Published December 9, 2010
Over 300 men from Georgia answered with a resounding “yes” to attend the first Georgia Catholic Men’s Conference on Saturday, Nov. 6. The conference featured a full slate of prominent Catholic speakers, the sacrament of reconciliation offered throughout the day, and a closing Mass celebrated by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.
Several hundred attendees from across Georgia and as far away as Virginia and the Ohio Valley experienced a day of inspiration, fellowship and prayer. Fathers, husbands, bachelors and clergy alike, weary from their “daily grind” routines, felt their spirits soaring higher as each powerful speaker delivered his loving messages of Christ’s fidelity throughout the day. And, judging from universal praise, requests for another conference next year and the incredible generosity from the men in attendance it was truly a “what a day” kind of event.
“It’s awesome, absolutely awesome,” said Scott Madgey, a member of St. Bridget Church, Johns Creek.
He said, “Every Catholic man who wants to be challenged should be here. It’s an absolutely incredible event.”
While attendees were fewer than hoped, the inspiration and passion of the speakers and the guidance of the Holy Spirit more than made up for the empty seats. Speakers presented a wide array of theology and personal challenges—“man style.”
Nationally known speaker and family man Paul George, founder of Adore Ministries in Baton Rouge La., opened the conference with a big whopper challenge: every man either believes or doesn’t—it’s up to him to trust God at every moment to lead him to his destination (2 Timothy 4:7).
Franciscan Friar of the Renewal Father Glenn Sudano echoed that message of faith explaining that men simply have only two directions to decide to live: either toward God or away from him. The right decision results in pain then the sense of Christ’s forgiving peace; the wrong decision results in superficial pleasure then deep pain of betrayal.
Performing artist Sean Forrest boomed his challenge to the gathering, “Where’s the battle?” Men, in particular, hear the call to be warriors for their faith, families and for each other. In former times like in the movie “Braveheart,” it is easy to find the enemy and draw battles lines. But fighting modern battles of faith is not so plain to see: being the spiritual leader and protector of the home, helping colleagues fight the temptations of pornography, low self-esteem and peer pressure to conform to sinful pleasures and convenience.
“If living your faith is not uncomfortable, you are not living it to the fullest,” explained Forrest, using examples of how Christ endured persecutions and death for love of man. He concluded with admonishments to consider daily where Christ is asking people to “get out of the boat” and walk toward him on the water in faith.
Another speaker, Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, traveled from Portland, Ore., to give a powerful witness of falling in love with Jesus and being prepared to defend that love and the Catholic faith. The first African-American permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Portland, Deacon Burke-Sivers is also the father of four and the founder and director of Aurem Cordis, a Christian evangelization and apologetics organization dedicated to the dissemination and promotion of Catholic values and principles.
A completely unexpected marvel of the conference was the profound generosity the few hundred men demonstrated in force. At 2 p.m. on the day of the event, the conference itself still had $17,500 of unpaid—and unfunded—expenses. Conference organizer Jim O’Day gave a faith-filled plea pointing the men to the importance of the event and the brotherhood in Christ that had been created. O’Day described a man who, earlier in the day, shared that after 30 years of being away from the Catholic faith, he was going home “to kiss his wife because he was clean” having just received the sacrament of reconciliation.
The men at the conference must have felt equally as grateful because in just two hours they collectively contributed all that was needed to pay the bills and ensure a Georgia Catholic Men’s Conference in 2011.
At the closing Mass, Archbishop Gregory said, “This first Georgia Catholic Men’s Conference is a good thing and a great start for the men of Georgia.” He emphasized that men need events and opportunities to grow spiritually … in the way men do. He described the conference as a great opportunity to be strengthened to go forth and strive to live the Catholic faith every day as fathers, husbands, workers and in our parishes.