The annual Men of Integrity conference drew more the 450 participants.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

The annual Men of Integrity conference drew more the 450 participants.

February 22, 2016
THANDIWE KONGUAVI
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Amid the shifting sands of society today, Catholic men are being encouraged to be courageous, be strong and stand firm in the faith.

That was the theme of this year's Men of Integrity Conference at Holy Trinity Parish in Spruce Grove, Feb. 5-6.

Euthanasia and pervasive gender ideology being pushed on school children were among the issues that gave impetus for the theme, said Maurice Beier, one of the conference organizers.

"There's so many things that are out there right now that are challenging us right now. We need to stand on the rock because the sand is shifting," he said.

Fr. Stefano Penna addresses the Men of Integrity conference in Spruce Grove Feb. 6.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

Fr. Stefano Penna addresses the Men of Integrity conference in Spruce Grove Feb. 6.

More than 450 men met at the two-day men's conference put on by Catholic Family Ministries.

Keynote speaker Father Stefano Penna gave dynamic, passionate and challenging talks about strength in mercy.

Having mercy does not mean being OK with everything, said Penna, warning against false tolerance in the face of ideological colonization.

"God is the only one I have to fear," said Penna. "Don't be afraid to talk about your prayer life or a homily that you heard - at work, with your friends."

Penna, a lecturer, preacher and vice president for college advancement and development at Newman Theological College, also encouraged men to take action by writing their MLA, and having the courage to do the messy work of sitting down to talk with their kids.

Kids are looking for someone to lead them, he said. Teach your child how to die, and let them know they are loved by dying to yourself and putting your wife first, he told fathers.

Taking aim at reality television shows and ubiquitous pornography, Penna said TV is turning people into voyeurs. Pornography is preventing people young and old from actually seeing people, making them objects for their own pleasure.

"We want to be able to see people as the image and likeness of God."

Penna challenged men to discipline their eyes and be guided by the Sermon on the Plain, to seek healing of the eyes by going to the poor.

"You wanna heal your eyes? Go to the poor. Go to the poor and touch them, look them in the eye."

Penna also gave attendees practical tools to work with such as beginning each day with reading a line of Scripture.

Patrick Schiller, a Catholic Family Ministries board member from Holy Family Parish in St. Albert, said Penna's call to be real and stand up for the faith in love and mercy was encouraging, especially in a world that tells men to be quiet and not "cause a fuss."

DEVASTATING PROCESS

Guest speaker Tony LaGrange encouraged men to be on guard by standing firm in their marriages.

A businessman and father of seven, LaGrange shared stories about raising his family with wife Colleen and the experiences of his friends, including one whose marriage disintegrated after 25 years.

"It's a devastating process to watch, a heartbreaking feeling."

Families fight, argue and not everything is harmonious and beautiful, he said. It is the shared bond of going through something together that strengthens married couples and brings profound joy in the chaos, he said.

"In my personal experience, there's no better place to learn to be merciful than with siblings and children," said LaGrange.

BEAUTIFUL SIGHT

Beier encouraged each man to bring another to next year's event.

"Men that go are really blessed to be able to support one another and encourage one another," he said. "It's a beautiful sight to see hundreds of men together praying together, learning about our faith."