More than 400 Catholic men from across Kansas gathered Saturday in Hays, and while there was some disappointment one of the speakers was not able to arrive, the enthusiasm for the conference was still high.
The event at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, 1805 Vine, marked the seventh annual Men of God conference. Several, including Bishop-elect Gerald Vincke, said they were looking forward to hearing Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput speak and conduct Mass, but flight scheduling prevented him from making the trip on Friday.
Chaput grew up in Concordia and attended seminary in Victoria.
Despite his disappointment in not being able to hear Chaput, Monte Abell, Phillipsburg, said he enjoyed the conference. He has attended since the beginning.
“I like the camaraderie and the speakers and the rejuvenating my spiritual renewal every year,” he said.
Many took the opportunity to visit with Vincke, who will be installed as bishop Aug. 22 in Salina. Vince will also be at Catholic Rural Life Day at 3 p.m today at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 210 W. 13th.
Vincke gave the welcome and opening prayer for the men’s conference Saturday morning. This weekend is his first visit to Ellis County and the farthest west he’s been in the diocese, which spreads from Manhattan to the Colorado border. He said he wanted to take the opportunity to meet as many people as he could.
“There’s three strong Catholic churches here, that’s my sense,” he said. “The people, they’re very friendly and hardworking, and you can tell they’re just very family oriented.”
The men’s conference was originally at Russell’s St. Mary Queen of Angels Catholic Church, but moved to Immaculate Heart last year due to its growth.
The conference has grown every year since it started, and brought about 450 men this year, Corey Lyon, director of Family Life for the Salina Diocese, said. About a quarter are from outside the diocese, he said.
“We have people come from all over the state of Kansas, even someone from Texas this year,” Lyon said.
The speakers are usually a big draw, Lyon said. Last year featured Father John Lager, chaplain of Fellowship of Catholic University Students and one of the founders of Marked Men for Christ ministry.
“When he came last year, there was a big group of Marked Men for Christ in the Diocese of Kansas City,” Lyon said.
This year, John Martignoni, founder and president of the Bible Christian Society and host of “EWTN Open Line” radio show, spoke in the morning on the parallel of marriage and the relationship of Jesus and the church, and in the afternoon on living the word of God to bring justice and peace.
He also filled in the archbishop’s scheduled spot to speak on apologetics, or explanation of the Christian religion.
For those who attended, the speakers and the chance to join with men of their faith was the biggest draw of the conference.
“There’s so many good leaders here, the priests and the speakers, and then just the other laypeople you get to visit with,” Jeff Riener, Stockton, who was attending for the fifth time, said. “It’s not everyday you get a bunch of guys who share the same faith and beliefs together.”
“There’s a lot of people I know here, and it’s really powerful for men to get together and join forces, so to speak,” Matt Micek, Atwood, said.
Younger participants echoed their words.
“I wanted to come here with my dad and spend some time with him and listen to the speakers,” Jordan Ostmeyer, 16, Grinnell, said.
Tommy Sibley, 16, Goodland, said singing with the large group gave him a good feeling.
“I thought it was pretty cool that everybody was singing and we all did communion,” he said.
The diocese’s Lyon said more men have been bringing their sons, and this was the first year the age limit was lowered to include middle school students.
“Hopefully, if they come as children with their fathers, they’ll continue to come as adults,” he said.