First men's conference since pandemic will focus on 'getting our identity right' in a confused world, priest organizer says
SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Here’s the bottom line: The Church needs men. And men need Christ in order to be authentic examples of God’s love for their families, parishes and communities.
On Sept. 23, Catholic men — and non-Catholic men — are invited to attend the Detroit Catholic Men’s Conference at St. John Vianney Parish in Shelby Township for a day of talks, testimonials and theology — and an opportunity to flex spiritual muscles that might be in need of a workout.
The conference’s theme, “True Catholic Manhood in a Hostile World,” is a clarion call for men to rediscover their God-given identity in a world that seeks to turn them off course, said Fr. Stephen Pullis, who is organizing and will speak during the conference.
“In the last couple years, there have been a lot of challenges and struggles for men in living their identity in Christ. This conference is a way to help them kickstart that and to build community with one another in order to live as the men God wants them to be,” Fr. Pullis told Detroit Catholic.
The conference, which will take place from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., will include Mass with Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron as well as talks from Fr. Pullis, director of pastoral formation at Sacred Heart Major Seminary; Peter Herbeck, executive vice president and director of missions for Renewal Ministries; and Fr. Athanasius Fornwalt, FHS, a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit and pastor of St. Mary of Redford Parish in Detroit.
Tickets will cost $25 per man, or $20 for students ages 14 to 21.
It’s been several years since the Archdiocese of Detroit has hosted a men’s conference, Fr. Pullis said — at least since before the COVID-19 pandemic. As society increasingly isolates men, it can be easy to lose sight of the need for spiritual communion and support, he said.
“There’s a lot of isolation and separation, and that leads to depression or feelings of loneliness,” Fr. Pullis said. “We have to get our identity right and understand who God made us to be, so we can get our mission right. God calls us to serve and to lead in the world.”
Talks during the conference will focus on the importance of regular prayer in a man's life, the Mass, and living virtuously in a culture that promotes immorality, Fr. Pullis said.
“We’re going to be talking about the sacramental life for men, and there also will be a talk on living virtuously in our bodies, particularly the challenge surrounding pornography and how to be men of purity in the midst of a culture that pushes a nonstop onslaught of impurity on them,” Fr. Pullis said. “We’re going to bring the day to a conclusion with the Eucharist, and we're grateful the archbishop is celebrating Mass for us.”
Despite society’s insistence that the difference between men and women is negligible, men have a unique calling from God to be providers, protectors and self-sacrificing servants, Fr. Pullis said. While some are called to marriage or the priesthood, every man shares a universal mission from God.
“Every man is created to be a husband and a father — someone who, in imitation of Jesus, is willing to lay his life down for the good of those he serves,” Fr. Pullis said. “A man is called to be a leader in his family and in the community after the model of Jesus, and that’s self-sacrificial leadership.”
But while men are called to be leaders, they aren’t called to be lone wolves, Fr. Pullis said. That’s why opportunities such as men’s conferences are important, allowing men to be sharpened by the experiences of other Catholic men.
“We want this to be a day for men to come together with their friends, their sons, their fathers, their brothers, all of the men in their lives, to say, ‘Hey, maybe there’s challenges I’m struggling with or difficulties in my life,’” Fr. Pullis said. “Men aren’t always great about saying, ‘I want to talk about this.’”
Fr. Pullis encouraged men to consider inviting other men to the Sept. 23 conference, particularly those who might no longer practice the faith.
“In our day and age, with our challenges, this could be just the opportunity your friends and neighbors are looking for,” Fr. Pullis said. “This is an opportunity for men to invite those in their lives who have maybe fallen away from the Church, or have never been Catholic, and to say, ‘Let’s think about what our masculinity and our manhood means.’”
Detroit Catholic Men's Conference
To register for the Sept. 23 Detroit Catholic Men's Conference at St. John Vianney Parish in Shelby Township, visit detroitcatholicmen.org. The conference's theme is "True Catholic Manhood in a Hostile World." Tickets cost $25 per man, or $20 for students ages 14 to 21. The conference will take place from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.