I attended the 10th annual Men’s Conference of the Diocese of Venice Florida last weekend. About 300 of we men gave up our sunny Saturday to hear a number of great speakers and be reminded of what our purpose is in God’s plan for men.
The Diocese of Venice, established in 1984 from parts of other dioceses, consists of some 70 parishes, 12 elementary schools and 4 high schools in SW Florida. By contrast, the Diocese of Pembroke, ON, (my home diocese) established as a Vicariate in 1882, is much larger in geographic area but smaller in population.
Bishop Frank Dewane urged us to remember gratitude, prayer and the Lord in our daily lives. Next the dynamic Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers exploded onto the stage. Deacon Harold is one of the most passionate, forceful and loudest speakers I have ever seen and heard. He reminded us of our purpose as men – to serve, protect and defend (Gen 2:15)
Men have to take a more serious approach to prayer including with their wives daily. Men have to be witnesses and present to their kids and love their wives to show their kids the example. Single men must be spiritual witnesses to society. It is more important to be loved otherwise we are less capable of loving others.
Interviewer Canadian Patrick Coffin took the stage and in a more subdued manner explained that God has a plan for the world and each of us. Men are the ‘weaker’ sex but God favours the weak, joked Patrick. Manhood is under attack in our culture. Canadian Bill 16 adds gender expression and identify of trans-gender people to the groups that are protected from discrimination or hate propaganda under the criminal code. Life has become complicated and some feel freedom of speech and religion is under attack.
We finished the day with some great songs from Bob Rice, a theology professor from Steubenville, OH. It was great meeting some men from the area and seeing how American Catholicism functions in today’s world. I thought the idea of an annual men’s conference is a great idea worth pursuing back home.