Tuesday, November 15, 2011

(34) 2010 Men's Conference Evaluation & Summary of the Work Involved

        In our last blog #33, we presented our bulletin insert of a promotional article in the St. Louis Church Sunday Bulletin.   In this blog we'd like to give the reader an idea of all the work involved in putting on the 2010 Diocesan Men's Day of Renewal.  If any of our readers hopefully would like to organize a Men's Conference in their diocese, let them learn from our Steering Committee, since there's no point in reinventing the wheel.  May our evaluation give them an idea of the problems we encountered, what worked and what did not. 


As Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) said "A complement will keep me going for a year".  The good turnout for the 2010 Diocesan Men’s Day of Renewal and the general satisfaction expressed by many are motivating the Steering Committee to work on the 2011 men's conference with more enthusiasm than ever.  The success of the 2010 Diocesan Men's Day of Renewal was due to prayer in conjunction with a team effort of  the very dedicated members of the Steering Committee, the parish representatives, their pastors, donors, the grand knights and their men, all coordinated by our captain (chair), Steve Ishmael and backed by the Bishop. 

        Promotion was crucial, including word-of-mouth talking it up within the councils and the parishes.  Despite the good turnout of some 267 men, the Men's Day of Renewal would have had a deficit without all of the generous donations.  For our 2011 conference, we are aiming for at least 300 men and hopefully to fill up St. Mary's Church in Marietta on April 2, 2011.  This will only be possible with the help of the pastors, parish representatives, Knights of Columbus, etc..  It should be a little easier this year because we can utilize the personal experience of the men who attended.

        In April 2009 Bishop Conlin initially asked all the pastors to appoint two representatives and send them for a kick-off Mass and organizational meeting on May 2, both presided by the Bishop.  The newly formed Steering Committee originally set an October date, but Fr. Tim Shannon suggested that we would get a much better draw during Lent with a sports figure.  It was a good thing; this endeavor was much more complex and involved than any of us thought.  We really needed the additional five months of preparation and monthly meetings at Corpus Christi Church in Belle Valley, 20 miles north of Marietta off of I-77, which involved a lot of driving.  We chose this location because of its central location within the diocese.

Roger Huck did a marvelous job with the brochures, posters, and program at minimal cost.  Fr. Tim Shannon handled the Penance Service and the liturgy as well as releases in the diocesan newspaper.  Chuck Schneider drew up the minutes of each meeting and more.  Chuck and Steve Hildebrand contacted the speakers and the latter picked up Chris Horn at the airport.  All nine members contributed.  Kevin Shutler, Jim Hartlage, Jim Birong, & Manuel Rubio among others, arranged for lodging of the speakers, the locale, food, display tables, coordinated the efforts of the parish reps, and many other details.

        The Steering Committee was under pressure throughout because it was made clear that no money would be forthcoming from the Diocese if we did not at least break even.   Thus we worked together in asking mainly Catholic businesses and all the councils of the Knights of Columbus in the Diocese for financial support and donations in kind.  Besides receiving the satisfaction of supporting a great cause, the only incentive the donors had --if any-- was to have their names acknowledged in the program.  At the same time, the goals of renewing the faith and making the men spiritually stronger, neatly dovetail with the mission of the Knights of Columbus.......fraternity, charity (helping the community, local parishes, & the Church in general, and the spiritual growth of its members.  A letter to the Grand Knights helped, but the decisive factor, was the numerous knights among the parish representatives and the Steering Committee, who personally appealed to their councils for help.  As always, the Knights of Columbus generously came through with financial help, promotion, and their presence at the Conference.  It was a significant sacrifice. 

        For example, despite being in severe financial difficulties with their K of C Hall, the Council from Knights of Columbus Council 4361
, Mingo Junction almost heroically did its part. Furthermore, at least four members of the Steering Committee, not only gave their time and talents, but also dipped into their own pockets.  As a result, we have a modest surplus and thus much needed seed money to work with for next year's conference. Our heartfelt thanks to all of the donors.  We will need a repeat performance for the 2011 conference.

        Over time, our organization improved, especially after Mass on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The parishes of each of the five deaneries of the diocese were coordinated by a different member of the Steering Committee.  Thus we maintained contact with the pastors and particularly the parish representatives.......helping them with brochures, posters, suggestions, ideas, encouragement, etc. to be used as they saw fit for their particular situations.  Hopefully, our Men's Conference and its promotion in this way will help to unify the parishes within each deanery and our far flung diocese in general, which extends from Minerva (close to Canton) all the way down to Ironton on the Kentucky border.  The parish representatives were crucial and the knights had a big part in the promotion to get the men out.

        The pastors were indispensable with their bulletin messages and inserts plus promoting it either from the pulpit themselves or having one of the men talk to the congregation after all the Masses on a particular week-end.  Furthermore, many were able to give a wonderful example by coming themselves and being confessors.  It was an opportunity to get closer to their men.  Fr. Pat Gaughn even utilized his own donors to pay for the registrations.  We even asked the women to help us by encouraging (not nagging) their men (husbands, sons, brothers, relatives, boy friends, etc.) to come.

        Then there's the quality speakers, confessors, and 267 men who attended.......sacrificing their Saturday and traveling up to two or three hours from the extremes of the diocese at some expense, giving it an air of pilgrimage.  It's a long way from Ironton and Chesapeake to Marietta.  Traveling together in vans and a bus brought great fellowship and even prayer on the way.  Many knights came, some with their grand knights.  At the Conference itself the men participated with enthusiasm as their manly singing reverberated and resonated through out that magnificent church.  Eighteen priests heard confessions all over the church and the great majority of the men took advantage of it. 

        Then the men talked about it on the way back.  In that way they inspired and strengthened each other.  It was contagious!  They went home refreshed and reinvigorated, some even on fire, including those who had reluctantly come because of the promotion, but later were glad they did come.  During the last meeting of our St. Louis Council 3335 Gallipolis, the knights enthusiastically related how much they liked it and resolved to come again and help promote it next year.

        One man went up to the Chris Horn, the main speaker, and said:  "Your talk so touched me that I am going to Confession for the first time in 40 years!"  One young man from our parish and Ohio U with some thoughts about becoming a priest related:  "This priest that I never saw before, came up to me and said:  'I pray every day for guys like you to replace me when I'm in the grave.'  That was scary and made me think:  'Maybe God wants me to become a priest.'"  It's great to see a priest so enthusiastic about his own vocation that he tries to inspire other young men.

        The most important of all was prayer for a successful and spiritually fruitful Diocesan Men's Day of Renewal.  We asked for prayers in our parishes and Fr. Tim Shannon said Mass with us before each meeting for that same intention, starting with the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in December.  In his last homily to us before the Conference, he eloquently said: "We did our best and now it's time to get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit work".  Praise God!  For 2011, our theme is "Becoming True Men of God".  So we are also asking for the intercession of St. Joseph, a true model of a man of God.

So as you can see, the success of this major endeavor was the result of so many people, including you.  Again thank you so much for your help and your presence.  God bless. 

Positive Feedback 

Re: Promotional Talk Ideas & Benefits of the Men's Conference
From:  Tom Sullivan <tsullivan@zoominternet.net>
To: Paul Sebastian <paulrsebastian@yahoo.com>

Paul, I think Sat. was a true success. Everyone seemed to really have enjoyed themselves. You guys up there really put in the time and effort to have every thing nice for us. Thank you so much for your efforts. Tom Sullivan

Dear Paul & Steve,
I just wanted to say; "A Job Well Done"
Thank you and your entire team
Tom Miller
St Frances Cabrini Parish and KofC

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