The annual Worcester Diocesan Catholic Men’s Conference is scheduled for Saturday, March 16, at the DCU Center.
Msgr. Thomas J. Sullivan, chancellor, announced the speakers for the conference: Jesuit Father James Martin, a widely read author; Father Sammie L. Maletta, a priest of the Diocese of Gary, Indiana; Kerry Fraser, one-time senior referee in the National Hockey League; and radio talk show host, Joe McClane, “The Catholic Hack.”
Last week Bishop McManus decided to recind an invitation to speak made to Robert Spencer, the director of “Jihad Watch,” after concerns raised by some in the Islamic community. The bishop explains his decision in a letter below.
Many diocesan and religious priests will participate again this year by hearing confessions at midday. The sacrament of reconciliation has become a conference staple in its first 12 years. Since so many participants go to confession, the committee hopes that more priests than ever will come.
“We can use as many priests as we can get,” said Msgr. Thomas J. Sullivan, chancellor, “since last year we had to turn away 250 men from the sacrament of reconciliation because we did not have enough priests.”
“We have another excellent slate of speakers this year,” Msgr. Sullivan said. “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.”
Father Martin, whose talk is titled “Between Heaven and Mirth,” is a Jesuit priest and the culture editor of America magazine. Before entering religious life he studied at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and he spent a number of years in financial administration for General Electric Company. An author of numerous books, his “My Life with the Saints” was a best seller in 2006, was named among the “Best Books” by Publishers Weekly and won a First Place award from The Catholic Press Association.
Kerry Fraser is a hockey analyst, spokesman for the CNIB, and former senior referee in the National Hockey League, having joined the National Hockey League Officials Association on Sept. 1, 1973, and officiating his first game in the 1980-81 season. He currently holds the record for most NHL regular season and playoff games refereed. An accomplished speaker, he wrote the best selling “Final Call: Hockey Stories From a Legend In Stripes.” Kerry, a member of Athletes for Christ, will speak about his conversion to Catholicism and the role of faith in his life.
“I didn’t stop to ask for directions … Now, I’m lost. But with God’s amazing grace, I am found” is the topic of the pre-confessions homily by Father Sammie L. Maletta, the pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in St. John, Indiana. It is difficult for Father Maletta, once a practicing civil attorney, to get away from his “one-man parish,” however he has made special arrangements so that he can come to conference. He has served his diocese as judicial vicar, moderator of the curia and vicar general. A recent pro-life homily he gave at his parish was so effective it went “viral” and has been heard nationwide.
Joe McClane, a.k.a. “The Catholic Hack,” is a radio journalist from the Deep South and returns to the diocese for this much larger venue. He spoke at a special Catholic men’s breakfast at St. Luke’s Parish in Westborough last spring. By popular demand this convert is making the trip back for this special talk, “A Life Worth Living: Discovering True Manhood at the Top of Calvary’s Peak!”
Bishop McManus will be the principal concelebrant and homilist for the Conference Mass at 4 p.m.
Through March 2 ticket prices for adult men are $45. On March 3 they increase to $60. Tickets for students are $30 prior to the conference and at the door. Tickets can be purchased online at www.firstmensconf.org; by sending a check to Catholic Men’s Conference, 49 Elm St., Worcester, MA 01609; contacting parish contact persons ; or by calling Amy Coderre at 508-929-4345.
“In addition to reaching out to men of all ages a special effort is being made to invite teens and young adults and there is a concerted effort in our Catholic high schools to attract students to the conference. We want to continue to strengthen the conference by welcoming young men, the Church’s future, and each year the conference gets a younger audience,” Msgr. Sullivan said. Fathers are being asked to bring their sons, he added.
Bishop shares concerns about conference speaker
My dear friends in Christ,
It is fitting that as the universal Church celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, I as your bishop, who am called to work to implement authentically the teachings of this historic council, should reflect on the various documents of this momentous Church event.
In light of my recent decision to rescind the invitation to Mr. Robert Spencer to speak at the Catholic Men’s Conference next month on the topic of Islam in its relation to Christianity, I should like to reflect briefly on the conciliar document entitled, The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), specifically on paragraph 16 of Chapter 2 which speaks about the special relationship that Christianity has to Islam. The paragraph states, “But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place among these are the Muslims who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind.” (LG. #16)”
As a result of such a theologically salient statement, the Catholic Church has engaged herself in inter-religious dialogue with Muslims. This dialogue has produced a harvest of mutual respect, understanding and cooperation throughout the world and here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. My decision to ask Mr. Spencer not to speak at the Men’s Conference resulted from a concern voiced by members of the Islamic community in Massachusetts, a concern that I came to share. That concern was that Mr. Spencer’s talk about extreme, militant Islamists and the atrocities that they have perpetrated globally might undercut the positive achievements that we Catholics have attained in our inter-religious dialogue with devout Muslims and possibly generate suspicion and even fear of people who practice piously the religion of Islam.
In press reports concerning the cancellation of Mr. Spencer’s presentation, it was inaccurately stated that my decision was based on my wanting to avoid a media event unfavorable to the Diocese of Worcester. That was not the case. Others in some messages they sent to me, most of which were less than charitable and civil, claimed that I had “caved in to the demands of Islamic supremacists.” This of course is uninformed nonsense. In fact, I based my decision solely on the concern that Mr. Spencer’s talk would impact negatively on the Church’s increasingly constructive dialogue with Muslims.
The Catholic Men’s Conference is a wonderful opportunity for men to come together to reflect on their spiritual lives and to become better informed about their Catholic faith and its implications for their daily living. Since the Diocese of Worcester sponsors this event annually, we concluded that a speaker whose focus would be on the danger of militant Islamist jihad, a topic that might be appropriate at a conference on international politics with a forum for debate, was not suitable for our conference.
It is true that Christians in parts of the world where Islam is the dominant religion have suffered and continue to suffer persecution at the hands of Islamist extremists and terrorists. Our local Muslim leaders themselves have publicly described these violent Muslim militants as “heretics” and have condemned such abominable acts. We hold our Christian brothers and sisters who are enduring such persecution in our prayers as we vigorously support every effort to work diplomatically for their protection and well-being.
During this Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI and especially during the holy season of Lent that we are soon entering, I ask that we call on the Holy Spirit to encourage us to share our faith with others, especially our brothers and sisters of other faiths, in order to further the crucial mission of the New Evangelization. As we seek to introduce the Lord Jesus to others, let us pray that our personal and ecclesial witness of faith may help others to know and love Christ who is our Way, our Truth and our Life.
Most Reverend Robert J. McManus
Bishop of Worcester