A gathering of men on the NSW south coast at a Catholic conference last week saw an “outpouring of grace” that will flow into our families and parishes.
Around 200 men attended the Be Awake: National Catholic Mens Conference at The Tops Conference Centre at Stanwell Tops which for the first time was hosted by MenALIVE and the Young Men of God Movement, and supported by the Archdiocese of Sydney and the Missionaries of God’s Love community.
Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney Bishop Richard Umbers celebrated Mass for the group who spent time exploring the conference theme of ‘Be Awake’, through talks, workshops, prayer experiences and small group discussions.
“It was an incredibly healing experience for many of the guys,” said Sydney Catholic Youth team leader Chris Lee.
“It is so easy as men to sleepwalk through life and the conference was really about standing in that breach between the Church and society and raising up a new generation of disciples.
“The speakers were great and another highlight was the willingness of young men to really open up about their hopes and struggles.”
Many attended, having discovered it through their own networks or in parish bulletins, who were dealing with issues including addictions, family dysfunction, relationship difficulties and trauma, he said.
“It was amazing to see the older guys taking care of the younger ones at the conference and really mentoring them,” said Mr Lee.
Presentations from motivational speaker Jonathan Doyle, Men of God’s Ben Galea, MenAlive’s Robert Falzon, Sisterhood’s Karen Doyle and others were a hit with attendees, while there was also time for a bit of touch footy, soccer, or to hang out at the beach.
Director of the Sydney Archdiocese’s Life, Marriage and Family Centre Chris Gordon said that an evening of Eucharistic adoration, prayer time and confession was a highlight.
“There was a real outpouring of grace on Saturday night,” he said.
“There seemed to be quite a few people coming back to their faith, and having a real encounter with Christ.”
Adam Bryant, parishioner at Our Lady of Fatima at Caringbah, said the conference was “an unbelievable few days”.
“I’d been to World Youth Day and Australian Catholic Youth Festival events before but this was a very different experience,” he said.
“We were challenged to reflect upon and challenge ourselves about our identity, relationships and past actions, and to commit to making concrete changes to grow in our faith and make it real part of our life.”
Mr Gordon said the event would hopefully not be a one-off but would spark interest in forming small groups in parishes so that men could continue to support one another and grow deeper in their faith.
“There are some men’s groups in the archdiocese but we would like to see more forming.
We can give them the resources and connect them other guys who are interested,” he said.
He encouraged men of the archdiocese to attend a follow-up event, the Men’s Ministry Network Meeting on 23 November St Paul of the Cross parish, Dulwich Hill hosted by Bishop Richard Umbers and beginning with Mass at 6.30pm.
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