When Dean Wendel leaves North Manchester during the early morning hours for South Bend on Feb. 18, he’ll be doing so with 50 friends, in a chartered bus. Notre Dame football game, you say? Not quite.
As much as he likes football, Wendel and the dedicated group from St. Robert Bellarmine have a more important destination and mission in mind — attending the annual Rekindle the Fire Diocesan Men’s Conference at the Century Center. The husband, father and farmer is once again excited so many men from his parish will join hundreds of others from across the diocese for Indiana’s largest Catholic men’s conference.
All men are called
It used to be the case that Wendel was just along for the ride, but after converting to Catholicism in 2000 and attending the past six Rekindle conferences, he has changed his life permanently — and for the better.
“Rekindle the Fire is an avenue to grow closer as a parish and for us to grow in our faith,” he said.
Wendel has become more active in his parish and stepped up to the plate spiritually in ways that were previously uncomfortable to him, including leading family prayer at meals.
“It’s about being the men God is calling us to be,” he said.
Gary Shingledecker of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Mishawaka feels much the same way. He has made attending the conference a yearly tradition. For him and for so many others, the event has had the power to break down walls, awaken the spirit and spark change. The conference, he believes, has a purpose — more like a duty — specifically targeted at him: to stand up for his faith at all times.
“I’m the person who needs to do this. It’s not someone else’s job. The conferences have helped me get off the fence — to do more and learn more,” said Shingledecker.
By that he means becoming active in the Knights of Columbus and serving as a eucharistic minister for the homebound. He credits Rekindle the Fire for empowering him to more willingly share about his Catholic faith in everyday conversations. “It’s my responsibility as a Catholic man to represent the faith, to defend our faith.”
The conference proves to be a catalyst for spiritual change, enabling men to more fully embrace their Catholic faith in word and action. What makes it possible is a Holy Spirit-filled day that features nationally recognized Catholic speakers, reconciliation, eucharistic Adoration, Catholic vendors and Mass with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.
This year’s theme, “Takin’ it to the Streets,” is a universal call to Catholic men to “go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” Just like the previous six diocesan conferences, this year will again highlight some of the country’s best Catholic speakers: Patrick Madrid, Doug Barry and Chris Padgett.
Patrick Madrid, popular author, apologist and radio host, describes his talk as a “practical reflection” that will include Scripture passages, colorful stories and real-life scenarios with which men of all ages and backgrounds, single and married, will connect. A husband and father of 11 children and 21 grandchildren, Madrid has a wealth of insights that he hopes will enlighten men on their path to a stronger, more mature relationship with Christ.
“I plan to reinforce the message that Catholic men are not alone on their journey,” he said.
Back by popular demand is Doug Barry, founder of the Catholic ministry RADIX and host of EWTN’s Life on the Rock, who just like a few years ago at the conference in Fort Wayne, plans to inspire men to be leaders and not followers.
“My hope is that men come away with a stronger, deeper conviction to actively respond to their duty on every level, every way and in every circumstance that God has placed them in,” said Barry.
The time is now, he said, for men to rise up individually and collectively, against a tide of destructive forces.
“Our society is crumbling, our culture is upside down and swimming in chaos. The responsibility that Catholic men have to form themselves in heroic prayer and action during these turbulent times carries with it a necessity like no other time in history. An event like this conference has the potential to reveal and ignite the God-given fire already ingrained in every man.”
No matter the wounds of their past or where men are on their journey, Chris Padgett believes the conference offers hope and renewal for everyone who attends.
“We serve a God of new beginnings! I believe that understanding where we have been enables us to set a course for the future and where we want to be,” said Padgett, a musician and author.
In the end, the husband and father of nine children wants men to walk away from the conference “knowing that trusting God enables us to take down the giants in our lives and become the men we are called by God to be. I want men to leave with hope that if they want to change and be a better husband and father, that change is not only probable, but it is absolutely possible.”
Register at Rekindlethefire.net
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