As Australia starts to resume large scale public gatherings in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organisers of the first in person National Catholic Mens’ Gathering in three years, hope it’s an opportunity for men of all ages to network and grow in their vocation as husbands and fathers alongside fellow men of faith.
The Benedict XVI Retreat Centre in the semi-rural setting of Grose Vale on Sydney’s north-western outskirts will host the national gathering from Friday 7 to Sunday 9 October, featuring fellowship, prayer, Mass and talks on a range of topics from “Health, Sexuality and Intimacy” through to “Prayer Life” and “The Power of Authentic Brotherhood”.
The gathering is a collaboration between menALIVE and the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation (SCE).
Life, Marriage and Family Officer with the Archdiocese of Sydney, Ivica Kovac, said the theme of this year’s event RENEW/REFRESH/RECONNECT, is aimed at helping to bring men together in person in a faith-filled setting after the challenges posed by extended COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns since 2020.
“This event is for all men, whatever your age. You’ll be welcome whether you’re a weekly Mass goer, a daily Mass goer, an occasional Mass goer or don’t even attend Mass- it’s for everyone”, he told The Catholic Weekly.
Ivica, a father of seven children, said he hopes the event can help men overcome the deep sense of isolation many felt during the pandemic.
“The number one killer of men aged 15-45 is not cancer or car accidents, it’s actually suicide and all the research has consistently shown that the number one contributing factor is isolation. And so an event like the National Catholic Men’s Gathering is an opportunity for men to get away from the usual settings of work and family life and spend some time with like-minded men, to listen and talk in a supportive environment”, he added.
One of the keynote speakers at the event is Robert Falzon, a Brisbane father of four who founded menALIVE 20 years ago and has grown it to a point where its programs have reached a remarkable 35,000 men across Australia and New Zealand.
The journey started when at Sunday Masses with his family, Robert saw first hand how there were so few men in the congregation and he decided to take his concerns up directly with the then Archbishop of Brisbane, the late John Batersby. “I said quite forcefully to him- ‘Your Grace, have you seen this. It’s a disgrace. What happened to all the men? What are you going to do about it’?”
“And he basically put the responsibility back onto me to act on it. I realised that the Archbishop was correct- that as lay Catholics, we indeed do need to stand up and act”.
A former seminarian with the Redemptorists, Robert felt a close affinity with the order’s emphasis on preaching, mission and evangelisation and so menAlive started as a parish-based missionary program where men would gather for talks, fellowship, prayer and Mass across a given weekend.
“If men engage with the beauty of the Catholic Church, its teaching and the lives of the saints, they will in turn be better men, stronger in their faith”, Robert Falzon explained.
Another speaker at the gathering, Sydney businessman and father, Stuart Brady, has credited Catholic mens’ ministry for having transformed his life.
“IF MEN ENGAGE WITH THE BEAUTY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, ITS TEACHING AND THE LIVES OF THE SAINTS, THEY WILL IN TURN BE BETTER MEN, STRONGER IN THEIR FAITH”
“While I have been an acolyte in my parish, St Joseph’s at Moorebank, for over 30 years, I was just going through the motions and God wasn’t really on the list of my top priorities in life. I was instead just focused on money and my wife Jenny gave me an ultimatum that I had to choose either my family or my business”, he explained.
“What I’ve learned most from events like the National Catholic Mens’ Gathering is that as husbands and fathers, it’s ok to fail at times because we all do as human beings and in the failing comes learning. But you can walk away from that knowing that God loves you no matter what and your fellow men in faith love you and support you”.
You can register online to attend the National Catholic Men’s Gathering here