By Celeste Behe
Over 500 men gathered Nov. 18 at DeSales University, Center Valley for the 12th annual men’s conference sponsored by the Diocese of Allentown Commission for Men. The conference was “a unique opportunity to be inspired as men of faith in our present times,” said Bishop Alfred Schlert, who celebrated a vigil Mass for the conferees.
Speakers at the event were Matthew Leonard, founder of The Science of Sainthood; Peter Herbeck, Executive Vice President and Director of Missions for Renewal Ministries; and Father Larry Richards, a priest of the Diocese of Erie and the founder of The Reason for Our Hope.
The day-long conference included breakfast and lunch, plus time for visiting vendor tables. Confessions were heard throughout the day by several visiting priests.
In the opening keynote, Peter Herbeck commented on the conference theme “Ask, Knock, Seek”: “The foundation of all the asking, knocking, and seeking isn’t desperation, but the confidence that I can come into my Father’s presence at any time.”
Herbeck said that the questions to ask God are “Who are you?” and “Who am I?”
“When we get those two things clear, we get a glimpse of who the Lord is, and what He thinks about us, and it changes us.”
Change is the first step toward saintliness, a vocation to which, according to Matthew Leonard, every one of us is called.
“The whole point of the Incarnation, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Our Lord,” asserted Leonard, “is to make you a saint.”
“There is a reality of the grace that you’ve been receiving in the Eucharist. You’ve got to make that active decision to turn and follow Jesus. The question is: are you prepared to move through this life so that you can become a saint?”
Conference attendees were treated to two separate talks by Father Larry Richards, a return keynoter whose presentation at a past Allentown Diocese men’s conference earned him the highest speaker rating in the conference’s history.
Speaking on the masculine pursuit of faith in our modern age, Father Richards told his listeners to prepare for battle. “You can’t fight unless you have a sword, and the Word of God is a sword.”
He emphasized, “If you’re going to fight, you better be willing to die. It’s how God conquered sin: by dying on the cross.”
Father Richards also shared the moving story of his own father’s death. “The only time I ever told my dad that I love him was on his deathbed. That’s what he took into Heaven with Him.
“St. John Vianney says that this is the glorious duty of man, to pray and to love. So, gentlemen, these are the two things you’ve got to stay focused on.”
Bishop Schlert, in his homily on the Parable of the Talents, declared, “Everybody has gifts … and the ability to fully participate in God’s mission.”
“Your source of that ability is right here at the altar, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ.
“Use [your talent] freely for the betterment of others. Everybody in this room is responsible for a task or for an obligation that he has. Don’t fear it. Because if you have it, God has called you to fulfill it.”
While the majority of conferees reside within the Allentown Diocese, one had traveled from Washington, D.C., and another was visiting from California. The participants ranged in age from pre-teen to 91.
The 2024 diocesan men’s conference will take place Saturday, Oct. 19 at St. Joseph the Worker, Orefield. Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers will be the keynote speaker. To receive email updates, sign up at the Commission for Men website, www.MenAliveInChrist.org.