By RENEE WEBB
Le Mars – Men of the Diocese of Sioux City will have a chance to sharpen their faith at the fourth annual Diocesan Men’s Conference to be held April 1 at All Saints Parish.
According to Fred Shellabarger, diocesan director of evangelization, catechesis and family life, the conference will continue to build on last year’s theme from Proverbs 27:15: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
“We live in a time in which the family is increasingly redefined, if not attacked,” he said. “Within our society, there is a crisis in what it means, not only to be a father, but also an authentic man according to what God intends – Christ being the perfect model of this manhood.”
Shellabarger said it was essential to reach out to husbands, fathers, uncles and grandfathers with a call to grow in their faith and to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to their families, friends and communities.
Change of plans
As with last year, the conference will feature two keynote speakers.
Shellabarger noted originally Deacon Alex Jones of the Archdiocese of Detroit was one of the speakers, but he died unexpectedly Jan. 14.
“Deacon Alex was an incredible man with a powerful testimony. He was a Pentecostal minister, who in the process of preparing Bible studies for his church, discovered the beauty of the church’s tradition,” he said. “He was a dynamic, inspiring and passionate speaker and his testimony has had a profound influence on many who, like him, have found their way home into the Catholic Church – including myself.”
Deacon Jones was a regular on EWTN’s The Journey Home and was an internationally-known speaker who recently presented at the Christ Our Life Conference in Des Moines.
Shellabarger noted he had a deep admiration for Deacon Jones, as he was one of those men who truly inspired him in his journey of faith. Rather than worry about the conference, Shellabarger said prayer was the immediate response when he learned of the deacon’s death.
“Truthfully, the most difficult challenge was the initial shock and grief,” said Shellabarger, who noted that through prayer, there was a peace in the midst of the circumstances. “We had that realization that the mission we have and the conference itself is bigger than the circumstances and we had to move forward. By God’s grace, everything has come together well.”
The diocese’s own Deacon Tom Henrich of Le Mars will now take Deacon Jones’ keynote slot. The diocesan deacon will present one keynote address and Marcel LeJeune will offer two keynote presentations.
LeJeune is an international speaker, author, campus minister and evangelist. A Catholic author and columnist, he has been featured on EWTN TV and is also a regular on EWTN and Relevant Radio.
“I am a follower of Jesus who is also a husband and father,” said the associate director of campus ministry at St. Mary’s Catholic Center at Texas A&M. “That is truly the most important part of my life – living out my Catholic faith in the home. All the other titles, credentials and accolades don’t matter if I don’t fulfill my vocation at home. That is what other men should know about me.”
LeJeune’s first talk will focus on what it means to be a Catholic man.
“Too many men who self-identify as Catholics believe that their identity is more about what they do, than who they already are,” he said. “We are sons of a father in heaven who created us out of love. He has a purpose for our lives and wants something great for us.”
His second talk centers on living courageously.
“Courage is the virtue that does the right thing, even in the face of fear. Jesus is the true model of a courageous man,” LeJeune said. “Knowing he would be tortured and killed, he still did everything according to the father’s plan, so that we might be saved. If we are to be his followers, we need to learn to act with true Christian courage.”
Deacon Henrich’s presentation, “Be Greater than You,” will focus on being the person God created you to be and doing so every day.
“Let’s face it, all of us can improve upon ourselves every single day and be better today than yesterday,” said the Briar Cliff University grad. “I don’t think this is something that our society focuses on very much. We tend to focus on what the other person needs to change in themselves and not so much what we need to change in our self.”
Deacon Henrich, who holds a master’s degree in family studies from Texas Tech and a Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy, said men need to reclaim their lives and their unique role in society – a role based on what God has planned for them.
Breakouts and more
In addition to the keynote talks, Shellabarger said they have brought back break-out sessions this year. Participants will have six to eight breakouts to choose from on a variety of topics ranging from promoting vocations at home to prayer and questions about the Catholic faith.
Father Shane Deman, director of vocations, will present a breakout on the same topic Deacon Jones was going to offer: “What to do When Loved Ones Leave the Church.”
Shellabarger pointed out men will also have time to go to confession throughout the day and participate in various forms of prayer including adoration. Praise music will be led by Ablaze.
“We have arranged the schedule so that there is more time for lunch/fellowship during the day,” he said.
LeJeune said men’s conferences are important because men need time to think about issues that affect them and learn how to model their masculinity not on extremes held up in the culture but on the truth of Jesus, who can teach men what masculinity is all about.
Registration is now open at https://scdiocese.org/mens-ministry/ and the conference fee may be paid online. Cost of the event is $30 for an individual or $50 for a father/son.
“It’s not enough that men ‘know’ doctrine or memorized prayers; they must learn how to live that faith, be inspired to do so, and above all, be intentional disciples,” said Shellabarger. “Our faith is not merely something we believe, it is also the way we are to live. Deacon Tom, Marcel and all of our breakout speakers are men who know how to help us do just that.”
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