Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 16, 2009
'Fr. Larry tells it exactly like it is,' say participants
PHOTO | PAUL MARCK
Friends Brad Abel, Jeff Marple, Matt Abel and Thomas Carton found their faith strengthened and renewed at the Men of Integrity conference Feb 7-8.
BY PAUL MARCK
SPECIAL TO WCR
SPRUCE GROVE – Four Alberta teens, barely young men themselves, expressed high hopes for the Men of Integrity Catholic Men’s Conference last Feb. 6-7 weekend.
Teen buddies Jeff Marple of Edmonton and Brad Abel, Matt Abel and Thomas Carton of Calgary were among an enthusiastic following of more than 650 Catholic men of all ages, from pre-teens to seniors who gathered at Holy Trinity Parish for the two-day event.
They came to listen to the orations of Father Larry Richards of Erie, Pa., a charismatic evangelist whose program is called Take Courage and Be a Man.
Matt Abel, engaged to be married, needed to hear a message to make part of his Catholic life every day.
LEAD MY FAMILY
“In a year or two, I want to get married and start a family,” said Abel, an 18-year-old chef. “I want my family to be strong, so I want to be strong as a man to lead my family.”
He got what he needed from the conference sessions.
“Father Larry is really straightforward. He says exactly what is on his mind.”
His friends likewise decided that Men of Integrity holds an important point for young men like themselves, and men of every age.
“I’m at this conference to challenge myself,” said Marple, 19, an apprentice electrician.
“You learn a lot of things about life. It’s good to be reminded to build your relationship with God.”
Brad Abel, 16 and a student at Calgary’s St. Francis High School, said youth are exposed to all kinds of mixed signals, even in the learning environment of the Catholic faith.
There are atheists, agnostics and followers of other religions and beliefs in school.
“It’s a challenge to what you believe,” said Abel. “I came here for strength and to find insight into my faith.”
Carton, 17 and a homeschooling student, said he previously heard Father Larry at a family faith conference and was eager to hear him again.
FAITH, PRAYER, MORALITY
The keynote speaker did not disappoint, promoting a regimen of strong, daily profession of faith, prayer and adherence to the Commandments.
Witty, irreverent and at times scolding, Father Larry has a simple but powerful lesson for Catholic men: You must live your faith – every day – or you fail God the Father.
Richards issued a stern assessment of the state of faith among Catholic men.
“I believe most men in the Catholic Church are wimps,” Richards, a pastor from Erie, Pa., told the hushed crowd. “And it’s my job to kick you in the butt.”
The 49-year-old priest cuts no slack for the need to follow God’s rules.
“You have two choices: You become a saint or you go to hell. There is no other choice.”
Despite the strong language, veteran conference participants were heartened.
Tim Gallant, an accountant from Calahoo, was at his fifth men’s conference. The events energize his faith. There are many elements to the sessions and Gallant says he strives to find those that add to and support his beliefs.
“The Holy Spirit can help me take one thing that I can handle, and apply it to my life,” said Gallant.
Plus, Gallant finds the men’s conferences are an opportunity to discuss spiritual growth with others who attend the annual symposiums.
“It gives you a chance to catch up with a lot of views, people’s lives and where they are at, where their journey is going.”
For Rick Lafrance, a utility worker from Hinton, Men of Integrity was his 10th men’s conference. He also brought his three teenaged sons, Steve, 19, and Dennis and Michael, 17, who have attended previously as well.
“I keep coming back because it builds my faith and gives me something to work with.
“You learn something new every time and it’s good for my boys because to bring them up in an environment like this, they’re a little more pious and it helps bring them closer to God.”
Peter Schiller, from Wabamun, has now been to five Catholic men’s conferences.
“I wouldn’t miss it,” said the retired millwright. “This gives you spiritual growth. It’s very enlightening, to help myself and my family.”