‘Follow Me:’ Men’s Conference inspires

Each encounter with the Lord, whether through prayer, Mass or by attending a conference, must fundamentally change us in our hearts, minds and souls.

How we respond to the ‘Call of the Lord’ in our life was a central theme of the 2021 Diocese of Venice Men’s Conference, Feb. 20, 2021 at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers.

Larry Montreux of Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers left the Conference with a new perspective on how he lives his Faith.

“I think I am a good Catholic, but I know I can do more,” Montreux explained. “Christ needs to be at the forefront of my life. It is a struggle, but I know Jesus is there and that provides great comfort.”

The Conference featured speakers were Patrick Madrid, of Relevant Radio fame, and Joel Stepanek who is Vice President of Parish Services for Life Teen International. Both focused their talks about what it means to be a Catholic man and how to respond to the “Call of the Lord’ in their life as well as how to talk about their Faith with family members.

New to the Conference was a question and answer session with Bishop Frank J. Dewane joining Madrid and Stepanek. Questions covered a wide assortment of topics including how to respond to answer questions.

Bishop Dewane took direct questions about the impacts of the Pandemic on the Diocese including about when he would lift the dispensation of the obligation of attending Mass for those who are sick or vulnerable or have a fear of getting sick, something Bishop said was much closer than far away. “The reality is that some exceptions will still be necessary.”

Bishop Dewane celebrated the closing Mass for the Conference and stressed that he prays the men have grown closer to the Lord during the day and will leave the event with open hearts and minds to hear the message of Christ in their lives.

The Gospel Reading of the day, LK 5:27-32, was appropriate, the Bishop noted, for the Conference: “Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.”

“It is a command, more than a question,” Bishop Dewane added. “It is not by chance that you are here. You have answered a ‘Call of the Lord.’ Just as you and I have made mistakes, the disciples were sinners… The Lord didn’t come to just call the virtuous. He has you and I in mind, because we are sinners. Christ loves us all the same.”

Christ wants us to change our life for the better, the Bishop continued, but it’s not going to keep the Lord away from us. “It may keep us away from Christ. That is our problem and we must strive to overcome that… Let that ‘follow me’ be part of who we are as men of God. You have to hear it, because Christ is saying it over and over again throughout the day.”

The Conference opened with Eucharistic Adoration, which continued throughout the day in a nearby classroom. The opportunity for Confession was also available all day. Aspects of the Conference were adapted this year to comply with social distancing requirements necessitated by the Pandemic. These included extra space for seating during the talks and lunch, as well as limiting the total number of participants.

Women’s Conference March 13

Registration remains open for the 2021 Women’s Conference! The Conference will feature speakers Kimberly Hahn and Mary Ann Weisinger-Puig at Bishop Verot Catholic High School, 5598 Sunrise Drive, Fort Myers on Saturday, March 13. The day begins at 9:00 a.m. (doors open at 8:00 a.m.) and ends with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane at 2:00 p.m. Confession will be available all day. Register at www.dioceseofvenice.org/adultconferences.