By Edward J. Roberts, Jr.
For The Dialog
BALTIMORE — A sense that a special day was on the horizon occurred in the early morning of Saturday, March 19th as men of all ages filed into Saint Joseph Parish in Fullerton (Baltimore County) for the 2022 Conference of the Catholic Men’s Fellowship of Maryland, marking the first live conference in three years following the pandemic.
More than four hundred men came prepared to engage in spiritual fellowship, beginning with the celebration of Mass by Archbishop William Lori of the Archdiocese of Baltimore along with the presentations delivered by five speakers on the “Power and Presence of the Eucharist.”
Traveling primarily from Delaware and Maryland, the men came to hear Philadelphia native Bishop Joseph Coffey of the Archdiocese of the Military Services, USA; Deacon Seigfried Presberry of the Archdiocese of Baltimore Prison Ministries; former minor league baseball player Frank Kolarek of the League of Dreams; Alvaro de Vicente of The Heights School in Potomac (Maryland); and Michael Skinner of Gratia Reflections speak on the impact of the Holy Eucharist in their daily lives.
The day also marked the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of Mary, with Archbishop Lori inviting men “to reflect on who Saint Joseph is and what his life and example means to us as Catholic men of the 21st century.” Archbishop Lori asked men to ponder the lessons of Saint Joseph’s life, highlighting the creative courage he exhibited as husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus, “which men of today need in our roles as believers, as husbands, fathers and priests, the creative courage we need to live the (Catholic) faith in today’s society.”
The archbishop further described Saint Joseph as a “man of deepest faith, who longed for the deliverance God had promised, a man who mastered himself, who subordinated his desires and plans to God…open and obedient to whatever God asked of him.”
Bishop Coffey reminded men of the trust they must place in the Holy Spirit through all the turmoil and unrest that has invaded society. “We make up the Body of Christ,” Bishop Coffey said, adding the season of Lent helps us to remember our own mortality and to prepare for eternity.
Recalling his formative years in Philadelphia – where he will return in April to Saint Colman’s Parish in Ardmore, Pa. – Bishop Coffey spoke of the example his father set in living the Catholic life. A prime example was as a husband and father who would take his older children to the 40 Hours of Adoration, evoking memories of the sacred image of the church being lighted with candles in those overnight hours of adoration.
Bishop Coffey encouraged fathers to “not give up on your kids who don’t attend Mass.” He added, “We’re living in tough times,” with (people) struggling with their identities, and the pandemic causing the cancellation of Masses worldwide, including the real presence of the Eucharist at Mass.
His words of encouragement also focused on participation in the “40 Days of Life” around the country and to help women who have chosen and later regretted undergoing abortions. “Urge them to go to confession,” he said.
During his talk on Let the Children Come to Me, Alvaro de Vicente noted the need for men to lead young people. “If you’re a man, you’re a father,” de Vicente said, adding that young people need men for guidance, modeling, and leadership.
The Heights School headmaster encouraged men to draw closer to Christ through the Eucharist; by their actions men must bring the Eucharist to their children. “We can let God get in us so that we can be like him.”
Citing the admonition of Jesus to the apostles to “let the children come to me,” de Vicente encouraged men to live lives of piety, joy, and love and to commit themselves to daily Mass, adoration, and daily prayer. “Make your path to the Eucharist a happy path.”
League of Dreams founder Frank Kolarek spoke of the Eucharist as a “difference maker” along the way of his spiritual path and minor league baseball journey. “The best lessons we learn are from the biggest mistakes we make.”
Growing up in Baltimore across from St. Benedict’s Church, Kolarek credits his mother (Elaine) for being rooted in the Catholic faith. “My parents had seven children – five boys and two girls,” he said. At times, the priest would call from the parish “that he needs two” (altar servers). His mom responded by making sure that two of the sons would serve at Mass.
Kolarek also credits Baseball Chapel as a major positive influence while on-the-road, which would include “the gathering of teammates, sharing of scripture, and hearing the word of God above all else.”
The League of Dreams founder began to follow a call to serve youth with disabilities 45 years ago while hitting baseballs to them on a baseball field. “They helped me out more than I ever could have given,” adding, “they cared about (things) worth caring about.” According to Kolarek, “League of Dreams has changed my life as much it might have changed theirs.”
In the first stages of his conversion to the Catholic faith, Deacon Seigfried Presberry mentioned having been involved in a meeting in a Catholic church, experiencing Mass and allowing himself to receive the Eucharist (before becoming Catholic). Deacon Presberry was scolded by his wife, who then recommended that he become Catholic, which drew laughter from the audience of men.
Upon acceptance into the Catholic faith at the Easter Vigil, Deacon Presberry described receiving the Eucharist as “the best meal you can ever have.” He said the experience of receiving the Eucharist today still touches him “because of its profound effect on our lives from God through his son, Jesus Christ.” He added, “We receive Christ when we drink from the cup and eat of the Bread! Christ is everywhere and Christ is for everybody!”
Gratia Reflections founder Michael Skinner noted that God, through the real presence and real power of the Eucharist, “takes the worst things and makes them the best things.”
“The Cross is a symbol of our salvation, hope, God’s love and mercy for us,” Skinner noted. Yet, he mentioned that two thousand years ago, the cross reflected tyranny and earthly power. “Jesus took the nails for us because he wants to be with us in eternity.”
Christ came to save us, Skinner remarked. “He took on sin and death for all of eternity. Absent Christ on the cross, we are going nowhere.” Skinner also reminded men that “we need to help each other to get to heaven through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist…and, to pray the rosary every day, a weapon against evil.”
The writer – a parishioner with Mary, Mother of Peace in Millsboro – serves as board president with the Catholic Men’s Fellowship of Maryland.