.- The 10th Annual Worcester Diocesan Catholic Menâs Conference produced the eventâs first sell-out, drawing close to 1,300 people, including walk-ins and vendors, one conference organizer, Terry Wehner, said. People flocked to the DCU Center Saturday to hear a diverse array of speakers and share the faith with each other. âI think men are hungry,â said conference co-chairman Msgr. Thomas J. Sullivan, diocesan chancellor. âMen have a spiritual need to develop a closer relationship with God that they donât always get that in their everyday life. They really feel fed today and affirmed in this need. They feel energized to know other men who have the same desire for holiness.â
Highlights included talks by Australian lay minister Matthew Kelly, former police officer and current evangelist Jesse Romero, Msgr. Stuart Swetland of Mount St. Maryâs University of Maryland; Jesuit priest, author, and EWTN host Father Mitch Pacwa, and American G.K. Chesterton Society President Dale Ahlquist. In addition, local Bishop Robert McManus celebrated a closing Mass, priests from throughout the diocese heard confessions, and nearly two dozen organizations handed out brochures and sold wares to the crowd.
Bishop McManus preached about repenting and forgiving others, using the dayâs Gospel, in which Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, but told her to sin no more.
Matthew Kelly, a best-selling author and business consultant, struck a theme in the opening talk with his challenge to the crowd to use the faith to become âa better version of yourself.â Many in the audience seemed to take the advice to heart.
âThatâs sort of been the theme for me â each year trying to take one more step,â said Richard Dewey, 55, a building contractor from Fitchburg, who attended his second conference with his son-in-law, Dan Pitre. âYou donât try to boil the ocean. Just take one more step. Go to confession one more time. Do one more thing,â Mr. Dewey said.
Pietro Curini, a 26-year-old network administrator from Millbury, said he attended his fourth conference in an effort to âbe more reflective in my faith.â
âItâs not easy to do in society, but itâs encouraging seeing people do it here, in front of others who are more accepting,â he said.
Ronald LaReau was attending his first conference. Asked why he attended, he laughed and admitted that he came at the behest of his wife.
âI didnât come in with a lot of expectations,â the 67-year-old business consultant from Leicester said. âAs I walk around and talk to people, I see a lot of Knights of Columbus people here, which is nice. But mostly, as a Catholic âgentleman,â as I like to say, I like to hear how other men are relating to the Catholic faith. It is very impressive.â
Others sought comfort in the Catholic community and the uplifting message.
âMy life is so much more improved as a Catholic man being at this conference,â said James Sandidi, 52, an electronics engineer working in Boxboro. âBeing with men who come here with one common goal â to love Jesus â is a wonderful experience. I canât tell you how much I look forward to this the whole year. Itâs just the high point of the year â people with like needs and like beliefs, all focused on one goal: the Catholic faith.â
âItâs unfortunate itâs just once a year,â added Mike Blaney, also 52, from Westboro. âItâs very helpful and very appropriate. It helps you reflect on yourself. The fact that a number of the speakers are lay people â¦ I find it very beneficial to see folks like myself who have so much faith.â
The speaking program included three EWTN-TV hosts from a variety of backgrounds.
Msgr. Swetland, who hosts a TV program aimed at college students, spoke about the importance of confession. To become holy, he said, we need to âbe totally transparent,â to confess our sins and faults and âallow God to find us.â
âThat begins in the sacrament of confession,â he said. âStanding before God being totally transparent, not holding anything back, admitting âHere I am with all my faults.â What we discover is just how much God loves us.â
While in Worcester last weekend, Father Pacwa, a Scripture scholar, made a special presentation at St. Johnâs Parish in the city. At the menâs conference he discussed St. Paulâs Theology of the Cross.
Discussing St. Paulâs writings about the âcentralityâ of the cross to the Catholic faith, Father Pacwa noted how people of other faiths â Mormons, Muslims and Jehovahâs Witnesses â do not believe in the crucifixion. This, he said, âdistorts Christâ and âdistorts heaven.â
âWhen they distort Christ, they no longer look forward to a heaven where they will be with God and see the Lord face to face,â Father Pacwa said. âAll three of them look for a heaven basically just as âwhat I experience â that the good times I experience on earth will continue forever.ââ
Father Pacwa also said if we see Christ as being âaccursedâ â by his death on the Cross â we also could see taking the Body and Blood as an opportunity to âinoculateâ ourselves from sin the way people did from a disease like polio.
âWe should think about Christ in the same way,â Father Pacwa said. âNot only does he become accused by hanging on the tree; by dying on the tree he becomes a dead curse, and if we have faith in his death to redeem us from the curse of the law, this faith inoculates us from the life of sin â sin that controls our lives.â
Mr. Ahlquist talked about G..K. Chestertonâs view of whatâs wrong with the world â big government, big business, feminism and public education, which undermine the family. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the famed writerâs book âWhatâs Wrong with the World?â
Chesterton favored small, family-owned businesses and local government, Mr. Ahlquist said; otherwise no one is accountable and everyone becomes dependent on the system.
Unlike men, women can be mothers, the most important role in society, Mr. Ahlquist said, to applause. Women have strength on the spot, called industry, and men have strength in reserve, called laziness, so women are in charge of the household, the most important place, he said. Men learn one skill and go out to use it to provide for their families. When women leave the home, big government is happy because it can replace the family, and big business is happy because it can get cheap labor, he said.
Chesterton called education truth in the state of transmission, and said children should be taught the oldest ideas, Mr. Ahlquist said. He said most people are educated wrongly. Specialists, not well-rounded individuals, are created. The only ones who seem to have nothing to do with childrenâs education is the parents. He asked how it can be more important to teach a child to avoid a disease than to teach him to value life.
âYou are the problem,â Mr. Ahlquist told listeners. âYou are also the solution.â He urged them to start small businesses, get involved in local government and home-school their children, send them to good Catholic schools or get the public schools to read Chesterton.
âIf we want women to start acting like women, men have to start acting like men,â he said, and spoke of chivalry and devotion to Mary.
Chesterton was a prophet and thereâs a good case to be made heâs a saint, Mr. Ahlquist said.
Printed with permission from The Catholic Free Press, newspaper from the Diocese of Worcester, Mass.