus.
Kreeft’s afternoon session was on cultural warfare. He encouraged men to give God 15 minutes every single day in prayer. “It will transform your life,” Kreeft said, but added it would not be easy, that even with all the technology that is supposed to make life easier and save time, it actually consumes time.
Martin Wheeler, a member of Most Precious Blood Parish in Fort Wayne, told Today’s Catholic: “What I will take with me from Rekindle the Fire is just that — I am not alone, we are not alone, we have never been abandoned or left alone to fend for ourselves in this world. Jesus is more alive today more than ever. All I need to do is ask Him for help.”
Brian Frecker of St. Aloysius Parish, Yoder, said, “It was a good day. I liked W. Keith Moore, his conversion story and how he lives his faith.”
Keith Burns of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne said what he took with him was “a challenge to be a better man, a better husband, a better father.”
Jim Cole of St. Joseph Parish, Bluffton, said, “It was beautiful. Rekindle the Fire was an inspiration.”
Cole’s son Bret of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Fort Wayne, said of the day, “It exceeded all expectations.”
Father Donald Calloway, a Marianist priest, greets men at his table after his talk at the diocesan-Rekindle the Fire Men’s Conference held Saturday, Feb. 19, at the Fort Wayne Memorial Coliseum Exposition Center. Throughout the day, men welcomed the opportunity to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation and stood in long lines.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.