March 8, 2024

Men’s conference attendees find joy sharing faith with others

Father Jonathan Meyer celebrates Mass with concelebrating priests on Feb. 17 at East Central High School in St. Leon during the ninth annual E6 Catholic Men’s Conference sponsored by All Saints Parish in Dearborn County. More than 1,200 men took part in the event. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Father Jonathan Meyer celebrates Mass with concelebrating priests on Feb. 17 at East Central High School in St. Leon during the ninth annual E6 Catholic Men’s Conference sponsored by All Saints Parish in Dearborn County. More than 1,200 men took part in the event. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

ST. LEON—When Feb. 17 dawned in southeastern Indiana, temperatures were frigid, and roads were slick and icy from snowfall the previous day.

But that didn’t keep more than 1,200 men from Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio from making their way to East Central High School for the ninth annual E6 Catholic Men’s Conference, sponsored by All Saints Parish in Dearborn County. (See photos from the conference)

Ken Abell woke up before 5 a.m. that day to travel there with his son Jaysen and grandson Michael and other members of St. Mary Parish in Lanesville, more than a two-hour drive from St. Leon.

That was a small sacrifice, though, for him to spend a day with his son and grandson when they can all grow in their faith together.

“It’s a dream come true to have everybody together like this,” said Abell. “It’s a struggle to make this happen. But when it comes together, you just bask in the glory of it.”

He rejoiced, too, in praying with more than 1,200 other Catholic men.

“When I hear them say the Our Father or the Hail Mary, I just feel the thunder, the strength of that many men,” said Abell. “You almost feel like the building moves a little bit. That thunder is so joyful. And I know that God is looking and saying, ‘Go for it, men!’ ”

The “E6” in the conference title refers to the sixth chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians in which the Apostle calls believers to take up “the armor of God” in the spiritual fight against the devil (Eph 6:11).

‘Made for strength’

Like previous conferences, this one featured nationally known Catholic speakers, Mass, praying the rosary, eucharistic adoration and Benediction. Several priests were available for the sacrament of penance. For most of the daylong conference, a line of men waiting to go to confession stretched to the top of East Central’s cavernous auditorium.

Nathan Crankfield, producer and host of the popular Catholic podcast “Seeking Excellence,” served as the conference’s emcee.

He spoke at the start of the day about the leadership to which Catholic men are called.

Slightly adjusting a definition of what it means to be a man from Dr. Leonard Sax’s book Boys Adrift, Crankfield said that “being a Catholic man is using your God-given strength at the service of others.”

“Our bodies are made for strength,” he said. “Our souls are made for strength. We’re emotionally made for strength. It doesn’t mean we have to be perfect. It doesn’t mean we can’t be emotional. It doesn’t mean we can’t show weakness ever. But we’re made for strength. And God gives us the strength. So, we rely on that to be at service of other people.”

Tim Staples, senior apologist at the El Cajon, Calif.-based Catholic Answers, reflected on how all the sacraments are ways for Catholics to participate in the dying and rising of Christ because he, as the Son of God, had become fully human in the incarnation. Staples related this reality in particular to marriage.

Many in the audience laughed when Staples told the married men among them that “you knew on your wedding day that you were in over your head.”

But he meant those words in relation to the purpose of the sacrament of marriage.

“Your purpose is to basically get each other to heaven and to drag as many kids as you can with you,” Staples said. “That’s why I say you’re in over your head. Because you can’t get there. It’s impossible. It’s not just, you know, really hard. It’s impossible.

“… But all things are possible with God. This is what we’re talking about.”

It’s possible, Staples explained, because Christ, in his human nature with the help of grace, accepted God the Father’s will for him in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he died.

Describing that moment as “an explosion of grace … communicated down through the eons of time to all humanity,” Staples said that, in marriage, the spouses “are basically saying to each other, ‘No longer my will, but your will be done.’ ”

‘We all have clouds in our lives’

With many of the conference participants coming from the three-state region around Cincinnati, a big round of applause exploded when popular former Cincinnati Reds All-Star Sean Casey took the stage in the afternoon.

He recounted his journey from playing baseball as a child to making it to the majors. An important part of that journey was the choice by his father to allow Casey to work through some struggles as a young baseball player on his own.

Casey used a fitting analogy for the day, saying that some parents chose to “snowplow the way” for their children.

“How easy it is for us to want to snowplow the way for our kids,” Casey said. “No pain, no struggles. Snowplow the road! Make sure you’re on top of them. No pain, no struggle, snowplow the road.

“And I’m here to say that if my dad had snowplowed the road for me, I’m not here today. I don’t play in the big leagues. I don’t fulfill my dreams.”

He also recalled how his father explained his decision to let him handle his struggles on his own, telling him about how buffalos out west gather together as a herd to withstand storms when they see dark clouds coming.

“I think sometimes we struggle as human beings because we think we’re exonerated from those clouds,” Casey said. “It turns out none of us are.

“ … We all have clouds in our lives. Without the darkness, there is no dawn. Without the winter, there is no spring. And without the Crucifixion, there is no Resurrection.”

Father Jonathan Meyer preached at a Mass celebrated during the conference. He serves in the four faith communities of Dearborn County, including All Saints Parish.

The Gospel reading proclaimed during the Mass recounted St. Matthew immediately becoming a disciple of Christ when the Lord simply said to him, “Follow me” (Lk 5:27).

Father Meyer told his listeners that, since all of them were called by baptism to invite people to follow them, they need to examine their lives to see if they’re worth following.

“I want you to write down three habits in your life that you need to kick out and get rid of,” he said, “so that you can actually, authentically say with courage, with masculinity, ‘Hey, follow me, be an imitator of me,’ because Christ calls us to do that.”

‘Don’t be lukewarm in our faith’

All Saints parishioner Joe Yunger, who has helped organize the E6 conference for years, told The Criterion that the event is as important now for Catholic men as it was when it was started in 2016.

“Is the world messed up right now? Yes,” Yunger said. “The question is as men, what are we doing about it? Don’t be lukewarm with our faith and in our vocations, especially dads.

“That’s something I needed to work on. Faith is more important than sports. So, let’s be intentional and take the time to make it a priority. My hope is that through an event like E6, men realize this and make the appropriate adjustments.”

Conference attendee Tyler Myers hopes it can help him live out his faith as a newly married husband.

Raised as a member of St. Louis Parish in Batesville, Myers, 23, is now a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Muncie, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese.

He has attended the last two E6 conferences.

“I love my faith,” Myers said. “I just got married last October, so being a leader in my faith in our household is big for me. I want to make our faith our foundation, something we can both lean on together.”

It was encouraging for Myers to see at the conference that the faith is also a priority for so many other men.

“It’s awesome to see,” he said. “In our society, you can feel alone. But to see 1,000 men come together on a Saturday is amazing. We join in our faith together. There are men who have the same mission together in life.” †

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