Friday, January 25, 2019

(217) Mark Nehrbas, a Cancer Survivor, to Show How Suffering Can Make You a Saint at the 2019 Steubenville Diocesan Men's Day of Renewal


Mark and Carol Nehrbas in the Grotto of Lourdes.  After a six year battle with cancer, Mark was healed there.

Editor's Post Conference Note:  For a summary of Mark Nehrbas' talk and the 2019 Day of Renewal, go to

(180) Mark Nehrbas: Highlights of the 2019 Diocesan Men’s Day of Renewal
     For the tenth consecutive year, the Diocese of Steubenville is sponsoring a Men's Day of Renewal on Saturday, March 23 from 9 am to 4 pm (optional Rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy at 8:30 am) at St. Stephen’s Church, 1036 Belford St., Caldwell off of Exit 25 on I-77.  The patron of the Conference is St. Joseph, a model of a true man of God, whose intercession we count upon for its success.

The goal of the Men's Day of Renewal is to focus on the spiritual development of the men of our diocese. That includes helping the men to take the right path before having to face the four last things.......Death, Judgment, Heaven or Hell.  Having spiritually strong men of faith and character translates into more solid families, more dynamic parishes, and better communities. This is crucial to the Church and particularly our diocese, now and in the future. It is also critical for nurturing vocations.   

       To complement the Holy Hour, the Penance Service, and Mass presided by Bishop Monforton, the featured speaker is Mark Nehrbas.  As director of Christian Outreach at the Franciscan University of Steubenville for 13 years, he directed and developed the Summer Conferences to national prominence, now attracting 50,000 participants each year in Steubenville and at different branches.  A dynamic speaker, he has given talks at conferences all over the country.

The theme of the Conference is “The Cross as a Source of Strength and Path to Ultimate Victory Over All Adversity”.  This is not abstract theological theory.  Mark Nehrbas lived it.  He will be speaking from his heart, from his personal experience. 

The morning talk, “Victory of the Cross in My Battle With Cancer” will be his personal testimony of what he went through since 2012, a six year journey…….the anxiety, the fear, the pain, and the frustration over two separate bouts of an aggressive form of stomach cancer……two major surgeries, countless days with painful chemo, repeated doses of radiation. Through all this, his prayer life became more intense; his faith and trust in God deepened.  

Mark Nehrbas tried every path except one.  Providentially and unexpectantly, a generous friend, a Knight of Malta, offered to sponsor him and his wife, Carol for a pilgrimage to the great Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France.  Before leaving in May of last year, his doctor indicated that his cancer had come back and would have to resume aggressive treatments after the pilgrimage.  At the time Nehrbas was unaware that his tumor marker count shot up to over 300.  He was reexamined upon his return and the tumor count was normal with no trace of cancer!  The Muslim doctor was baffled!  Mark knew that it’s a miracle!

In the afternoon talk, “Victory Over Suffering: Lessons Learned From the Cross”.  Mark Nehrbas will explore the mystery of suffering, why God permits it, how he confronted it, how he grew from it, the lessons he learned, how it can be very productive, and how it can make you a saint.  The most important of all is that sooner or later every one of us will have to suffer.  We can choose to be miserable or we can choose to unite our suffering with the cross and offer it all up as a dynamic prayer for the conversion of sinners as Mary requested at Fatima, for our Church in deep crisis, for the souls in Purgatory, for the world, and for our loved ones.  Such Redemptive Suffering by many people can ultimately save the world.

Carol and Mark Nehbas at the creek in Lourdes along which
        St. Bernadette and her friends tended sheep.

Sacrifice. The fact, that travel time may be long and distance may be far for many, gives the conference a pilgrimage flavor.  Lent, of course, is all about sacrifice and spiritual growth.  Since St. Stephen Church in Caldwell is in the geographic center of our far flung diocese, the Steering Committee is hopeful that the men of Steubenville in the north and the men of Ironton and Chesapeake in the south will be able to participate.   Regardless of distance, this mini-pilgrimage is a Lenten sacrifice of early rising and a long trip with great fellowship in a van or bus as the men pray together, discuss the talks and other events of the Conference, and deepen friendships.  A bag lunch is provided. 

It should be a great day of enjoyable fellowship and spiritual invigoration. In each of the last eight years men returned reinvigorated, enthusiastic, and spiritually refreshed.  Expect the same this year.  It is awesome to hear the men lift up their voices in song and be moved by the beauty and power of the faith.  But mostly, through God’s grace, we will have more good spiritually strong men for the kingdom of God as well as for the battle against secularism and other evils that plague our society. We will have more men who put Christ into their professions. We will have men who will become more knowledgeable in their faith and better prepared for a joyful Easter and an eternal closeness to God.  The Men's Day of Renewal has grown into an annual event in our diocese, thus fulfilling a great need.

