‘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.

Men’s Conference Fight the Good Fight of the Faith!

How can one be a good Catholic father, husband, brother, son or man in a modern world?

The answer to this and other questions was found Feb. 8 during the 2020 Diocese of Venice Men’s Conference at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. The Conference theme was: “Fight the Good Fight of the Faith!” (1 Timothy 6:12).

Hundreds of men gathered to hear from nationally known speakers Mark Hart, Chris Padgett and Father Donald Calloway, Marian Father of the Immaculate Conception.  The talks offered spiritual guidance and inspiration as well practical advice for the Catholic men.

Jim Burke of Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers enjoyed the day, saying the speakers touched on key points when talking about how to stay connected to the faith through the reading if Scripture, prayer and becoming more active in Parish life.

“As a father and almost a grandfather, I worry about my family more than ever, whether or not they are practicing the Catholic Faith,” Burke explained. “I heard things that resonated with me. It boils down to me knowing and understanding the Church better so I can share that knowledge.”

At the beginning of the day Joshua Mazrin, Diocese Director of Evangelization, told the men to have fun and enjoy a nice Saturday when they can be removed from all of their worldly obligations, but added the day was to be about taking “the time to encounter the Lord, to learn more about your Faith, and to grow in fellowship with one another.”

Charlie Vincenzo of St. Therese Parish in North Fort Myers found hope by being around other like-minded men who want the best for their own lives, the lives of their family and the life of Holy Mother Church. “Society seems to want to do away with all religion, when what it really needs are warriors to stand up and fight these battles for our Faith.”

Father Calloway, a convert who has a special affinity for the Holy Family, stressed that when we struggle to understand and overcome difficulties in our life, it is crucial to turn to the Lord for comfort and guidance. In our efforts to find the Lord, turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, through intercessions and following their example.

“We need the Lord in our lives now more than ever,” Father Calloway said. “One way the Church is stressing to do that is through Mary and one of the greatest saints, St. Joseph, step-father of Jesus. His is an example to us, someone we need in our life, for our family and household… Joseph was a spiritual warrior; the terror of demons, pillar of families, warrior of domestic life; guardian of virgins; patron of the Church; and your spiritual father.”

Padgett, a father of nine who is a native of the Diocese of Venice where he entered the Church in 1999, shared his own challenges and experiences in learning about the Catholic Church. Bringing a comedic aspect to his talk, Padgett stressed how being a man of God isn’t about athletics or power tools, it is that we are all called to greatness and this is best demonstrated in our willingness to sacrifice and serve.

Hart, executive vice president of Life Teen International, stressed that having a strong faith life begins with the study of Scriptures. “It is how we come to know God… Even if you just read the parts in the Mass (of Scripture read out as the first, second, responsorial psalm and Gospel), you have 167 hours of reading. That is a good place to start.”

Throughout the day the men enjoyed spiritual fellowship, a burger fest, food trucks and outdoor games. The day also included the opportunity for Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The closing Mass was celebrated by Father Eric Scanlan, Administrator of Incarnation Parish in Sarasota, filling in for Bishop Frank J. Dewane who was unable to attend because he was participating in a “Ad Limina” visit to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican.