Upcoming conferences aimed at leading Catholic women, men to holiness

Upcoming conferences aimed at leading Catholic women, men to holiness

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Everybody knows that men and women see things a bit differently. That’s one reason why the Diocese of Phoenix holds a separate men’s and women’s conference each year.

Phoenix Catholic Women’s Conference

When: March 15; 8 a.m. breakfast, 9 a.m. conference March 15

Where: St. Paul Parish, 330 W. Coral Gables Drive in Phoenix

Cost: $50 per person before March 1, includes breakfast and lunch

Info: (602) 471-1944 or www.pdccw.com

Catholic Men’s Conference

When: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. March 22

Where: Xavier College Preparatory, 4710 N. Fifth St. in Phoenix

Cost: $56.50 with discounts for students and groups

Info: www.cmfp.org

The fourth annual Phoenix Catholic Women’s Conference is set for March 15 at St. Paul Parish in Phoenix. It will feature four guest speakers, including two local Catholics, who will speak about women as “clothed in strength and dignity.”

A week later, guys will gather March 22 at Xavier College Preparatory to hear five guest speakers address “Resolution” and “Faith of Our Fathers” at the annual Catholic Men’s Conference.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted will close out both conferences. Carmelite Sister Regina Marie Gorman, chair of the National Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious, will also address both groups including a note to the men on the need women have for strong, sacrificial men in their lives.

“Men take in information in a completely different way than women do,” explained Roberta Bazaldua, who is leading an army of 30 women planning this year’s women’s conference. “For many years, I claimed to be a strong woman, but that was in the secular world’s terms,” Bazaldua admitted. “I came to realize a woman of strength relies on God.”

A series of speakers at the women’s conference will share their struggles and joys in being a Catholic woman. Teresa Tomeo, author and host of EWTN’s “The Catholic View for Women,” is the keynote speaker and will offer a practical view including how the media molds women’s minds to ideals sometimes contrary to God’s.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix and Sr. Regina Marie Gorman, chair of the National Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious, will address both the men’s and women’s conferences this year.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix and Sr. Regina Marie Gorman, chair of the National Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious, will address both the men’s and women’s conferences this year.

Bazaldua said it’s important to also introduce local Catholics to their peer role models. Lani Bogart, director of marriage and family life at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale, and a deacon’s wife, will share her testimony as will Becky Bowers-Greene, blogger and co-host of “The Catholic Conversation,” a locally recorded radio program produced by the Diocese of Phoenix that airs on 1310 AM on Immaculate Heart Radio. Bowers-Greene plans to address the comparisons women sometimes make “and how that really does steal our joy,” Bazaldua said.

‘Get together as brothers’

Men tend to leave their annual conference strengthened in faith and resolved to live holy lives.

“The Holy Spirit just tends to show up and give people an encounter with Christ unlike any encounter they’ve had with Jesus,” said Mike Phelan, coordinator of the diocesan Marriage and Respect Life Office, which is planning the men’s conference.

The annual event has inspired men to return to the confessional after decades of absence, formed or strengthened friendships, and motivated some to learn more about the faith. “We want to focus on resolution and encouraging men to personally resolve that this is the core of who I am. That I’m Catholic,” Phelan said.

The five guest speakers, including Bishop Olmsted, will share about a time when a deeper commitment to the faith came along in their lives. Phelan described each speaker as living radical — deeply rooted — Catholic lives and total reliance on Jesus.

Phelan said Fr. Larry Richards, a pastor in Ohio, knows how to speak to the hearts of men and Jason Evert, a gifted chastity speaker, is equally qualified to address masculine chastity and how to understand it in a “toxic culture.” Victor Vidales, a parishioner at St. Catherine of Siena, is eager to hear Fr. Richards. The parish’s men’s group launched four years ago when it read his “Be a Man” book.

Matt Birk, a former center with the 2013 Super Bowl-winning Ravens and the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2012, is also scheduled to speak. His H.I.K.E. Foundation provides at-risk educational opportunities for children in the Baltimore area. An outspoken Catholic and father of six, Birk has been openly critical of Planned Parenthood and supportive of the Church’s teaching on marriage.

Phelan encouraged men to sign up early because Xavier can seat 2,500 and some 2,100 attended last year. St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Phoenix plans to bring 500 with men challenging themselves to surpass the 317 who went last year.

“A guy trying to do this on his own is very vulnerable to temptation and to being lukewarm. When we get together as brothers, the Holy Spirit is there in an mazing way,” Phelan said.

Vidales can relate. So can the 300 men from St. Catherine of Siena Parish. An exponentially growing group of men from the south Phoenix parish have attended every year since 2008. Vidales finds the conference to be a unique source of motivational speakers and Church teaching without parish-level volunteers worrying about the logistics of running the event.

He has seen parishioners become more regular Massgoers as a result and seen Catholic men further realize the value of their wives and children. The men of St. Catherine don’t want finances to be a hindrance or excuse for not attending the conference, however.

Nearly half went on scholarship last year with funds raised by previous scholarship recipients. The men raised $6,000 this year.

“They got a taste of it now. They want to help others,” Vidales said.

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