Catholic Free Press

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  • Mar
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Nearly 1,000 men inspired by brotherhood of gathering

Posted By March 21, 2013 | 1:02 pm | Lead Story #2

By Michael O’Connell
And Tanya Connor

Arsenio Vargas of Shrewsbury is a veteran of Catholic men’s conferences, having attended 11 in as many years. Giovanni Caban of Worcester is a rookie.
Both attended the Worcester Diocesan Catholic Men’s Conference on March 16, joining nearly 1,000 others from throughout the region. Both said they enjoyed the presentations and came away with insights that will help them in their everyday lives.
“It’s one of my annual highlights, coming here,” Vargas said while shopping for DVDs and rosary beads at the tables set up in the DCU Center lobby. “I just learn something new every time. Just what every speaker has to say – all the wisdom and faith that you can bring home, it’s very inspiring. It’s just good to be around so many Catholic men. It feels like a brotherhood.”
Caban, 22, said he decided to attend his first conference this year largely to help him learn more about the faith so he can discuss issues with fellow Catholics at his job, at the Federal Express site in Auburn, and in school, at Worcester State College.
“I’ve been wanting to come to something like this for a while so I can learn more and evangelize to people, both at school and at work – make an impact for people,” he said.
“It was a very successful conference,” said Msgr. Thomas J. Sullivan, diocesan chancellor and one of the organizers. “We had a challenge we never had before: we had to replace three different speakers. It still came out very well. The speakers were a big hit, particularly the last three. A lot of people said it was the best they’ve ever been to.”
Others had similar stories of drawing inspiration from the conference.
“This is perfect timing – right in the middle of Lent,” said Bruce Andrews, 72, a retiree from Shrewsbury who organized a group of more than a dozen attendees from his parish, St. Anne’s. “It’s a great opportunity for all of us to rethink our perspective and rally around our faith. Anytime you can get a group of  men all going in the same direction, it is very inspiring.”
“This just energizes me,” added Ted George, 45, of Charlton, a veteran of seven men’s conferences at the DCU. “It keeps me going for the whole year. It helps my whole life: My family life, my Catholic life – it brings them all together. This is why I do what I do.”
The conference ended with Mass celebrated by Bishop McManus. He told the men: God is about to do something new.
Isaiah said that in Scripture, and it’s true today too, Bishop McManus said in his homily.
He gave examples: Pope Benedict XVI resigning and God providing a successor who is a “remarkable and really stunning gift to the Church, a gift for which we have been waiting.”
Pope Francis’ first act before the sea of people was to ask them to pray for his predecessor, Bishop McManus said. Then the new Pope did something the bishop thought unprecedented: he asked the crowd to pray for him. This cardinal of a large archdiocese revealed the heart of a simple, devout priest who knows it does not depend on the pope; the work of new evangelization is of the Spirit.
“However long God gives Pope Francis to live, I have absolutely no doubt the Spirit of God will accomplish something new in our own times,” Bishop McManus said. “But we must be attentive, lest we miss this.”
Pope Francis was one of the big topics of discussion among attendees.
Ray Dunne, 41, of Sutton, said he’s excited by the change because he is curious to see what kinds of changes Pope Francis will make.
“It’s exciting because I really didn’t know who he was,” Dunne said. “I knew about (Cardinal Joseph Aloisius) Ratzinger (who took the name Pope Benedict when he was installed in 2005), and I knew what to expect. Having someone new, it makes you want to hear what his message is, how he’s going to be different from (Pope) Benedict. ”
Fred Dowd, 79, of Worcester, agreed.
“(Pope Francis) seems like a good man,” Dowd, a communicant of St. Peter’s Church in Worcester, said. “It’s brought a lot of hope to the people. If he is what he seems to be, it will make a big difference in the church. With the help of God, he can change a lot of people who have left the church.”
“There’s a sense of a fresh beginning, and that’s always good,” added Andrews, of Shrewsbury. “I think there has been a wariness about the church – that’s certainly been my experience, here in Worcester. There needs to be a new light. I don’t know if it goes back to the scandals, or how Pope Benedict dealt with them, but there needs to be a new light.”
Melrose’s Dan O’Shea, attending his third men’s conference in Worcester, said he thinks Pope Benedict’s decision to resign may signal a change in papal practice.
“He seems like a good choice, so I’m pleased with that,” O’Shea said. “I had felt a little abandoned by Pope Benedict’s decision to resign. But now I’m at peace with it. For him, it was the right decision. Maybe it will open up more opportunity for new popes and new changes in direction in the future when they reach age 85.”