Conference offers men faith, fellowship and a challenge to deepen their spiritual lives

Categories: Around the Diocese

mens conference

Men gather in the St. John’s Abbey lower church for confession and to pray the rosary at last year’s Catholic Men’s Conference. (Dianne Towalski / The Visitor)

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

For years, men have been gathering together for the annual Men’s Conference sponsored by the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family and the Office of Multicultural Ministries to deepen their spiritual life, share camaraderie and learn how to better become men of faith.

The day includes prayer, speakers, workshops, an opportunity for confession, a shared meal and Mass with Bishop Donald Kettler.

For Mike Rydberg, a member of St. John Cantius Parish in St. Cloud who has attended the conference for several years, it has been a time for his own spiritual growth, but also something he has shared with his three sons, David, Timothy and Jonathan.3

“The church is often perceived as a domain of women,” he said. “Women are expected to be religious and certainly outnumber us as men in the pews and religious activities. Certainly men play a key role in the life and mission of the church — not just sacramentally as priests and deacons — but in their roles as husbands and fathers. We need to take a leadership role and take our place alongside women in the Body of Christ, to encourage each other, strengthen each other and exhort each other to live out our faith.”

Being challenged

The eldest Rydberg son, David, has also attended the Men’s Conference for a number of years.

“Sometimes I attended for work-related purposes, sometimes because I was speaking, sometimes because my father and brothers were going. But no matter the ‘official’ reason I ended up going, I always knew that it would be an opportunity to have fellowship with others who are traveling the same path,” he said.

David, who is a part-time stay-at-home dad to three sons and works on the morning show on Spirit 92.9 radio, noted that there is something special about attending an all-male conference.

“One of my favorite parts is the Mass in the Abbey Church,” he said. “Joining voices in praise with other men of all ages and walks of life is something very encouraging to a Catholic man.

“Being at the Men’s Conference is a unique time to encourage one another to continue following Jesus. Men can sometimes be caught up in the ever-important task of taking care of their families, which is the calling for many of the guys who attend. But like Jesus got away from the crowds to pray and rest, Catholic men need to do the same thing.”

Timothy Rydberg is the youth minister at St. Joseph Church Bread of Life Community in Erie, Pennsylvania, under the direction of Father Larry Richards, who will be this year’s keynote speaker for the conference. Father Richards will give two talks — “Being a Man of Integrity” and “Being a Man of Mercy.”

Timothy said attendees are in for a real surprise and that “Father Larry will give it to you straight.

“He speaks the truth in love. However, he speaks the truth. There may be things you don’t want to hear, but you’ll definitely walk away feeling challenged,” he said.

“I don’t want to give anything away but I would guess he will talk not only about God’s mercy, but about how we need to be merciful. And he will probably ruffle some feathers. But that’s what he does. People will walk away feeling excited because he will challenge them to be great, and being great is a hard thing to do.”

Local speakers

During the day, participants will also have a chance to attend workshops with local speakers such as Bishop Kettler, Benedictine Father Edward Vebelun, St. Cloud seminarians Deacon Doug Liebsch, Mark Botzet and Greg Sauer as well as Mike Rydberg, who is licensed as an independent clinical social worker. He will be co-speaking with Rich Codden on the topic of pornography.

“Pornography has a profound impact on marriage and the family because it has a profound impact on men. I certainly deal with that in my practice,” Mike said. “I intend to bring tragic stories and insights about how this stealer of masculinity usurps our true roles as husband and fathers.”

He will also talk about hope for breaking the addiction.

“It is not something that we can’t break free from,” he said. “It does not disqualify us from being the men we were created to be. The sad reality is that the majority of men don’t struggle with pornography, they just yield to it. We have a culture of men yielding to it and not fighting against it. We need to awaken to the damage it causes. When we do struggle, we will win that struggle because the power that is within us is greater than any temptation we might face. Jesus has the power to make us warriors again.”