Salt and light theme of sixth North Texas Catholic Men’s Conference
by Matthew Smith
North Texas Catholic
April 26, 2017
|Men kneel for prayer during Adoration at the North Texas Catholic Men’s Conference at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grapevine, April 22. (NTC photo/Ben Torres)|
GRAPEVINE — Old friendships revived and new ones took root during the April 23 North Texas Men’s Conference at St. Francis of Assisi Church. A total of 770 from 80 parishes in the Fort Worth and Dallas dioceses attended the event organized by the North Texas Catholic Brothers for Christ.
The event has outgrown St. Francis and will next year move to St. Ann Parish in Coppell, which is encouraging, Catholic Brothers for Christ President Bob Duane said. But much remains to be done.
Father James Flynn, pastor of St. Francis, spoke of a faith crisis.
“More and more people are identifying as no faith, and that’s the fastest growing demographic,” Fr. Flynn said. “I think it’s because men don’t stand up. We need Catholic men to stand up for the faith and be bold. We can’t be cowards in the fight.
“Mothers form the faith, but, without a fatherly example, don’t expect the kids to stay Catholic or Christian.”
Fr. Flynn, although raised Catholic, described himself as a “scientific atheist” during his time in the U.S. Army and at Texas A&M University.
“I used to arrange the meeting with God, now I try to make it more pleasurable,” Fr. Flynn joked. “I say I found the Lord. But really it was Him who found me.”
Conference Emcee Dave Palmer stressed that the conference is not just about men strengthening their faith.
“Multiple people, your families, your parishes, are depending on us getting the most out of this day,” Palmer said.
Father Eduardo Gonzalez of St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Dallas agreed.
|Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers conducts his workshop during the North Texas Catholic Men’s Conference April 22. (NTC photo/Ben Torres)|
“We as Catholics have to heal this planet and make petrified faces smile again,” Fr. Gonzalez said.
Father Dwight Longenecker of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Greenville, N.C., and a well-known author and blogger, discussed his path from Bob Jones University to serving as an Anglican priest to his encounters with Benedictine monks culminating in his conversion to Catholicism.
Fr. Longenecker highlighted the virtues of obedience, stability, and conversion of life, as well as the tools of reading, work, and prayer in helping men transform their lives through God’s grace and love.
“Obedience is not a virtue itself but it’s important so we will immediately respond when the Lord calls,” Fr. Longenecker said. “We have a duty to obey the teachings of our holy Church. To struggle and wrestle with it is good. To give up is not.”
Fr. Longenecker said his favorite thing to see is the end result, people doing what God wants because they want to, not out of a sense of duty or guilt.
Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, a noted Catholic author and speaker, pointed past the walls of the church as he proclaimed “we’re good in here” but less so out there.
“That’s why most kids are leaving the Church,” Dcn. Burke-Sivers said. “There has to be a transition. Men are not stepping up. Studies show that children are [more] likely to remain in the Church at a rate double if their fathers went to church than if just their mom took them herself.”
Dcn. Burke-Sivers reminded attendees that it only takes a few minutes to pray daily and encouraged them to face their fears and reprioritize.
“If you die your company is not going to shut down,” Dcn. Burke-Sivers said. “They’ll mourn you three days then hire somebody to take your place. Where somebody can’t take your place is in your home with your family.”
Catholic speaker John Rovi said everyone deals with something, and asked attendees whether that defines them or if they’re able to move forward.
Rovi encouraged attendees to discern their why and dream wild dreams personally, professionally, and spiritually, and then prioritize
“God put the goals in your heart,” Rovi said. “Get in the game. Do what you can do. Don’t worry about what you can’t do. You don’t have to be the best. You do have to do your best though.”
For John McGee of Good Shepherd Parish in Colleyville this event marked his fourth Catholic Men’s Conference. McGee said he returns each year for spiritual renewal, a recharge, and a chance to reprioritize.
Larry Haun of St. Ann Parish in Burleson, and his sons, attended for the first time.
“It’s great to see the size of the crowd today,” Haun said. “But when you think of the number of Catholic men we have in this area we should be able to fill Jerry World. We need to change the culture and we haven’t been doing what we’re supposed to be doing as Catholic men.”