Promotional Help Needed.  Many if not most men will hardly notice the bulletin announcements, posters, and brochures, although they are indeed important and helpful.  What they can’t miss is the one-on-one personal selling by their peers, i.e., talking it up.  The most effective form of advertising or promotion is word of mouth.  Most effective is the witness of men who have gone to a previous Conference, especially the parish representative that we are asking the pastor to appoint or accept as a volunteer.  Thus one or two men are urgently needed in each parish to assure the success of this event

To ease the burden on our pastors, we are depending upon our men to offer their assistance as parish representatives to mobilize the men with good one on one personal selling, register them, and organize van pools.  Word-of-mouth advertising is essential to maximize the promotion of the Men’s Day of Renewal throughout each parish. We ask participants of past years to tell their friends about this awesome opportunity for spiritual renewal.  If there is no parish representative in your parish, please consider volunteering by informing your pastor and by e-mail “Don Coen - Chair Diocesan Men's Day of Renewal” <>. 
Equally important, women can be most valuable in encouraging their husbands, sons (including teens), fathers, brothers, boyfriends, etc., to attend. This is a very important part of the new evangelization.” 

Father and son can make this day an unforgettable shared experience in which they become closer to each other.  If the pastor accompanies the men, he would have an opportunity to know the men better and thus solidify the parish.  The Men’s Day of Renewal needs confessors.

 The local Knights of Columbus council can be most valuable since the spiritual formation of their men is part of their mission.  They are asked to mobilize their men to attend and organize a van pool.  Traveling together can build friendships, solidify the Council, and provide opportunities to tell about the Knights, thus making the Conference a recruiting tool.    .  

Each prospective parish representative is asked to make his availability and contact information known to the Chair of the Steering Committee, Don Coen at (740)264-0155, (740)632-1565, or  Men may register individually or the parish representative may collect the registration forms with payment and send them as a package to Roger Huck; %Men’s Day of Renewal, P.O. Box 54; Beverly, OH 45715.  This would save considerable time waiting at the door.  Checks for the Registration cost of $25.00 per person are to be made payable to the Diocese of Steubenville with “Men's Day of Renewal” written on the memo line of the check.   

Transportation Needs. A carpool, vanpool, or bus saves on fuel costs and gives an opportunity for fellowship while traveling to and from the event—especially for those traveling greater distances. Please invite other men and assist with the organization of transportation for those attending in your parish.

Donations Needed. It is very expensive to put on a conference of this magnitude and feature nationally known  top speakers. While the Steering Committee does its best to minimize the cost for each participant, we are seeking donations from businesses, parish organizations, the Knights of Columbus, and individuals. Please send donations to Roger Huck as shown above.  Furthermore, we do not charge men who are unable to pay so that no man is excluded.

Ads in the Program Brochure.  Details on placing the ad for a business or community organization, or Knights of Columbus Council are in the Conference Blog or call Roger Huck at 740-984-2234 or 740-336-9128.
More information is available from your pastor, from Don Coen above, or Paul Sebastian at (740) 245-9404 or The Men's Conference Blog at has a wealth of promotional materials for use at the parish level…….1) Overview & Poster, 2) Ad Form, 3) Press Releases, 4) Possible Bulletin Blurbs, 5) Pulpit Announcements, 6) Promotional Ideas, 7) Functions of the Parish Rep, 8) Sign-Up Sheet, 9) Sample Bulletin Insert, and 10) a Possible Talk By One of the Men after Mass.  

There are also interesting articles on men’s spirituality, past conference highlights, etc.  After the Conference and throughout the year, articles will be added to help the men keep in good spiritual shape.  Clergy, Religious, and knowledgeable layman are invited to submit articles.

Please submit your registration as soon as possible. Registration will be accepted at the door; however, doing so in advance makes our planning more efficient and also helps to minimize waiting at the conference entrance.  


 Get you into good spiritual shape.
 Have a great day of enjoyable fellowship and spiritual invigoration with fellow parishioners and participants at the conference, resulting in deeper friendships and parish cohesion.
Develop ourselves as men of character and spiritual strength as we obtain the graces to cope with problems and conquer problematic issues that trouble our society.
Be an effective spiritual leader to your family as a better husband and father.
Prepare our hearts for the great feast of Easter as we become closer to God.
Become more knowledgeable about our Catholic faith and grow in Christian maturity.
Become a more effective soldier of Christ, and help strengthen His kingdom on earth.

Visit for additional resources to help promote the Men's Day of Renewal

Sunday, January 13, 2019

(216) Living With Christ During His Baptism of Water and the Holy Spirit Through Images of the Holy Land on the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord


A monument to the Baptism of our Lord on the shore of the River Jordan.

       Only the Gospels of Matthew and Luke describe the Nativity narrative.  However, all four Gospels describe the Baptism of Jesus.  John only mentions that the word was made flesh and Mark does not mention the Nativity at all.  Both begin with St. John the Baptist in the first chapter.  All demonstrate that John is preparing the people to meet the Son of God.  Since parchment or skins were expensive, the hand written Gospels had to be relatively short.  Thus the four evangelists did not go into much detail and would skip the less important.

