He noted that the conference’s theme derives from the Feast Day of the Annunciation, which is the same day as the conference. He noted that the angel told Mary not to be afraid, because with God all things are possible.

IGNITE conference attendee John D. Mihalko, 46, of Lisle in Broome County, has always believed in possibilities. He taught himself how to play guitar 17 years ago and has been playing steadily since.

A software engineer for Leidos, a science and technology company, Mihalko does a lot of design and architecture work for the software systems that the Air Force uses. He attended the IGNITE conference two years ago and heard Father Larry Richards, of the Erie, Pa., Diocese, speak. He said the main lesson he got from Father Richards was that “you need to be on fire for the Lord, and are you?”

Mihalko credits that conference with putting him on a path to his formation for ministry. He has even submitted a letter requesting admittance into the diocesan program for the permanent diaconate.

He said his wife, Cathy, and daughters Rachel, 19, and Megan, 16, are all on board with his interest in the diaconate program.  “I see the great need in our Church,” he said, “and I feel that the gifts and the charisms that I’ve been given by God will help me fulfill that role very well.”

Mihalko attends IGNITE conferences with his friend Donald Barry, of Marathon in Cortland County. Both are involved with their church, The Catholic Community of St. Stephen/St. Patrick, in Whitney Point.

As a testament to their appreciation of Father Richards, Mihalko has uploaded a video of Father Richards on YouTube.

Visitors to ignitecatholicmen.org will see a new item in the Menu bar called “Video Archives.” Hover over it and a menu will appear with archived videos from past conferences. The menu includes a link to the YouTube channel with all of the archives that are currently posted.

Mihalko and Barry have attended multiple men’s conferences together. “Powerful, powerful stuff,” said Barry, 47, who is a buyer and planner for the Raymond Corp., a manufacturer of forklift trucks in Greene, Chenango County.

Barry was buoyant on the phone; he had just become a grandfather, and he noted that his wife, Karen, this year entered the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program that is taught by Mihalko. The Barrys have two sons, Eric and Kody.

A YouTube video shows Father Richards telling the men at an IGNITE conference, “Gentlemen, pull out your Bibles, please.” Then he shakes his head. There is a definite lack of Bibles in the audience.

Now, Barry always carries his Bible. He reads it, and it shows: He, too, is in formation for ministry, and he, too, is seeking admittance into the permanent-diaconate program.

“I can’t be lukewarm,” Barry said. “Lukewarm is not an option. … I’m very intrigued [by the diaconate]. I feel I need to help … the community because of the lack of priests.”

Deacons must do a fair amount of public speaking, which Mihalko has done for his entire career, giving technical presentations. The same is not true for his buddy Barry.

That’s okay, though. Barry has talked with Father Louis F. Aiello, formation director of the diocesan Permanent Diaconate Office. “He said, ‘We’ll train you for everything you need to know,’” Barry said.

At the 2017 IGNITE conference, Barry and Mihalko will enjoy the fellowship with hundreds of other men, and there will be something more.

“Once you go to one, you won’t want to ever miss one again,” Mihalko said. “‘Falling in love with Jesus Christ.’ Amen to that.”


What: Men’s conference; theme: “It’s all possible with God”

Speakers: Msgr. Jim Lisante, Chris Horn, Mark Houck

When: Saturday, March 25:

8 a.m., Registration, confession available
9 a.m., Mass: Celebrant: Bishop Robert J. Cunningham

10 a.m.-5 p.m.: Speakers, vendors, panel Q&A, adoration
5 p.m. Conference concludes

Where: SRC Arena, Onondaga Community College, 4585 West Seneca Turnpike, Syracuse

Cost: Includes continental breakfast and lunch:

$55,  early registration through March 8

$65,  March 9-23

$70,  at the door March 25

(Registration fee non-refundable but transferable with proof of registration)

Note to men registering by mail:

   Registrations received by March 17 will be confirmed with “preregistered attendee” postcard mailed week before conference.

   Registrations received by March 22 will be accepted and registration cards will be waiting at door.

More: ignitecatholicmen.org

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