Faith on fire

New Catholic Laymen’s Conference looks to ignite faith

by luke eggleston
sun staff writer

   The Diocese of Syracuse offers numerous conferences for youth and women, but, according to the committee for Ignite 2009 Catholic Men’s Conference, there has not been a men’s equivalent to date.

   “There hasn’t been a men’s conference in this region I don’t think ever,” said organizer Dan Gibbons, a parishioner at St. Joseph’s Church in LaFayette.

   The conference was the brainchild of Father Richard Prior, the pastor at Holy Family Church in the Fairmount area of Syracuse. He saw a vacuum for Catholic men and wanted to find men willing to fill it. Father Prior approached a dozen men and asked them to organize such an event. Most of the organizers are from the Central New York region, but the event is open to men from any diocese, particularly those across New York State.

   Other dioceses have hosted similar conferences including Milwaukee, Cincinnati and Worcester.

   The event is set for March 21, 2009, at the Oncenter in Syracuse. A registration fee of $45 is due before Feb. 28. Registrations will still be accepted following that date, but the cost will be $55.

   The speakers will be former National Football League player Danny Abramowicz, Father Stan Fortuna, CFR, and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum.

   According to the event’s Web site,, “The mission of the 2009 Ignite Conference is to inspire men to become men of faith using the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit to ignite their Catholic faith into everyday life.”

   “We wanted a one day opportunity for men to get together. The word ‘ignite’ came up because that’s what we want to do – ignite the faith. We want to fan the flames as it were,” Gibbons said.

   Another organizer recruited by Father Prior, Ed Kirk of St. Mary’s Church in Baldwinsville, said, “It’s an important thing to do because we all strive for holiness and we need to have several conduits through which to do it.”

   Both Gibbons and Kirk noted that it is important for Catholic men to find common ground.

   “We want to show men in the diocese that there are other Catholic men just like them,” Kirk said.

   He stressed the success such conferences have had in other dioceses, noting that men often leave the events rejuvenated.

   “We want to have that [energy] in the Syracuse Diocese,” Kirk said.

   Kirk noted that such gatherings are important because of the isolation many men have in contemporary society.

   “We’re still human beings and we’re still looking for relationships, but nowadays, we’re a much more mobile society and many men move from company to company. Real men are still looking for fellowship,” Kirk said.

   He added that men often have difficulty displaying their faith, but that it is an important part of each man’s life.

   “Real men do have a deep, rich faith,” he said. “But men struggle to express that faith. They need to know it’s okay to be Catholic.”

   Both Gibbons and Kirk noted they hope men are able to transfer their experience at the conference into their day-to-day lives.

   “We’re hoping that men leave this event inspired and with a desire to learn more about their faith and begin to develop deeper relationships with other men in their parishes,” Kirk said.

   Gibbons stressed that the priest shortage has made it imperative that men take a more active role in parish life.

   Gibbons also underscored the fact that the election of Barack Obama, whose platform is openly pro-choice, will bring the respect for life issue to the foreground.

   “The election presents an opportunity for us to stand and to fight for what is right,” Gibbons said.

   The event will begin with a 9 a.m. Mass. Each speaker’s presentation will be followed by a breakout session. The final event of the day will be adoration and Benediction.

   Registration forms can be found at the event’s Web site noted above. Checks should be made payable to the Syracuse Diocese and may be mailed to Father Joe O’Connor – Ignite 2009, Diocese of Syracuse, 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13201.

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