By Glenn Rutherford, Record Editor
Last weekend and next, the “champions” identified at the Jan. 29 “Catholic Men’s Conference Circle of Champions Dinner” will be approaching the men of their parish and encouraging attendance at this year’s conference, set for March 22 at St. Michael Church.
It ought to be an easy sell.
The keynote speaker for the conference, in addition to Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, will be Jesuit Father James Martin, a nationally-known speaker who has appeared on all the major television networks and even claimed the fantasy title of “chaplain” of the popular Colbert Report television show.
The show’s star, Stephen Colbert — himself a Catholic — has had the entertaining and knowledgeable Father Martin on his show a number of times, and the Jesuit priest’s appearance in Louisville won’t be limited to the men’s conference.
On the day before, Father Martin will lead the Archdiocese Leadership Institute to be held at the Flaget Center.
So how did the men’s conference, in just its third year, land such a well-known and sought-after keynote speaker?
“Well, it is a great thing to have an archbishop who has lots and lots of contacts,” said David Such, co-chairman of this year’s event and one of the leaders of the men’s conference since its inception in 2012. Archbishop Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “gets all the credit for helping us land Father James Martin, and the fact that the archbishop went to this trouble is another example of his love for this conference.
“He’s not only supported it from the beginning but he made the call to Father Martin and asked him to come to Louisville,” Such said.
Organizers of this year’s event are hoping that the 800-seat St. Michael Church, at 3705 Stone Lakes Drive, will be filled to capacity. And that’s where the “champions” from the January dinner come into play.
So far, Such said, more than 200 people have sign up to attend the conference. “But we’ve learned, and we’ve been told by the people who held the men’s conference in Cincinnati who inspired us to do this down here, that there is always a last-minute blitz of registrations during the last two weeks,” Such said. “That’s what we’re expecting this year.”
At last year’s conference, more than 100 men showed up for the event without registering first, and Such said that this year the conference staff is planning to do a better job of handling those “walk-ins” and getting them properly registered, too.
Such is quick to give credit to the conference’s other leaders, too — emcee Gary Mongtomery of St. Bernadette Church; co-chairman Tim Graham of Holy Trinity Church; Mike Shmidt, also of St. Bernadette parish; and Gerry Hope of St. Athanasius Church.
“Also, Sal Della Bella (the Archdiocese of Louisville’s director of evangelization) has been a wonderful help to us and so has Chris Burt (from the archdiocesan Office of Multicultural Ministry). And Father Dick Sullivan and men from St. Michael Church — including Daryl Smith and Marcus Mattingly — have been a great help, too.”
Such also has good things to say about Patrick Henry Hughes and his father, who will conduct one of the conference’s four break-out sessions. “He and his father have been outstanding for us,” Such noted. “At our first choir practice, our pianist became ill, and his father stepped right up and played for us. Patrick will play the trumpet (at the conference) and his father may play the violin. You can see the connection between them — Patrick’s father has an ear for music and that has translated to his son. We’re grateful to have them for the conference.”
Patrick has written a book and they make speaking engagements around the country to produce an income for their family.
“But when we asked them about a stipend, they said, no, they were just happy to be a part of the conference,” Such explained. “They’re very humble people and I realize now why good things come to them, just by the way they are.”
The cost of the conference is $25, but no one will be turned away for lack of registration fee. To register online, visit www.cmclouisville.net.