By JOANNE FOX
It is the goal of the two keynote speakers at this year’s Diocesan Men’s Conference to energize, equip and empower other men.
The conference will be held April 7 at All Saints Parish, St. Joseph Church, Le Mars and will feature two Catholic lay evangelists: Matthew Leonard and Jesse Romero.
An Arizona resident, Romero characterizes himself as a full-time, bilingual, “evangelical, Catholic apologist” who ministers full-time, even to brave the Iowa cold.
Romero was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, a stone’s throw away from Hollywood. He considers himself a “cradle Catholic,” but tempers that by adding, “poorly catechized and never evangelized.”
“I grew up as a teen in the liberal 1970s, and my teachers were the liberal Woodstock hippies from the 1960s who were running the schools and the church,” he said. “It was a lot of Kumbaya Catholics.”
A retired veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Romero experienced the dark side of society every day; yet he also saw the evidence of God’s work in some of the most unexpected places.
The three-time World Police boxing champion and two-time USA Kickboxing champion experienced an interior conversion through the reading of the Gospels. His conversion has launched him into an “On Fire” ministry, igniting the hearts of Catholics.
“I have preached in every state of this great country and I will go anywhere again and again in order to evangelize Catholics and make disciples,” he said.
Romero was awarded a B.A. from Mount St. Mary’s University in Los Angeles and an M.A. in Catholic theology from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.
Romero has been preaching for more than 15 years and has been featured on Catholic radio stations for more than a dozen years, teaching and speaking in English and Spanish.
“My greatest joy in this ministry is knowing that I am doing the most important work this side of heaven which is evangelizing,” he said. “When you evangelize, you are securing a place for yourself in heaven.”
The parents of three children, Jesse and his wife Anita have been married since 1983.
A convert to Catholicism – whose father was a Protestant minister – and former missionary to Latin America, Leonard is a frequent guest on radio and television programs across the country appearing on SiriusXM, EWTN, CBS and the Magnificat.
“Men are so needed in our spiritual battle today,” he insisted. “It’s critically important because men have been so emasculated in our secular culture.”
Leonard serves as vice president and executive producer at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology – founded by Dr. Scott Hahn.
“I’ll talk to the men about the art of living the Christian life,” he said. “After all, our Catholic faith – at the end of the day – is the ultimate good. Everything else will pass away but that.”
Leonard hosts a popular podcast on iTunes titled “The Art of Catholic,” which is heard in more than 160 countries around the world.
“There are three key elements that will help men to be transformed,” he said. “I call it a spiritual GPS.”
That GPS serves as a map for the three elements: purgative, illuminative and unitive, Leonard clarified.
“These are guaranteed to bring you in full union with God,” he said. “It’s the ‘You are Here’ map everyone has seen. With this, you know where you are and you know where you’re going.”
Leonard is the executive producer and host of the best-selling Bible and the Virgin Mary and Bible and the Sacraments video series and is a featured speaker by Lighthouse Catholic Media.
The internationally-known speaker was awarded also a master’s in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. In addition to numerous articles, he is the author of two books, Louder Than Words: The Art of Living as a Catholic and Prayer Works! Getting A Grip on Catholic Spirituality.
Leonard lives in Ohio with his wife Veronica and their six children.
If you go
What: Diocesan Men’s Conference
When: April 7
Time: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: All Saints Parish, St. Joseph Church, Le Mars
Who: Keynote speakers Matthew Leonard and Jesse Romero
Cost: $35; $60 father/son
Registration deadline: April 2