Last March the first Archdiocese of Louisville Catholic Men’s Conference proved to be a success by any measure.
The event was held at Our Lady of Lourdes Church and drew 430 participants, a number that missed the conference organizer’s goal of 500 attendees by a hair.
When you consider that the first-of-its kind program took place on the last weekend before the start of Lent — and during a time when the basketball-addicted state’s two major teams were playing in an NCAA Final Four — the conference was a marked accomplishment.
Now there are plans to do it again, only bigger and better.
David Such, Tim Graham and Gary Montgomery, some of the mens’ conference leaders, met last week at St. Bernadette Church — where the germ of the idea for the men’s conference first sprouted — to talk about this year’s event.
The 2013 event will be held March 16, the day before St. Patrick’s Day, at St. Raphael Church, 2141 Lancashire Ave. The title of this year’s conference is straightforward. It says, “It’s Awesome to be Catholic: Growing and Sharing Our Faith.”
Organizers also expect the second-annual conference to be larger than the initial effort.
“We’re aiming to draw about 750 men,” Such explained. “That’s the capacity of St. Raphael, and we knew after last year that we wanted this event to grow, to expand. With the success that we had last year, thanks to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we think we’re in a position to see the larger numbers.”
All three of the men at last week’s gathering praised the guidance the conference organizers received from Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz.
“The moment we approached him, he said ‘what can we do to help,’ ” Graham noted. “He brought the assistance of the archdiocese to us, and that assistance helped us to do a lot of things we weren’t especially good at doing.”
Montgomery recalled that the men told Archbishop Kurtz that they needed help and guidance with registering participants, and the archbishop and archdiocese “really came through for us in a big, big way.”
The archdiocese, with the effort of Sal Della Bella, director of faith formation, helped to organize the conference’s education and marketing efforts. Brochures were
created and distributed, and a website for the conference was designed and placed online, too.
There is already an active, up-and-running website for this year’s conference at www.cmclouisville.net.
Archbishop Kurtz will open the second annual conference at 8 a.m. that Saturday, and the featured speaker will be Jon Leonetti, a Catholic speaker who, as a testament to his faith, in 2009 walked from Ocean Park, Calif., to Ocean City, N. J.
Leonetti will have a tough act to follow. Last March the featured speaker at the initial conference was Deacon Greg Hall of Houston, Texas, whose company helped to rescue 33 miners trapped in a mine near San Jose, Chile. His presentation left many in the audience filled with emotion. In fact, the event last March was remarkably dramatic, the trio of conference leaders said last week.
“I talked with the musicians who said they were moved by the sound of 430 male voices joining in song,” Such said. “And I remember feeling, as I looked around the room at men who had their eyes filled with tears, that the Holy Spirit was really with us through the day.”
Graham, Such and Montgomery all noted that their first effort at an archdiocesan-wide men’s conference went off without a hitch.
“We went into this thing prepared to encounter all kinds of problems,” Graham said. “David (Such) and I had our radios and we didn’t know what to expect — we thought there might be traffic problems or rest rooms that didn’t work, any thing you can imagine.”
But nothing went wrong; a testimony, the men agree, to the presence of the Holy Spirit in guiding their efforts.
Last year’s program featured three “breakout sessions” on topics that included “Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood,” “Social Responsibility and Community Outreach,” and “Everyday Spirituality for Catholic Men.”
“This time we’re going to have at least six, possibly up to eight break out sessions,” Such said. “All of our guests will speak about growing and sharing our faith.”
Though details of the sessions are still being determined, it’s already known that one will deal with religious freedom and another with “Growing and Sharing Your Faith in Prayer.”
Montgomery noted that when he talked to men who attended last March’s conference, “most of them had a one-word response to the event,” he said. “They all said ‘Wow!’ We’re convinced that this second conference will produce the same kind of reaction. That’s what we’re working toward.”