Men’s Conference taps university president from N.D. as keynoter

Categories: Around the Diocese

By Kristi Anderson
For The Visitor

For 15 years, generations of men, rural and urban, young and old, have attended the annual Catholic Men’s Conference. And, in the last five years, the committee that plans the day’s events noticed a shift — that the conference is attracting a much younger crowd.

So the committee’s members wanted to choose a message — and a messenger — for this year’s gathering, Feb. 21 at St. John’s University in Collegeville, that would help young men to think more intentionally about their faith, said Chris Codden, director of the Office of Marriage and Family for the Diocese of St. Cloud.


Msgr. James Patrick Shea

Their choice for the keynote speaker? Msgr. James Patrick Shea, sixth president of the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D., and the youngest university president in the United States.

“I am always honored to be asked to attend an event that has so much promise,” said Msgr. Shea, who began his tenure as president in 2009 at age 34. “The idea of having an event like this shows great leadership in the Diocese of St. Cloud and great concern for not only men, but for all families and for the greater society in the church.

“We have so many students coming to us from central Minnesota — a strong Catholic culture — and that does so much good for our campus. This is just a small way that I give back to the people there.”

The recurrent theme of the conference remains Men of Integrity, while Msgr. Shea was given the opportunity to choose the subtheme, which he deemed Men of Life.

“I love the theme, Men of Integrity, he said. “The word ‘integrity’ dates back to one of the medieval concepts of beauty, which means ‘wholeness’. When we think about integrity, the beauty of which it speaks comes through a wholeness of life, living each day fully and for the Lord.

“Men of Life resonated with me because of this journey toward wholeness of life,” he added. “St. John Paul II warned about a culture of death. The tremors of that culture of death affect all of us in our lives because the beauty of life is in danger; so, as a result, we need to be witnesses to life and to share the joy of the Gospel.”

Other speakers

In addition to Msgr. Shea’s keynote address, 14 speakers will present breakout sessions. David Rydberg, a seasoned veteran of the Men’s Conference, will deliver a message about Pope Francis and the “Ten Things You Must do to be Happy.”

New on the docket this year is Father Don Wagner, born on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, who will share his deep devotion to the Blessed Mother in his workshop titled “Bringing Mary into Your Life.”

The conference, which is simultaneously conducted in Spanish for the Hispanic/Latino men of the diocese, has typically drawn more people than past venues could hold. But, after a couple of years of trying to accommodate a larger crowd in the Abbey Church, the conference will return to the smaller 535-seat Humphrey Auditorium this year.

This change is needed because the acoustics in the church made it difficult to hear the speaker, said Codden, who suggests registering early to ensure a seat by visiting

The conference will include an opportunity for the sacrament of reconciliation and will conclude with Mass celebrated by Bishop Donald Kettler.

“My message is secondary,” Msgr. Shea said. “The experience of being together and witnessing together in faith at an event like this comes first. The role of the speaker is to fuse together a common vision. My hope is that the men take more away from each other in fellowship than anything I would say.

“Each of us is trying to be a disciple, striving for wholeness of life and fearless joy,” he said. “In the work I do as priest and as president, I have found that there is no other real way to live but through joyful witness. God not only wants to straighten out our lives, but to transform us and give us hope and courage to witness to others — our family, friends, those in our workplaces and whoever we meet. My hope is that the men leave recharged and strengthened to go and live out the joy of the Gospel.”