At the 19th annual Catholic Men’s Conference Feb. 13, Father Larry Richards challenged 600 men to be “men of integrity” and “men of mercy.”

richards

Father Larry Richards, a priest of the Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania, gave the keynote address at the Catholic Men’s Conference Feb. 13.

During a wide ranging two-part presentation at the Humphrey Auditorium at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Father Richards said a commitment to prayer is essential to being a follower of Christ.

“The way you and I are going to be men of integrity is when we start spending time every day with his word,” he said.

Love is at the heart of mercy, and Christian disciples must be the face of God to others, said Father Richards, a priest of the Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania, and founder and president of The Reason for Our Hope Foundation, a non- profit organization dedicated to “spreading the Good News” by educating others about Jesus Christ.

He told the story of a Japanese man who was imprisoned during World War II for helping the Americans. The man shared his prison cell with an American POW.

The Japanese man was tortured and the American ministered to him by sharing his own food and cleaning his wounds, Father Richards said. When the man was close to death, the American shared with him his faith in Christ.

praying-mens-conference

Dave Wilder, a member of St. Michael Parish in St. Cloud, prays the rosary during the conference. Photos by Dianne Towalski /The Visitor

The Japanese prisoner told him: “If this Jesus is anything like you, I can’t wait to meet him,” Father Richards said, adding, “Could people say that about us?” He asked the men if their wives, children, neighbors and employees would say this about them.

“The job of a Christian is to get out of the way and let Christ live his life through us,” he said.

He also gave youth and fathers a “homework assignment.” He told the youth to write letters to their mothers and fathers before they went to bed, telling their parents they loved them and explaining why. He told the men to write a similar letter to each of their children.

“Then as homework for the rest of your life, to be a man of mercy, you need to tell your wife and kids you love them every day,” Father Richards said.

Christians also need to teach people they are loved by God even before reminding them of the commandments that Christians must live by.
“We all want mercy,” he said. “Then we must be an instrument of mercy to others.”

The conference included a variety of workshops and an opportunity for reconciliation. It concluded with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Donald Kettler.

Carlos Pasqueda, from St. Mary of Mount Carmel Parish in Long Prairie, listens during the Hispanic track keynote by Ricardo Luzondo.

Carlos Pasqueda, from St. Mary of Mount Carmel Parish in Long Prairie, listens during the Hispanic track keynote by Ricardo Luzondo.

Thomas Stach, 16, a member of St. Mary of the Presentation in Breckenridge who is preparing for the sacrament of confirmation, said he was invited to the conference by his sponsor.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” he said, adding that Father Richards’ challenge to be Christ to others made a strong impact on him.

“Whether it’s your wife or your employees or your neighbors, if they can walk up to you and say, ‘If Jesus is anything like you, then I can’t wait to meet him’ — that really hit me,” he said.

This was the third Diocesan Men’s Conference for Mike Sponsler, a member of St. Mary Parish in Alexandria. “It’s part of my continuing journey to bring my life closer to Christ,” he said. “Father Larry was really outstanding, entertaining, of course, but also very convicting.”

What he took away from Father Richards’ keynote was the broad scope of what mercy entails, he said. “It’s easy to look at mercy as one of those little compartments that a man has to deal with. We’re good at compartmentalization, but mercy is much bigger than that.”

Mitchell Overman, left, member of Seven Dolors Parish in Albany, and Tom Overman, a member of St. Donatus Parish in Brooten, laugh during Chris Codden’s workshop,”What wives wish their husbands knew about women.”

Mitchell Overman, left, member of Seven Dolors Parish in Albany, and Tom Overman, a member of St. Donatus Parish in Brooten, laugh during Chris Codden’s workshop,”What wives wish their husbands knew about women.”

The conference also included a Hispanic track featuring keynote speaker Ricardo Luzondo, co-founder of Renovacion Familiar Ministries, a ministry dedicated to strengthening marriages and families in the United States and Latin America.

Mario Mancilla, a member of St. Leonard of Port Mauritius in Pelican Rapids, was one of an additional 43 men who attended the Hispanic track.

“It’s been very constructive for me,” he said. “It is Hispanic culture he’s talking about, and how we don’t understand women sometimes, how they are, how they think. It’s going to help us have better relationships.”

The conference was sponsored by the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family.