Men from around the Diocese of Phoenix are gearing up to attend the annual “Into the Desert for Christ” Men’s Conference Feb. 9 at Grand Canyon University. Last year’s event drew more than 1,700 participants.
Mike Phelan, director of the Office of Marriage and Respect Life Issues, said the conference will deliver a challenging message to participants.
“The entire purpose is to evangelize our Catholic men and our Protestant brothers who come and to let them know they have a distinctive role in the Church,” Phelan said. “The reason it’s been successful is that there’s a tremendous need men feel to be really challenged. They respond to challenging messages rather than comforting messages.”
As in previous years, there’s an all-star slate of speakers whose energetic message is aimed specifically at men. Internationally acclaimed speaker and best-selling author Dr. Scott Hahn will deliver one of the keynote addresses.
Hahn, a professor of theology and Scripture at Franciscan University of Steubenville, was once a Presbyterian minister and is famous for his conversion story as well as defense of the Catholic faith.
“His talk is ‘The Bible, the Eucharist and the New Evangelization’ and how these things work together and how every Catholic man is called to be an evangelist by his baptism,” Phelan said. “It will remind us of our mission and put us on the mission if we haven’t been engaged. Guys always come back to the parishes on fire, wanting to help their parishes and families to become stronger in faith.”
Mike Clancy, a St. Thomas the Apostle parishioner, is the director of Catholic Men’s Fellowship for the Diocese of Phoenix and one of the organizers of the conference. He said the event is scheduled just before Lent begins to help men prepare for the penitential season that culminates with Easter.
“There are a lot of men out there who are wounded, isolated and in great need of the truth,” Clancy said. “This is a conference where they can come and experience fellowship. We try to be a resource for men and help them to sanctify their family.”
Phelan said there are leadership teams at about 25 parishes in the Phoenix Diocese who are working to motivate men to attend the conference. There’s even a friendly inter-parish competition of sorts.
Last year, St. Catherine of Siena Parish came in first place, sending 160 men to the day-long conference. Armando Banda is facilitator of the men’s group at the parish.
“Our goal this year is 300,” Banda said. “Our guys love a challenge.”
The men’s group at St. Catherine’s meets every Saturday morning for about an hour of fellowship and sharing, discussing the Sunday Mass readings so they’ll be better prepared for the liturgy.
“We rely on the Men’s Conference for catechesis,” Banda said. “We use it as a highlight of our year that all of our men look forward to.”
Daniel Tansill has attended the conference with his father and two of his younger brothers for the past few years and said he enjoys being in a big stadium hearing top-notch speakers address such issues as living the faith authentically, being the leader of the family, professionalism and living out faith in the work force.
“I think men should go to the conference to remind themselves what it means to be real men,” Tansill said. “It’s such an empowering, challenging and inspiring day.”
In addition to Dr. Hahn, there will also be several other nationally known speakers. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, will speak to attendees about the lives of seven saints — all men who responded to the Gospel call with a radical commitment of faith.
Hector Molina of Catholic Answers, the largest lay-run apostolate of Catholic apologetics and evangelization in North America, will give the opening address. Phelan said Molina’s presentation last year was a big hit with the crowd.
“He’s a fiery evangelist,” Phelan said. “He doesn’t need notes — he can quote long passages from Bible or the Catechism.” Molina will speak about faith and “why it’s a manly thing, not something that should be rejected as a sign of weakness,” Phelan said.
About 25-50 priests from around the diocese attend the conference and confession will be available. The day concludes with Mass celebrated by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted.
“I’m looking forward to saying the creed with 2,500 other men in the stadium,” Phelan said.
Terry Kennedy, a former All-Star Major League Baseball catcher, will be master of ceremonies for the conference.
For more information, visit www.cmfp.org or call Mike Clancy at (602) 909-9966.