Oklahoma City, Okla., Apr 2, 2022 / 06:00 am
On March 12, more than 800 Catholic men gathered in Norman for the 26th annual “In the Father’s Footsteps” Oklahoma Catholic Men’s Conference.
“We want to be here to support you,” said Ray Haefele, conference chairman, in his opening comments.
Adam Minihan, director of communications for the Diocese of Tulsa and host of the “Catholic Man Show,” emceed the program.
“Look around. Isn’t it amazing to see 800 men gathering to worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?” he said.
Father Joseph Jacobi, spiritual director of the Oklahoma Fellowship of Catholic Men, opened the morning with prayer.
Deacon Roy Forsythe, the conference co-chairman, introduced the first keynote speaker, Marcellino D’Ambrosio. The senior fellow of the Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology kicked off the morning with a talk titled “Keeping your kids Catholic.”
D’Ambrosio, “Dr. Italy,” as people have come to know him, shared his successes and failures with the men, saying it was humility that helped him grow in his faith.
“Our faith is not indoctrination,” he said. “How do kids spell love? It’s T-I-M-E.” D’Ambrosio urged participants to spend real time with their family and community, saying parents never know when children will have a “real question.” Those questions, he said, are opportunities for teachable moments.
“Most of the time there is a critical moment where people move from being a Sunday Catholic to really being a disciple, and that’s about an encounter the Lord has for them.”
“When we exhibit, even amid our anxiety, our struggles, our financial breakdowns, whatever crisis is going on, we exhibit faith, trust and serenity. When we fail, tell our kids we are forgiven sinners, pray with them, and they will never forget it. If our family is a place where our faces tell our kids they are loved and that God loves them, they may stray, but they will come back because they will not find that (love) in the world. The world is an unforgiving place. To find mercy, forgiveness and love in the Catholic community, with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and parents, that will bond them, and God will ultimately work, and he will work miracles.”
D’Ambrosio urged the men to define what it means to “keep their kids Catholic,” stating it must be a transformation from the inside out.
Jim Beckman, executive director of the Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis for the archdiocese, introduced the second keynote speaker, Monsignor James Shea, president of the University of Mary.
Monsignor Shea’s talk was titled “A life well lived: work, leisure and mercy.” Participants were given a free copy of his book, “From Christendom to Apostolic Mission: Pastoral Strategies for an Apostolic Age.”
“A Catholic men’s conference like this is a great witness, not just to Oklahoma, but to all of us,” Monsignor Shea said. “To have the courage and have the sense of community and manly fellowship to come together once a year in this way is tremendously impressive.”
He said we live in an age of communication where people feel their lives are spinning out of control. People struggle to find peace, he said, but feel pulled in so many different directions.
He challenged the men to think about what was precious to them and how they spend their time. He highlighted three habits men can adopt to achieve leisure. The first habit centers on solitude or daily silence.
“We are tortured by all the noise around us,” he said, adding that people need a rest from sarcasm, cynicism and self-importance, to hear the voice of Jesus.
The second habit, celebration, keeps Sunday holy. He said keeping Sunday apart is a clear witness that production and consumption do not own us.
The last habit is to serve others by going to the margins.
“We have to find a way to serve others in the midst of our life,” he told the men.
James Riter, conference team member and co-founder of the local podcast, “Red Dirt Catholics,” organized the young men’s portion of the day. Riter said men can’t know how to be fathers until they’ve learned how to be sons.
“We have a poverty of fatherhood in our culture,” Riter said. “Generally, the world is broken, men are broken. We have a great group of fathers in our diocese amidst a world that is broken, that is fatherless. Our hope for the young men’s luncheon is to have a place we can come directly to these men whose hearts are being shaped and formed, and also for the fathers who brought their sons, that they can have a place to be here with them, formed in their own fatherhood.”
The third keynote speaker, Steve Ray, kicked off the afternoon session with his talk “Giving yourself to God: Living a heroic and sacrificial life for God.”
“Kids will love what you love and if you love the Lord, they will follow you,” he told the men.
Ray asked men to consider what they spent their money on, especially things that consumed their thoughts and time.
“If you’re not giving your life first to Jesus Christ and his Church, then you’re giving your life to something else,” he said.
Matt Holland and his son, Garrett, drove from Stroud for the conference.
“They are trying to tell me no matter how bad you are doing or how good you are doing, or what scenario you are in, to always believe in God and keep God first,” Garrett Holland said.
Matt Holland said the day answered a lot of questions men struggle with like working for a promotion or to get more money, leaving Christ as secondary.
Brian Greenfield, director of campus ministry at a Jesuit high school in Tampa, Fla., closed out the day with a talk titled “Search for sons: Our sonship brings healing and direction to this culture.”
Greenfield shared his personal struggles with accepting God as his loving Father, citing three lies the enemy puts in the hearts of man: You are alone, you are unloved and unlovable, and you can be broken through your experiences.
“Brokenness stays with us,” he said, and the enemy uses that against us.
During the day, conference participants had access to confession and adoration. Archbishop Coakley and Bishop David Konderla, of Tulsa, celebrated the closing Mass.
Next year’s conference is scheduled for Feb. 25. For more information go to catholicmen.net
This article was first published by The Sooner Catholic March 24, 2022, and is reprinted by Catholic News Agency with permission.