Men’s strength comes from moral integrity, exhorted speakers at the Diocese of Phoenix’s 12th annual Catholic Men’s Conference at Xavier College Preparatory Feb. 2.
The more than 1,200 men attending the daylong gathering — named “The New Knighthood” — were urged to be actively engaged in the battle for spiritual purity amid a culture that increasingly discourages them from being godly male role models.
More than one speaker emphasized the importance of male leadership.
Fr. Dwight Longenecker, pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina, and the event’s keynote speaker, said the task of fulfilling that role begins with understanding the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus in breaking the bonds of a human heart that — because of Adam’s choice of Original Sin in the Garden of Eden — has a natural tendency away from God.
Fr. Longenecker, a renowned author and blogger, is a married former Anglican priest who was ordained to the Catholic priesthood through the Pastoral Provision in 2006.
“We were enslaved by the great slave master who first tempted our parents in the Garden. In a world where everyone is blaming everyone else, Jesus says, ‘Blame me.’ As we meditate on the Cross, participate in the Eucharistic Adoration, enter into the sacramental unity with Christ and His Cross, we find our true humanity and our true masculinity,” Fr. Longenecker said.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted cited the importance of prayer in a man’s family leadership role.
“Husbands and fathers are not only called to be protectors and providers but especially to being the leaders of prayer in their homes,” he said. “You bring a sense of stability and security that is different from what a mother brings. You are a real blessing to your family.”
The men were also exhorted to be godly examples in the world around them — a call that came from the day’s only female speaker.
Sr. Bethany Madonna, SV, vocations director for Sisters of Life, a religious community in upstate New York, said the voices and actions of men are needed to influence the world for Christ.
“The strength of men — and I don’t mean essentially physical strength — but moral integrity and the capacity to impart this to others to foster in the home or the workplace an intolerance for evil, the courage to speak and act — this is what will change this culture,” she said, adding that young men of this generation are “desperate” for male mentorship.
Men, young and old, took the messages to heart.
“I have three kids. My role is to teach them in the faith even though they pulled away at a young age. It’s the society we live in,” said Oscar Acosta, of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Parish in Anthem.
“I gained a better understanding of (evangelization),” said Tristan Handy, 14, an altar server and parishioner at St. Timothy in Mesa. “It’s going to help me be a good example to others. If I am that, it will lead them to Christ.”
“Listening to the importance of masculinity from a woman’s point of view. That struck me,” added Tristan’s father, Darren. “The way the culture is now characterizing men as buffoons — stepping away from responsibility, caring only about themselves — it is taking away the true gift of who we are as men.”
The conference took place on the day the diocese published the Family Prayer Guide to supplement Bishop Olmsted’s apostolic exhortation “Complete My Joy.”
Separate afternoon breakout sessions offered men the choice of learning more about defending their faith to an atheist, evangelization and starting a small group
Aaron Anderson, father of four, teacher and parishioner at St. Anne in Gilbert, found the entire experience rewarding. “We should be mission-focused not just with our families, but we need to get out there in the world. It’s wonderful to see all of us together. It’s a reminder we are not alone in what we are called to be as Catholics in this diocese.”