By Edward J. Roberts, Jr.
Parishioner with Mary, Mother of Peace/Millsboro, Delaware
On a cold, rainy Saturday, March 25, during the “Call-to-Action” segment, Wilmington native Father Michael DeAscanis charged the more than 650 men who in attendance at the Catholic Men’s Fellowship of Maryland 2023 Conference to “do your duty, be a man and don’t live in mediocrity.”
Father DeAscanis, pastor at Saint Louis Parish in Clarksville, Md., where the conference was held, encouraged men to help each other to achieve excellence. “God came to work among us…he wants us to continue His work.”
His comments were part of the overall theme of Receiving the Father’s Heart. Speakers for the day included Curtis Martin of FOCUS – Fellowship of Catholic University Students; Neal and Matt Lozano of UNBOUND|Heart of the Father ministries; and Nathan Crankfield of Seeking Excellence ministries and the HALLOW app.
Philadelphia native Neal Lozano directly asked, “Could today be a life-changing event for you? Will you receive the Father’s love?” He went on to consider ways to respond to those questions by indicating we begin by asking Jesus to “show us the way to the Father. Jesus encourages us when he says, “I have seen the Father; I know the Father and the Father knows me.”
Lozano referenced the story of the Prodigal Son, with one son rebelling openly while the older son was in the grips of judgement and bitterness. It caused the father of the two to experience a broken heart yet a heart filled with joy. God the Father “lost his children (Adam and Eve) in the garden as they were stolen and kidnapped by the serpent; He, however “paid the biggest ransom to get His children (us) back” through the death of His Son on the cross. Lozano then asked, “Can you draw near to a father whose heart is broken over you?”
According to Lozano, it is sin that separates us from the Father…sin that the Father hates.
As Curtis Martin embarked on two-part “Divine Intimacy” sessions, he initially indicated the lives of men change when they imitate Christ. He urged men to develop authentic friendships with other men, while further encouraging them to read Scriptures daily for “five to seven minutes” beginning with the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles.
According to Martin, men need to take on the properties of God if they are to become good fathers and that “men need to slow down and stop. Men have two choices to make: “We have to choose for the Father to be our father” in accordance with the Lord’s Prayer. “We also have to choose to be Catholic,” indicating that “Catholicism works in one way: We’ve got to be living in Christ.” “Martin called men “to be great, not minimalist, Catholics.”
For men to help their children live in the faith, Martin recommends beginning regular spiritual conversations with their children. He also recommends connecting with other men for spiritual conversations. “Imitate Jesus and be friends,” instructed Martin.
Nathan Crankfield began his presentation with the question: “How can I become the man that God wants me to be?” He answer by indicating “we need to be subservient to Jesus to become who we are supposed to be.” He also offered a prescription by instructing men “to pray every single day for 15 to 30 minutes, share your faith with others, and step up to serve in your parish.”
Crankfield also cited the need to have an accountability partner during the process of creating a vision of “what and who God wants me to become.” “We are called to be heroes,” Crankfield said, adding, “the journey to heaven calls for progress.”
Encouraging men to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a way to heal wound, he noted, “It’s cowardly to hold onto your wounds forever. We (must) know who we are in the eyes of the Father. We need you for the fight!”
Two members of Holy Cross Parish in Dover who attended the conference were Stephen K. Balogh and Dr. Mark S. Borer. According to Balogh, “I am encouraged more than ever that God wants…men to come together for worship and fellowship sharing in the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation.” He called the sharing of the sacraments as the foundation of every conference, calling“…for men to take their rightful place of spiritual leadership within their families, workplaces and communities.”
Dr. Borer, board certified in child and adolescent, general adult, and family psychiatry, noted “This conference was a great resource to help men, as fathers, as teachers, as role models…”to radiate God and Jesus to youth…(and) to share love, hope, and commitment in God’s plan and enfolded in his love.” He added, “The program flowed from mass, inspiring talks by older and younger speakers, confession, breakout groups which was well attended, and afternoon reinforcement by the speakers.”
Both men, along with Al Wyllie – also of Holy Cross Parish – are involved in rebuilding the Catholic Men’s Fellowship of Delmarva on behalf of the Diocese of Wilmington, following the impact of the COVID pandemic.