Spanning two decades and drawing more than 10,000 men since its inception in 1998, the annual Catholic Men’s Conference will celebrate its 20th anniversary March 4 at St. John’s University in Collegeville.
The event, featuring keynote speaker Bishop Andrew Cozzens, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, includes a variety of workshops, time for confession, lunch and Mass.
“I really am excited to see how this event has grown,” said Chris Codden, director of the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family and organizer of the event.
“What I have noticed is that the men in central Minnesota want ‘meat and potatoes,’” she said.
“They want the message to be direct, true to our church, and they want it to help them to follow Christ better in their lives and in their families. This opportunity at the beginning of Lent gives them the chance to do that.”
Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is March 1.
Codden said the theme “Men of Life, Men for Life” is also a call to action. She believes that Bishop Cozzens’ address will be “very inspiring for the guys.”
For the last few years, the conference also has included a Spanish component for Hispanic/Latino men. Bishop Cozzens, who is fluent in Spanish, will present the keynote address and a workshop to both groups.
The Visitor asked Bishop Cozzens for a preview of the message that he will be sharing.
Q: What message do you hope to convey to the men of the Diocese of St. Cloud?
A: My hope is to uphold St. Joseph as the model for us Catholic men in order to be men of life and for life. He’s an example of a heroic father, and he’s also a real person. Since he is a real person, I can have a relationship with him even now, and he can be a help to me.
I really want to encourage men, as they are trying to serve their families and … our world and our culture, to see the importance of their own humility and how that lets God be more powerful through them. [I want to help them in] understanding their own identity and what that means to be a son of God as St. Joseph understood it — learning to live in relationship with God and then … live in relationship with those around me so that then I can serve God the best way I can.
Q: How have your own experiences shaped you as a man of, and for, life?
A: One way is that I have been called by God to serve him in various ways, and that means the giving up of my life so that others might have life. I’ve discovered that when you do that in the right way, it brings great joy. When we know who we are before God, and then we try to serve him, it brings joy and fulfillment that nothing else can bring.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges men face today?
A: The biggest challenge is that we live in a culture which tells us that happiness will be found by satisfying ourselves. The truth is, happiness will be found in giving ourselves away. That culture comes at us in various ways telling us to “satisfy this desire, satisfy that desire, and you’ll be happy.” But what it ends up doing is making us long for more and, ultimately, we feel more empty.
It’s only when we make a gift of our life that we learn that we are not the center of the world, that God is. To live that way, we end up finding the joy God wants us to have.
Q: What is the role of the church in supporting men, women and families?
A: The primary locus of the church, or the place where the church lives, is in the family — what we call the “domestic church.” Everything we do as a church is meant to serve and support that domestic church because that is where people really encounter the love of God. We want to find ways to serve that unit as a church.
But also we want to call men to serve the culture of life. The church in this way exists to help the faithful be responsive to Christ’s call, whether that is in their families or in the world.
In this way, the church is the means that Christ can reach out to those families. It can also strengthen them because it is the place where we encounter Christ. Not only does the church send people forth but it invites people to come to her to encounter Christ.
Q: Why is it important to have gatherings like the Men’s Conference in today’s world?
A: When we come together to support each other in living our faith, we end up being strengthened. Although it is beautiful when we come together regularly on Sundays as the whole Body of Christ, it’s also beautiful when just men or when just women come together.
[The Men’s Conference] is a way that we can support each other as men in living our vocation. It’s just one of the truths of life that men often respond well to being encouraged and challenged by other men. We can encourage and challenge each other in ways that women can’t do. It’s very important we do that in a way that strengthens each other so we can together, as brothers, live the life God is calling us to live.
If you go
• When: 8 a.m.-5 p.m., March 4
• Where: Humphrey Auditorium, St. John’s University, Collegeville
• Cost: Through Feb. 10 $45 per person. Groups of five or more registered together $40 per person. After Feb. 10 $50 per person. Groups of five or more registered together $45 per person.
• Registration: Online, by mail or in person at the event. No phone registrations. Registration is non-refundable and includes lunch and refreshments. Questions? Call 320-252-4721.
• For more info or to register: Visit http://omf.stcdio.org/th_event/catholic-mens-conference-3.