Assumption College will be the site of the 17th annual Worcester Catholic Men’s Conference, Msgr. Thomas J. Sullivan and Angelo Guadagno, who co-chair the conference, have announced. They also outlined the speaking program for the day-long event which is scheduled for Saturday, April 1. The conference is the nation’s oldest diocesan-sponsored event.
The speaking program, exhibitions and confessions will take place in the Plourde Center at Assumption College. The day will include use of the Laska Gym and the Hagan Center, they said.
“We are thrilled by the invitation of Assumption College to host the conference this year,” said Msgr. Sullivan. “Officials of the college have really rolled out the red carpet for us.”
Speaking at the conference will be Father Chase Hilgenbrinck, university chaplain and former professional soccer player for the New England Revolution; Joe Dittmar, a Twin Towers survivor of September 11, 2001; Shawn Carney, national president of 40 Days for Life; Jeff Cavins, creator of the Great American Bible Study series; and the team of Tony Brandt and Chris Stewart of Casting Nets Ministries, an evangelization organization.
“We have a superb slate of speakers again this year,” said Mr. Guadagno. “There is something for everyone and I know that our participants will not be disappointed in them, especially given the variety of their topics.”
“Our speakers have always been given the highest ratings by the men who come to the conference,” he said. “We have an exceptionally high rate of men evaluating the conference each year and they love the speakers. I’m confident we’ll see the same result this year.”
Many diocesan and religious priests will participate by hearing confessions at mid-day. The sacrament of reconciliation has become a conference staple in its first 16 years. Since so many participants go to confession the committee hopes that more priests than ever will attend. “We can use as many priests as will come,” said Msgr. Sullivan, “since so many of the men, nearly 1,000, go to confession.”
“Greatness Restored,” will be the theme of Father Hilgenbrinck who serves as a chaplain at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois. His talk, given prior to confessions, will include his journey from professional soccer to the priesthood. He will highlight how his perception of greatness and true manhood was purified and transformed by the practice of a daily examination of conscience, weekly confession, and the faithful reception of Holy Communion.
The title of Shawn Carney’s talk is “A Few Good Catholic Men.” Active as a leader in the pro-life movement from his days as a college student, he became the national president of 40 Days for Life. He speaks in light of the concerns of Pope Benedict XVI who addressed a “dictatorship of relativism” in our culture. Says Mr. Carney, “one of the casualties of this is an attack on masculinity and an indifference to authentic manhood.” He hopes that men will respond to the Gospel with joy, responsibility, and truth.
Joe Dittmar, an insurance executive, was on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 when the first hijacked plane flew into the building. He recounts his survival and all that he learned in its aftermath in a talk titled, “Free Will and Choice: Practical Lessons from a Day of Destiny.” These lessons are historical, personal, philosophical, ethical and social.
Jeff Cavins, a convert, is the founder of the Great American Bible Study series. “The King and His Men” is the title of his keynote address. Mr. Cavins, the founding host of EWTN’s weekly program “Life on the Rock,” as well as Relevant Radio’s daily show, “Morning Air,” communicates the Catholic faith at a level that everyone can understand, taking theological truths and expressing them in a practical way.
“Sharing the Faith with the Seven Pillars of Evangelization” is the theme of the presentation by Chris Stewart and Tony Brandt, the founders of Casting Nets Ministries, a lay evangelization apostolate. Their talk “will give foundational principles to individuals, groups and parishes on how to share the Gospel message effectively. The love of Christ wants to reach everyone. The question is: are we ready and willing to be the instrument to introduce Christ to others?”
Bishop McManus will be the principal concelebrant and homilist for the Conference Mass at 4 p.m.
Through March 15 ticket prices for adult men are $45. Then they increase to $60. Ticket prices for students are $30 prior to the conference and at the door. Tickets can be purchased online on the conference website at www.firstmensconf.org; by sending a check to Catholic Men’s Conference, 49 Elm St., Worcester, MA 01609; by contacting parish contact persons; or by calling Julie Schroeder at 508-929-4345.
“We want to continue to strengthen the conference by welcoming young men who are so important for the Church’s future,” Msgr. Sullivan said.