North Texas Catholic Men's Conference attendees urged to be fishers of men
COLLEYVILLE — As He did with Simon and Peter, Jesus calls us all to become fishers of men. That call to evangelize and serve at multiple levels — from the family to the community at large — was the focus of the April 21 North Texas Men’s Conference at Good Shepherd Parish in Colleyville.
Now in its seventh year, the event, organized by the North Texas Catholic Brothers for Christ, attracted 686 men from 84 parishes in the Dioceses of Fort Worth and Dallas.
Speakers discussed outreach efforts ranging from family to prison ministry and depending on each other.
Deacon Matt Lamoreaux, of the Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico, spoke of Jesus in men’s daily lives.
“Jesus is always there for us whether we recognize it [or not],” Dcn. Lamoreaux said. “Jesus comes to us in so many ways and we’re faced with the requirement — if we choose — to pick up our cross, follow the Lord and understand how much God loves us as we are, not as we wish we were.”
Fishers of men too have to learn to accept people how they are, said Monsignor Jack Harris, pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Morrilton, Arkansas. Msgr. Harris also serves as chaplain of the Varner Unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Having worked 40 years in prison ministry, including death row ministry, Msgr. Harris works with youth in juvenile courts and as a crisis intervention specialist. Msgr. Harris responded in the aftermath of the 1998 mass shooting at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas that left five dead.
Whether in disaster response or prison ministry, Msgr. Harris said he always tries to find Jesus in the situation.
“To believe God is present in situations like this is tough,” Msgr. Harris said. “But He’s here, and He’s going to walk with us.”
Catholic Brothers for Christ President Bob Duane joked that the conference’s motto is “Blessed are the flexible for they’ll never be bent out of shape.”
That mindset proved invaluable after scheduled keynote speaker Patrick Coffin, Catholic evangelist and radio host, had to cancel last minute because of an illness in the family.
Everyone remained calm and remembered God is in control, Conference Emcee Dave Palmer said.
Evangelical convert Scott Sullivan, who holds a doctorate in philosophy and a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, filled in.
Catholics, Sullivan said, cannot afford to be ignorant anymore given the number of people, especially young people, leaving the faith.
“People need to know that it’s possible for intelligent, well-educated people to accept the Christian faith rationally,” Sullivan said. “Reason and evidence are strong points of Christianity.”
A primary reason so many young people stray from Catholicism rests with our increasingly secularized society being largely at odds with faith, Sullivan said.
“Faith is incompatible with what they’re learning at the high school or university level,” Sullivan said. “This generation is struggling with faith in ways we have not seen in previous generations. It’s a trend in popular culture to see atheism as smart and faith as fairytale.
“And we’re naively sending our children off to the front lines of a culture war untrained and ill-equipped to deal with all these moral and intellectual challenges against our faith.”
The primary duty of preparing children for those challenges falls upon the parents, Sullivan said.
“We absolutely must teach ourselves and the next generation how to deal with the assault against our faith,” Sullivan said. “The good news is that Catholicism has a very strong intellectual tradition and a very strong world view. In fact, I think Catholicism is the most well thought out and factual world view on the planet.
“I strongly encourage all Catholic dads as heads of the family to learn the arguments by which your faith is defended. Educate yourself and your children. If we’re going to change our culture we need to become the spiritual leader of our households, not the pastor, not our neighbors.”
Good Shepherd parishioner Kyle Werking said this year marked his second North Texas Men’s Conference.
“I come here to strengthen my faith, be a better husband, father, and friend but I never know what I’m going to get here,” Werking said. “You hear different nuggets from the speakers and see how the Lord is going to move you.”