Diocesan Men's Conference inspires participants to share their faith

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PROVIDENCE — A desire to grow in relationship with Jesus Christ inspired more than 150 men from across Rhode Island to flock to the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul for the annual Men’s Conference, hosted by the diocese on April 29.

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Through listening to talks delivered by dynamic Catholics speakers to attending a Mass celebrated by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, the conference attendees said the day’s events served to bolster their faith and reenergize their spiritual batteries.

“You start off and you’re up here, but living in our culture today, you come down your ladder a little bit. This kind of invigorates you to get back up to that level again and pick up where you left off,” said Eugene M. Bernard, a parishioner of St. Joan of Arc Church in Cumberland.

The diocesan Office of Faith Formation hosted the conference in coordination with the Men of Saint Joseph International and the Rhode Island Knights of Columbus. The conference, the first of its kind hosted at the cathedral and the diocese’s adjacent McVinney Auditorium, follows in the tradition of a Men of St. Joseph Conference previously hosted alongside the diocesan Faith Formation Convocation at Bryant University.

The conference’s theme was “Are you in a battle? Draw your strength from the Lord.”

Edward Trendowski, director of the Office of Faith Formation, said considerable work went into planning the conference and added that he was grateful for the bishop celebrating Mass and for the large turnout.

“My hope is that each and every person be touched by Jesus Christ during the Easter season, and especially that we take the bishop’s message of living the Resurrection out into the world after the day is completed,” Trendowski said.

Bishop Tobin thanked the conference organizers and attendees, telling them that their presence in the cathedral was encouraging for him. In his homily, the bishop focused on the Resurrection as a pivotal point throughout history and how all Christians are called to be witnesses to the Resurrection as the apostles were more than 2,000 years ago.

“It is the resurrection of Christ, that great event, that changed the world forever, that formed the Church, that continues to inspire and motivate our faith,” Bishop Tobin said, adding that the Resurrection is not just a one-time historical occurrence but rather a dynamic event that leads people to encounter the living Christ.

And just as it was for the early Christians, people today will come to believe in the Risen Christ through the example of his disciples, the bishop said.

“If people today come to believe in Jesus Christ, it will be because of us,” said Bishop Tobin, who also asked his audience: “Do we live our lives in such a way that makes Christianity attractive to others? Are we proud of our Catholic faith? Do we eagerly share it with others?”

The conference included live music, prayer and lunch. The featured speakers were Ken Yasinki, the founder of Face to Face Ministries and a Lighthouse Catholic Media speaker, and Father Matthew Williams, director of faith formation for the Archdiocese of Boston.

Yasinki’s first talk — titled “What is the purpose of my life?” — focused on divine purpose and personal commitment to Christ. He emphasized living in accord with one’s design, which he described as being in relationship with God.

“There is a thirst in our hearts for the blessings of our heavenly Father,” said Yasinski, who reminded his audience that they were all beloved sons of God.

Meanwhile, Father Williams spoke about our relationship with the Blessed Mother, who leads her children closer to her son, Jesus Christ.

“She accompanies us. She is our heavenly mother,” Father Williams said.

The men who attended the conference said they derived great spiritual benefits from it.

“If you want to strengthen your faith this is the way to do it,” Bernard said.

Tom Buser, a parishioner at St. Joan of Arc Church in Cumberland, said the conference was an opportunity to keep developing his relationship with Christ. He said he had also been to men’s conferences when he lived in Florida.

“It’s nice that these conferences are growing all over the place,” Buser said. “That’s a welcome sight.”

David Habershaw, a parishioner at SS Rose and Clement Church in Warwick, said he had great hopes for the day.

“I just hope to be inspired more, to pray more, to reach out to people more,” he said.

The Office of Faith Formation will also host the first annual Diocesan Women’s Conference at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul on Oct. 7. More details regarding the women’s conference will be announced closer to the event.

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