December 23, 2016

Men’s conference participants offer public witness to faith

Father Rick Nagel, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, holds a monstrance while leading a eucharistic procession on Nov. 19 past the Indiana Statehouse during the 10th annual Indiana Catholic Men’s Conference. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Father Rick Nagel, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, holds a monstrance while leading a eucharistic procession on Nov. 19 past the Indiana Statehouse during the 10th annual Indiana Catholic Men’s Conference. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Some 800 men from across Indiana and beyond filled a cavernous hall on Nov. 19 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis for the 10th annual Indiana Catholic Men’s Conference.

Inside that building, the men were renewed in their faith through prayer and hearing inspiring presentations on the faith and how to live it out in their daily lives.

And in the middle of the conference, these men took their faith to the streets of downtown Indianapolis on a cold, blustery day in a long and winding eucharistic procession that went by the Indiana Statehouse and ended at St. John the Evangelist Church.

The attendees then filled the large church to capacity for a midday Mass celebrated by Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of the Lafayette, Ind., Diocese and concelebrated by several priests.

Jason Frey, a young husband and father from St. Louis Parish in Batesville, has attended most of the men’s conferences and was impressed by the eucharistic procession.

“It was a powerful walk of faith and witness of faith,” said Frey. “With 800 men, it was like unlike anything that I’d ever seen.”

David Gorsage, a member of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis, has likewise attended most of the conferences.

As the men walked in prayer by the Statehouse, he couldn’t help but think of the many officials who will soon be working there because they were chosen in a historic election days earlier.

“It’s what our country needs,” said Gorsage of the procession. “It’s about Catholic men who oversee families, businesses, communities. They’re coming together to pray for those that we’ve elected.

“We need healing. And this is a great gesture of our faith to help them know that we’re here to pray for our nation, our leaders and for healing.”

Bishop Doherty reflected on the election in his homily, saying that the conference “comes at a good time, because some people felt compelled to let go of themselves in order to become part of our political process. And that would be the worst crime and theft ever.”

He expressed his hope that the conference would help Catholic men to renew their convictions about their faith and hold it strongly, no matter how much the world might tempt them to compromise them.

Bishop Doherty urged his listeners to make their own the teaching of St. John Paul II that Jesus’ Incarnation brought about a heightened brotherhood among all humanity.

“If you think this is a glib piece of theology, think about what it means in terms of our national conversation right now,” said Bishop Doherty, “about the dignity of other people, whether they are documented or not, whether they are of our political party or not, whether they are from a non-Christian country or still living there or not.”

Conference speaker Father Larry Richards, a priest of the Diocese of Erie, Pa., also had the election on his mind when he spoke in the convention center, encouraging attendees to not judge people with whom they have sharp disagreements.

“We make them evil,” said Father Richards, a best-selling author and popular speaker. “Right? Instead of judging each other, we’ve got to start loving each other. We’ve got to do this.

“We’re not truly what it is to be a man or woman of Christ until we start praying that the person that we hate the most on this Earth gets to sit next to us forever in heaven.”

Walking over to a large crucifix on a stage in the hall, Father Richards said that sacrificing oneself for the good of another is what true masculinity is all about.

“This is graced masculinity,” he said. “This is what it is to be a man. Be strong enough to lay down your life in love. That is the light in the darkness. This is what it is to surrender yourself completely to the will of God. This was when Christ was most powerful, when he was most weak.

“This is what brought you salvation. Without this, you would be damned. This is what saved us. And so, when we’re showing the light in the darkness, we’re showing the power of love—God’s love. Not a weak love.”

The conference also occurred on the day before the conclusion of the Holy Year of Mercy, and Father Richards reminded his listeners of the importance of mercy in their lives.

“The definition of mercy is giving something good to someone who doesn’t deserve it,” he said. “Who is that, first of all? Us. We don’t deserve it. And so [Christ] gives us mercy. … We need to be men of forgiveness.”

In the afternoon session, Father Ronan Murphy, a priest of the Camden, N.J., Diocese and a native of Ireland, spoke about the power of different stars in the universe and how astronomers had discovered the Pistol Star, which is believed to be the strongest star in the Milky Way.

It gives out more energy in six seconds than the sun, which Earth orbits, gives out in a year.

“The stars differ in magnitude,” Father Murphy said. “Some clearly excel others. And so, too, the spiritual stars.

“Of all the spiritual stars, one outshines them all, namely, Our Lady. And we call her, ‘the Star of the Sea.’ Not only does she outshine them all, but she is the queen of all the other spiritual stars, … and the angels and the saints.”

Father Murphy encouraged men to call upon the saints, especially Mary through praying the rosary, in their daily lives.

The gathering ended with a presentation by Society of Our Lady of the Trinity Father James Blount, a popular speaker and preacher.

As men were lined up in the back of the hall to experience God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of penance—as they were during much of the daylong conference—Father Blount reminded all who could hear him of the power of God’s mercy.

“We are all broken,” he said. “We’re all sinners. Put that behind you. When God forgives your sins, he throws them into the deepest part of the ocean, the ocean of mercy. He throws them into the ocean and then he puts up a sign that says, ‘No fishing allowed.’ ”

Following up on the procession and Mass, Father Blount recalled the power the Eucharist can have in the lives of the faithful.

“If you have a quandary in your life, something that you don’t know the answer to, Jesus is waiting for you in the Eucharist,” he said. “It’s not for no reason that saints call it the bread of the strong. It’s not only at Mass that we receive the Lord in Communion, but also in adoration. In adoration, there are many graces present.”

Gorsage was happy to attend the conference with four of his five sons.

“It’s our faith,” he said. “Being a parent, I’m a first educator of my children. It’s an example that I need to provide them. It’s not just an event. This is our life. Our faith is our life.” †

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