Men from across all age groups say they have come away with their faith renewed and with action plans to strengthen their vocation as sons, husbands and fathers after attending the first National Catholic Men’s Gathering in over three years because of the COVID pandemic.
The weekend gathering from 7-9 October took place at the Benedict XVI Retreat Centre in the bushland setting of Grose Vale in Sydney’s outer-north west, with some of the 65 participants coming from as far away as Brisbane and Melbourne.
Over the course of the weekend, the men joined in workshops, prayer, Masses and fellowship as they reflected on a range of relevant topics from healthy sexuality and intimacy through to developing and fostering Christian brotherhood and drawing upon prayer to help discern God’s voice in their lives.
“There is a certain danger that we can ‘sleepwalk’ through life’s situations, even in our own families, and become deafened or closed to our loved ones or the needs of the world.”
The Director of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation, Daniel Ang, spoke at the gathering on the meaning of “encounter” in Christian life, emphasising the importance of nurturing Christ-like relationships with others.
“The lack of personal encounter and sensitivity to the other in our time, to God and our neighbour is not without consequence. There is a certain danger that we can ‘sleepwalk’ through life’s situations, even in our own families, and become deafened or closed to our loved ones or the needs of the world. The Scriptures warn us of ‘hardness of heart’ that is unwilling to seek conversion or reconciliation”, Mr Ang said.
Another presenter at the event was the Executive Director of NET Ministries Australia and Brisbane father of three, Mark Lysaght, who has been involved in mens ministry programs for over 20 years.
He led a workshop on “Healthy Sexuality and Intimacy” through a Catholic lens and reflecting upon some of the challenges to Church teaching in contemporary society.
“What we often find with single and married men is the optionless sexual gratification that is sadly available on tap, whether on phones, computers, public billboards, anywhere. Men are inherently visual and so holding to that Catholic teaching of human integrity and understanding how to order our characters around the values we live out are incredibly important”, Mr Lysaght explained.
One of the participants at the gathering, Mike Jacobson said attending the National Catholic Men’s Gatherings over a number of years has helped to deepen his personal faith and in turn that of his wife and two sons.
“I don’t have a wide circle of friends since I’ve got married and the Men’s Gathering is a great opportunity to meet other men from similar family situations and go beyond the sorts of superficial conversations you’d have at a pub.”
Raised in the Jewish faith, Mr Jacobson’s wife is Catholic and while he had drifted away from the practice of his childhood faith, his wife encouraged him to get involved in men’s ministry which led him to become more curious about the Catholic faith, embarking upon the RCIA program and entering the Church at Easter.
“I don’t have a wide circle of friends since I’ve got married and the Men’s Gathering is a great opportunity to meet other men from similar family situations and go beyond the sorts of superficial conversations you’d have at a pub,” he said.
“The commitment of the men who attend is so great that it’s really infectious. It’s now led me to step up and take a far more active role in the faith journey of our two sons”.
Find more information about menALIVE online: https://www.menalive.org.au