More than 700 attend Charlotte Catholic men's conference
Second-annual event yields encouragement to 'Be a True Catholic Man'
CHARLOTTE — "Priests are afraid that the people don't want to hear hell, fire and brimstone, so now they are scared and are just shooting the people with whipped cream!
"However, in order to be truly Catholic, we must be ever more united to the heart and mind of the Church."
Those remarks were by Father Glenn Sudano, CFR, the keynote speaker at the second annual Charlotte Catholic Men's Conference, held at St. Matthew Church in Charlotte Feb. 18. The day-long retreat for men of all ages attracted about 740 people — about 50 percent more than last year, organizers said.
"Father Sudano had a nice blend of comedic," said Peter Poehailos, member of St. Leo Church in Winston-Salem, "but he was also straightforward to a guy who can be so thick-skulled!"
Ted Koval, member of St Matthew Church, attended the conference at the bidding of his wife. "She likes to say that the most important job she has is to get me and the kids to heaven!" Koval said of the "best Christmas present I received this year."
"As men, we have many roles," Koval noted. "We have to remember we are first and foremost Catholics. We should tend to our spiritual life just as we tend to all of those other things, too."
Pictured above: More than 700 men of all ages from the Diocese of Charlotte gathered at St. Matthew Church in Charlotte Feb. 18 for the second annual men's conference, featuring guest speakers, Mass and a Holy Hour, fellowship and the sacrament of reconciliation. (Photo by Michael Boggs Photography LLC, Greensboro, N.C. – Used by permission)
The government mandate for all employers to provide free contraception coverage over their religious objections "reminds me of a Vatican II concern in 'Gaudium et Spes' on assaults on life and love," Bishop Peter J. Jugis said. "To this we can add the movement for homosexual 'marriage 'as an assault to the sacredness of marriage.In his homily, Bishop Jugis spoke about the controversial federal contraception mandate that has the U.S. bishops and Catholics nationwide concerned about the threat to religious liberty.
"The Holy Father wants Catholics to know their faith in order to live their faith. With so much in the news today, it is very worth-it to come to know and understand the faith and Her teachings."
St. Leo's Poehailos agreed with the bishop's remarks, saying, "We don't get enough opportunities like this to nourish the soul and learn more to combat today's society, especially with everything going on with the HHS. We are facing opposition and need to be able to have a constructive argument."
Talks were also given by guest speaker Hector Molina, Conor Gallagher of St. Benedict Press/TAN Books, and diocesan director of communication David Hains, and others.
Hains urged men to vote for the May 8 state constitutional amendment to protect marriage. "Why does marriage matter so much? Children. Children need a mother and a father," he said as the men burst into thunderous applause.
Father John Eckert, who was ordained in 2010 and now serves as associate pastor at Our Lady of Grace Church in Greensboro, spoke of his priestly vocation. "This little girl came up to me on the playground when I was 3 and said, 'Johnny, I'm gonna kiss you!' and I said, 'No, you're not, because I'm going to be a priest!"
Father Eckert encouraged the dads in the crowd to encourage priestly vocations in their families through three easy steps: live your faith to the fullest, love your wife to the fullest, and pray always. Plus, don't discourage anyone by nagging, he noted. "Don't tell your son, 'I'll only be happy if you're a priest,' or 'I guess I'll be OK if you're a priest."
"Father John Eckert's talk was my favorite," said Chris Hamilton, a student at Belmont Abbey College who attended the conference with friend Craig Mehlenbeck. The two former Marines also said they would like to see more college students and young men at the conference in coming years.
"A lot of men are here to better themselves vis-à-vis their wife and children or girlfriend," pointed out Father Joshua Voitus, associate pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Charlotte. "But the single men have little encouragement to come."
"Just being surrounded by all of this is fantastic!" said Bernard Gerstemeier, member of St. Francis Church in Mocksville.
Added 15-year-old Curtis Hoyt, "My dad said I was allowed to come this year, so I jumped on the opportunity!"
The day's activities ended with Bishop Jugis bestowing his blessing on the men in attendance.
Said Koval, "We need to encourage one another to be good Catholic men. I want to be surrounded by others because I can't do this alone."
"It is really easy to get into an everyday routine," added newly married Patrick McMurry from St. Mary Church in Shelby. "Faith can enter in to a stalled period, so I came today with my dad to get out of that stalled period."
— Mary B. Worthington, correspondent
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