Lay evangelist team to speak at Men’s Conference
Tony Brandt and Chris Stewart, the two leaders of Casting Nets Ministries, a nonprofit lay apostolate, will speak at the 17th Annual Worcester Diocesan Catholic Men’s Conference, scheduled for Saturday, April 1, at Assumption College. The title of their talk is “Sharing the Faith with the Seven Pillars of Evangelization.”
Casting Nets is a resource in evangelization and catechesis available to parishes, individuals and organizations. It is dedicated to the challenge of the New Evangelization.
In an interview with this team, Brandt said, “We must proclaim Christ’s message of the abundant life to all who are willing to hear it. We have been given the crucial task of sharing the salvation of Christ with our friends, co-workers and perhaps even strangers.”
Stewart added, “We also possess the challenge of inviting back those who have left the family, that is, Christ’s church. Our talk will give foundational principles 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?”
Tony Brandt is the president of Casting Nets. He earned a degree in theology, philosophy and youth ministry at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan. He and his wife, Kelly, have seven children and live in Wichita.
Chris Stewart is the chairman and COO of Casting Nets. He earned a master’s degree in theological studies from Ave Maria University in Florida, and is a frequent presenter at retreats, conferences, on the radio and in classrooms. He and his wife, Maria, live in Wichita, Kansas, and have seven children.
“The talk given by Tony and Chris will be exceptional,” said Shawn Shields, “as will all the others. There is always something great at our conference and I know that our participants will not be disappointed.” Shields is a parishioner at St. Bernadette Parish in Northborough. He has been a member of the Men’s Conference planning team since 2001 and is responsible for organizing the advertising and conference exhibitors.
Other speakers for the day include Shawn Carney, national president of 40 Days for Life (“A few Catholic Men”); Joe Dittmar, 9-11 Twin Tower survivor (“Free Will & Choice: Practical Lessons from a Day of Destiny”); former professional soccer star, Father Chase Hilgenbrinck (“Greatness Restored”); and Jeff Cavins, Bible presenter and founder of the Great Adventure Bible Study series (“The King and His Men”).
Many priests will participate again this year by hearing confessions at mid-day. Bishop McManus will be the principal celebrant and homilist for the Conference Mass at 4 p.m.
Ticket prices for adult men are $60; $30 for students. Tickets can be purchased at www.firstmensconf.org; by sending a check to Catholic Men’s Conference, 49 Elm St., Worcester, MA 01609; or by calling Julie Schroeder at 508-929-4345.
Father Chase Hilgenbrinck, a former soccer player for the New England Revolution, will speak at the 17th Annual Worcester Diocesan Catholic Men’s Conference, scheduled for April 1 at Assumption College. The title of his talk is “Greatness Restored.”
“Father Hilgenbrinck is a speaker all the participants can really look forward to hearing. The men who come always enjoy those speakers who bring a professional athletic background,” said Robert Haran, a parishioner of Our Lady of Providence Parish in Worcester and a conference committee member since it’s beginning in 2001. Mr. Haran has been recruiting and training parish contact leaders since the inception of the Worcester Catholic Men’s Conference.
The talk will precede confessions and give an inside look of Father Hilgenbrinck’s 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 our Lord in the Eucharist.
He currently serves as a chaplain at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center on the campus of the University of Illinois. His parents raised their children in the Catholic Church. Being devout Catholics, they attended Mass every Sunday, where both of their sons served as altar boys at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Bloomington, Illinois.
He was a member of the United States Under-17 national team, before moving on to play for Clemson University. While at Clemson, he was a four-year starter, helping the Tigers to the 2001 ACC Championship and four NCAA tournament berths, including two Elite Eight appearances.
After graduating from Clemson in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and International Trade, he signed with CD Huachipato of the Chilean First Division. That same year he was loaned out to second-division club, Deportes Naval. In 2006, he moved on to second-division sensation Nublense, and helped the team achieve promotion to Chile’s top flight by winning the league title. After becoming a star player, he played the 2007 season with Nublense in the first-division, completing his fourth and final year in the Chilean league. Two of those years, he was selected as the best player at the left fullback position in the league.
He moved back to the United States in early 2008 and signed a contract with the New England Revolution. On July 15, 2008, he resigned his contract with the New England Revolution and officially retired from professional soccer. One month later, he entered Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. In May of 2014 he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Peoria, Ill.
“Father Hilgenbrinck’s talk will be exceptional,” Mr. Haran said, “as will all the others. There is always something great at our conference and I know that our participants will not be disappointed.”
Other speakers for the day include lay evangelists Tony Brandt and Chris Stewart (“Sharing the Faith with the Seven Pillars of Evangelization”); 40 Days for Life president Shawn Carney (“A Few Good Catholic Men”); Jeff Cavins, Bible presenter and founder of the Great Adventure Bible Study series (“The King and His Men”); and 9-1-1 Twin Towers survivor, Joe Dittmar (“Free Will & Choice: Practical Lessons from a Day of Destiny”).
Many diocesan and religious priests will participate again this year by hearing confessions at mid-day.
Bishop McManus will be the principal celebrant 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.
Mr. Haran added, “We are absolutely delighted to offer another outstanding conference this year. And we anticipate that the participants will love the campus of Assumption College. Thousands of men have been so loyal to the conference that we want to have an excellent array of speakers for it. The men won’t be disappointed.”
“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 parishes and Catholic high schools to attract students to the conference,” he said. “We want to continue to strengthen the conference by welcoming young men who are so important for the Church’s future. Each year the conference gets a younger audience. In fact, a group of students from St. John’s High School have stepped up to offer their assistance.”
New Venue / Speakers announced
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?”