Conference keynoter highlights need for repentance, conversion
By Sue Schulzetenberg
With a record-breaking attendance of 511 people, this year’s Catholic Men’s Conference, “Men of Integrity: Holiness in the Midst of Busyness,” set many firsts.
While light snow fell on conference attendees’ cars Feb. 26 at St. John’s University in Collegeville, the keynote speaker, Father Larry Richards, was stranded in Pennsylvania due to a snowstorm. Event organizers turned to technology, bringing Father Richards to the men via Skype.
Other firsts were ending the conference with adoration and benediction, having the event co-sponsored by K-YES AM 1180 in addition to the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family, and exceeding the previous attendance record for the conference by 113 people.
“Check, check, check, check. Is it working?” Father Richards began his keynote shortly after downloading Skype on his computer in his parish office in Erie, Pa. “Yeah? Hello gentlemen!”
While Father Richards talked in front of his web cam in Pennsylvania, conference attendees watched him on a large screen in the Stephen B. Humphrey Auditorium at St. John’s University.
A popular speaker and preacher, Father Richards also hosts a radio show, “Changed Forever with Father Larry Richards,” broadcast nationally on Relevant Radio.
Father Richards, who could see the men at the conference from his computer, spoke about the reasons to go to confession, calling sin cancer of the soul and priests doctors of the soul. He said priests “operate” on people when they go to confession. The cost, he said, was already paid by Jesus with his life.
“So you have to be man enough to say, ‘I’m going to change, I’m going to repent,’ ” Father Richards said.
Father Richards named four things sin will do: kill you, make you a slave, make you feel guilty and separate you from God. He said that pride is a sin.
“Whenever you do things your way, then God isn’t god of your life,” he added. “So the first thing you’ve got to do is say, ‘Lord, I’m going to stop living life my way and I’m going to start living life your way.’ ”
He said the most common response he gets when he asks someone if they pray every day is “I try.” Trying is not good enough, Father Richards stressed.
“Do you ‘try’ to eat everyday? Do you ‘try’ to watch TV everyday? Why would you ‘try’ to pray?” he said.
He ran the men through an examination of conscience and encouraged the men to not let the past dictate their future and to change today.
“Everybody has a past,” he said. “Every sinner has a future and every saint has a past.”
In his second keynote of the day, titled “Be a Man,” Father Richards told the attendees that St. John Vianney said the glorious duties of a man are to pray and love.
“Prayer is more listening than talking,” he said.
A man of love lays down his life for others. Showing this love, by putting others first, can be as simple as handing over the TV remote, said Father Richards.
“If I were to look at your goals in life would they be more like Donald Trump’s or Mother Teresa’s?” he asked.
Day of reflection
The 511 conference attendees filled the Abbey Church following the keynote. Father Marvin Enneking, vicar general, celebrated a Mass with several priests concelebrating. Next the men filed into the Great Hall for lunch and then were invited to view a 30-minute promotion for the movie “Courageous,” a film to be released this fall that delivers a positive message about fatherhood.
Eighteen priests listened to confessions and it took them two hours to hear everyone’s.
Men chose from a variety of workshop topics, including raising Catholic children, cyber-bullying, communicating with one’s wife and vocations.
More than 400 men stayed at the conference until the end and participated in its closing with adoration and Benediction. Previous conferences ended with a closing song and prayer.
Energizing the faith
Men attended the conference for a variety of reasons. Some came from neighboring states, either because they had connections to Minnesota or because they wanted to see Father Richards.
Frank King, a member of St. Louis Parish in Foreston, came because he is a fan of Father Richards.
“He gives a whole new perspective. He makes you think,” King said.
King’s son, Joshua, 12, attended the conference with his dad with the ambition of completing some of the requirements for the Boy Scout religious emblem. Joshua said he enjoyed the keynote.
Fran Diederichs, a member of St. Augustine Parish in St. Cloud, came because his sons-in-law prompted him. He has attended men’s conferences before and enjoys the speakers. He especially liked hearing Father Richards this year.
“Father Larry Richards was a priest who could tell it like it is. It really was amazing,” he said.
Paul Ringsmuth, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Waite Park, called his yearly attendance at the men’s conference “a habit.”
“There’s a great message every year,” he said. “It’s like a mini-retreat. It helps recharge me.”