Archdiocese’s first men’s conference draws a crowd of 400


Record Editor

There were more than 400 men in Our Lady of Lourdes Church on the morning of March 31, but they were as still as statues, as soundless as if the hall were empty.

Deacon Greg Hall of Houston, Tex., explained how his company helped to rescue 33 miners who spent 69 days trapped in a Chilean mine. Deacon Hall was the keynote speaker at the first Archdiocsese of Louisville Men’s Conference held March 31 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. (Record Photo by Glenn Rutherford)

Standing before them, Deacon Greg Hall of Houston, Tx., was describing how he and his company had worked to rescue 33 miners trapped deep inside the earth beneath the Chilean high desert.

He told them of the trials of the miners who became isolated after an earthquake. He relayed the tribulations of engineers, technicians, equipment handlers, geologists and mathematicians who had all pooled their knowledge and expertise to try and first find the miners, then figure out how to bring them to the surface through more than 2,000 feet of solid granite.

He told how time and time again the operation had ground to a halt; how men and machines on at least three different occasions came face to face with failure.

And then he told them about the power of prayer.

“For the longest time I thought this was a recovery mission, not a rescue mission,” Hall admitted. “We were drilling and drilling and drilling and, remember, we didn’t know where they were. We were all thinking ‘how could they survive?’ ”

But they had. Thirty-three miners had made their way into a safe room that had supplies of food and water — three days worth.

Those three days of supplies would have to last 69 days. Sixty-nine days of work and prayer, study and more prayer, Hall said.

“I don’t know why God chose for this to happen in my life,” he told the first Archdiocese of Louisville Men’s Conference that had gathered before him. “I only know that when I was tired or when things looked bad, I kept telling myself ‘what would I do, how would I feel if that was my brother, my son, trapped down there.’ ”

The mission to first find and then rescue the miners had to overcome what appeared, more often than not, insurmountable obstacles, Hall said.

“One man tried to rappel down a ventilator shaft,” he said, “and other family members wanted to start digging with their hands.”

At one point, the engineers calculated that a block of granite smack in the way of any rescue weighed more than 600,000 tons.

The rescuers, Hall noted, had to do things that had never been done before — if the miners were to ever see the surface again.

On day 17, one of the exploratory shafts produced miraculous results — someone thought they heard tapping. When the engineers and drillers on the surface pulled that shaft back out, someone had dabbed red paint on the drill bit and attached a short note to its end. All 33 men were safe, it said.

“We lowered a video camera and saw a man with a flashlight and then a man’s face,” Hall recalled. “There was, of course, jubilation.”

While the joy of that remarkable discovery energized those on the surface, Hall knew that the job of bringing everyone out alive was far from over.

“They had a couple of things going for them,” he explained. “First, there was the miracle that they’d all made it safely to that room. And the second thing was their supervisor down there with them was a very smart man. He rationed their food and water and they still ran out.”

But the first thing those huddled 2,300-feet below the surface did, Hall noted, “was to build an altar.”

“And the first thing they asked for when we had reached them with a big enough hole wasn’t anything to eat or drink — they asked for a Bible,” he said.

Despite the presence of engineers and scientists, despite the use of some of the most modern drilling equipment on the face of the planet, Hall lays the success of the entire venture at the feet of the Holy Spirit.

“Our chances of success were very slight,” he said, “and I remember thinking that the same Holy Spirit that had been with Moses was here with me.”

Hall paused a moment at this point in his presentation, captured by the emotion of those memories from the summer of 2010.

“We ran into more technical problems than you’ve ever seen in your life,” he continued. “We needed every single bit of energy we could get and we still got stuck” drilling the last and largest shaft.

All the calculations, all the computers and experts said, “we were finished,” he added.

“But right then I think the prayers of the faithful came to our rescue,” he said. “I began to pray ‘please send down your angels, let them get my bit out’ and after a while it began to move. I knew right away that God did that because there was nothing I could do or could have done. God did it.”

God also brought the 400-plus men to the archdiocese’s first conference of its type, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who also addressed the conference Saturday morning, noted that none of them “were there by accident.”

“I don’t know why you’re here,” the archbishop said, “but I do know it is not an accident.”

He suggested that their church, their faith, and their love of Jesus had brought the men to the conference, had guided them to determine what more they could do to stand up in public for God and church.

“You need belief, morality and worship,” he explained. “If you love Jesus, you just can’t get enough knowledge. You learn that we need to live and worship and grow with our hearts, hands and heads. Our minds have to be active; our hearts need to be inspired and our hands must work and create and do.”

Each participant in the first men’s conference needs “to stand up for Christ in your own way,” the archbishop said.

“You need to see what God is asking you to do next,” he said. “You need this church; Jesus and the church must be the passion of your life.”

Tim Graham, one of the co-chairs of the conference, said the turnout of more than 400 participants “has left us just delighted.”

And Bruce Davis, another one of the men who helped organize the event, noted that those who helped make it a reality “are just a really driven group.”

“This has been such a success; we’ve been so blessed,” he said. “We’re already talking about next year’s conference.”

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