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Diocese hosts first-ever men’s conference

By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
(Email Renee)

Wanted: Men seeking holiness.

That’s the impetus behind the Diocese of Sioux City sponsoring a men’s conference for the very first time.

The conference will be held April 5 at St. Joseph Church in Le Mars.

Guest speakers for the conference will be Tony Brandt and Chris Stewart of Casting Nets Ministries, a non-profit lay apostolate dedicated to the challenge of the new evangelization. The two keynote presentations are titled Honor Thy Father and Honor Thy Mother.

“Honor Thy Father is a meditation on God the father and how we as men manifest who God is through our actions,” Brandt said. “As men, we have to dedicate ourselves to being better husbands, better fathers and better leaders within whatever realm we are in.”

He said they must strive for greatness to exemplify God the father.

“Honor Thy Mother is a talk on Marian devotion as well as honoring the women in our lives – being gentlemen, being chivalrous men who are willing to die for our wives,” Brandt said. “Being able to treat women with respect and recognize that dignity in our daughters. It is a men’s talk about women.”
In addition to the keynotes, Brandt will present one of the breakout sessions. Honor Thy Brother will focus on accountability amongst men and how “iron sharpens iron.”

Becoming better men

“As brothers, we can move forward to help each other become better men,” Brandt said. “That will be a resounding theme throughout the entire conference. The whole point is that we help each other become better.”

For the men who take part in the upcoming conference, he urged that they be open to what the Lord has to say to them through the talks and prayer.

“Everywhere that I have seen conferences being held, the second year is bigger than the first, the third year is bigger than the second,” noted Brandt. “They continue to grow.”

Justin Frato, assistant director of adult catechesis and family life, pointed out that along with the keynote talks men will have the chance to participate in two breakout sessions. Seven options will be available in English. Topics range from how to be a good husband and father to being a faithful disciple.

“One of the most popular breakouts so far has been Father Kevin Richter’s who is presenting A Spiritual Workout with St. Ignatius,” he said. Father Richter has been trained in spiritual direction in the style of St. Ignatius from the Institute of Priestly Formation.

Spanish track

Frato said they will also have a Spanish track. They keynote presentations will be simulcast in Spanish and two breakout sessions will be offered.

Newly-ordained Father David Esquiliano of Storm Lake will offer one breakout. Another session will look at forming Hispanic Knights of Columbus councils.

“This men’s conference is definitely a long time in coming in the diocese and men are ready for it to happen,” Frato said. Men’s groups in Le Mars and Sioux City had approached him about having a conference in the diocese.

Sean Martin, diocesan director of new evangelization, catechesis and family life, said he is pleased with the planning and preparation that has gone into the event. He complimented the two men’s groups from the diocese that stepped up to help plan the gathering under the coordination of Frato.

“I’m very excited about this conference; I think it will be blessed,” he said. “I see a lot of excitement from men around the diocese – lay and clergy.”

Martin noted that one of the main goals of the conference is to build up the Catholic leadership of the men in the diocese.

“We want them to be spiritual leaders in the home and parish,” he said. “We want them to have time away with the Lord in prayer, in fellowship and through talks that will help build them up for the kingdom.”

The day will conclude with Mass at 2 p.m.

As a result of this conference, Frato said they hope that more local men’s groups form. Through the conference they can “light the fire” and then local groups can help maintain it through the support of fellow men.

Casting Nets

Brandt spoke about the mission of Casting Nets Ministries.

“We want to show people that as Catholics we have a moral obligation to share our faith with others – to evangelize. This isn’t something where we can sit back in our own bubbles. We need to heed the commission of Christ to go and spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth,” he said.

Another objective of their ministry is to give tips, technique and general know-how to build their confidence in sharing the Gospel with others. They also provide resources to help people become more effective in evangelization. In addition to facilitating parish missions and speaking at conferences, Casting Nets Ministries that is based out of Wichita, Kans., has a radio show to help spread the word.

Learn more about Casting Nets Ministries at www.castingnetsonline.com and www.castingnetsinstitute.com.
For men whose interest is even slightly piqued by this upcoming men’s conference, Brandt urged and challenged them to attend.

“The reality is we need holier men. We need men who are willing to die for their families, die for Christ – to come and feed off of each other to become better men,” he said. “I can’t encourage you enough to make that choice.”

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