A group of pilgrims being baptized for the first time or as in our case a symbolic renewal of our original Baptism with water from the Jordan River.  Many are baptized by immersion.  The priest, who accompanied our group from Poland, baptized each one of us by pouring water from the River Jordan over our heads and repeating the words of the sacrament.  If a person is dying and no priest is available, we can baptize the person.  When we were at the site where it is believed that St. John baptized Jesus, a large group of Ukrainian Orthodox pilgrims had a baptismal service.  According to our hotel clerk, the greatest number of pilgrims come from Russia.  This shows that Our Lady’s prophesy at Fatima --that Russia will be converted-- is coming true.  The conversion of Russia has begun!

The Role of John the Baptist. A man named John was sent from God.  He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to testify to the light (John 1:6-8). 
            In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea (and) saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"…….John wore clothing made of camel's hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.  At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins (Matthew 3:1-6).

A biblical map of ancient Palestine that shows how the River Jordan connects the Sea of Galilee in the north to the Dead Sea in the south.

John testified to Jesus Christ.  When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, "Who are you?", he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, "I am not the Messiah."  So they asked him, "What are you then? Are you Elijah?" And he said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No."  So they said to him, "Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?"  He said: "I am 'the voice of one crying out in the desert, "Make straight the way of the Lord,"' as Isaiah the prophet said." 
Some Pharisees were also sent.  They asked him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?"  John answered them, "I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie" (John 1:19-27). 
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).  John (the) Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins (Mark 1:4-5).

As Christ did in His public ministry, John also had dialogues with the Pharisees.  He boldly told them the way it is:  Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance; and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father', for I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.  Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" He said to them in reply, "Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise."
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He answered them, "Stop collecting more than what is prescribed."  Soldiers also asked him, "And what is it that we should do?" He told them, "Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages" (Luke 3:7-14; Matthew 3:7-10).  Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people (Luke 3:18).
He (John) saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.  (The priest and the congregation repeat this phrase at every Mass.)  He is the one of whom I said, 'A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.'  I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel"(John 1:29-31).

A conventional baptism on the River Jordan.


       The Baptism of Christ.  Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.  John tried to prevent him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?"  Jesus said to him in reply, "Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he allowed him.  After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened (for him), and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove (and) coming upon him.  And a voice came from the heavens, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:13-17).  This is the first public manifestation or (an epiphany) of the Blessed Trinity…….the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
John the Baptist testified: "I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him.  I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'  Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God" (John 1:32-34).

Later after Christ chose His apostles and began His public ministry, John continued his preaching and baptizing.  After this, Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptizing.  John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was an abundance of water there, and people came to be baptized, for John had not yet been imprisoned. 
Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew about ceremonial washings.  So they came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him."  John answered and said, "No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven.  You yourselves can testify that I said (that) I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him.  The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete.  He must increase; I must decrease" (John 3:22-30).

A baptism by immersion in the River Jordan.

Insights. The baptism by John was symbolic of repentance.  It did not forgive sins; that had to wait until the Redemption by our Lord on Calvary.  Christ did not need to be baptized.  He asked to be baptized in order to stress its importance and use it as a means for instituting the sacrament of Baptism that cleans the soul of all sin and initiates the child or convert into the faith.  Christ stood in the water, which was used to baptize sinners, symbolizing His taking upon Himself all the sins of the world……past, present and future.

According to the official Catechism of the Catholic Church (#438), “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power that He might be revealed to Israel as its Messiah.  His words and works will manifest Him as ‘Holy One of God.”  We see that the Father is pleased with the humility of His Son in His human nature to submit to being baptized with sinners and being willing to submit Himself to the will of God.  May we always desire to conform to the will of God for our lives.
The meaning of the names “Jesus” as well as “Messiah” are savior; the meaning of the title, “Christ” is anointed one. Upon descending upon our Lord, the Holy Spirit, who did not need the oils as symbols, anointed Him as priest, prophet, and king.  As a priest, He will offer Himself on the cross as expiation for our sins.  As a prophet, He will speak for God.  As a King in the line of David, his kingdom is the universe. 
We are also anointed upon receiving the sacrament of Baptism.  We are also priests, although not ordained to minister, in participating with the ordained celebrant in offering the body and blood of Christ to the Father at Mass.  We are prophets in proclaiming the word of God to our children and others.  We are kings of our families and are heirs to the kingdom of Heaven.  As kings are called to serve their subjects, so are we called by our anointing in baptism to serve others.

Well known is that the sacrament of Baptism erases the stain of original sin and remits every sin of the recipient and any corresponding temporal punishment, but there’s much more.  This sacrament initiates the person into the Church; makes a new creation of the neophyte; and gives sanctifying grace which is divine life in the soul.  Sanctifying grace makes us heirs to eternal life and become capable of loving God above all things and loving our neighbor as ourselves.  Furthermore, we are baptized not only with water, but also with the Holy Spirit who dwells in us and gives us His gifts.  The sacrament of Confirmation confirms and deepens the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.