Speakers at annual conference encourage men to lead their families

TAYLORS—A challenge was issued to several hundred men recently to fulfill what each has been called to do as a Catholic: be good fathers and husbands.

“You have been given a gift,” Father Jeffrey Kirby told nearly 400 men who gathered on March 4 at Prince of Peace Church for a day of reflection and fellow­ship at the fourth annual South Carolina Catholic Men’s Conference.

Father Kirby, admin­istrator of Our Lady of Grace in Lancaster and St. Joseph in Chester, said just as he is priest of those churches, Catholic men are “priests of the domestic church.”

“It’s an important responsibility you have been given,” Father Kirby said, one that, like a parish priest, requires effort.

“You must study the faith to be a priest of the domestic church,” he said. “It’s time … no excuses.”

This is a challenge that has become easier than ever today, given the multitude of resources readily avail­able. With that knowledge, fathers can lead their children and family, Father Kirby said.

All photos Miscellany/Terry Cregar: Stephen and Janet Ray greet attendees during a break.

Stephen and Janet Ray, one-time Protestants, both converted to Catholicism in 1994. Since then, the couple has been writing, speaking, producing Catholic films and lead­ing numerous pilgrimages to the Holy Land.

“I’m not an anti-Protestant,” Ray told participants at the conference regarding his conversion to Catholi­cism. “I simply found a wholeness of faith in the Catholic Church.”

Looking back, Ray said he’s sur­prised he didn’t convert sooner.

“The Catholic Church is the best-kept secret in the world,” Ray said, adding that he relishes his role as a Christian apologetic defending the Catholic faith for 20-plus years.

“It’s fundamental to defend what you believe in,” he said.

During the afternoon session, Ray urged the men to remain strong in their faith during difficult times, asserting that the U.S. is slipping back into the paganism of the early Christian community.

“We have to live like those early Christians. We have to fight the pagan culture,” he said.

William Thierfelder, president of Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, also addressed the men’s conference, and spoke at a short women’s session held March 3.

The former Olympian and two-time NCAA Division I All-American in track and field said men who participate in sports, whether they’re players or coaches, have respon­sibilities as Catholic men.

“Sports and virtue aren’t exclusive terms,” Thierfelder said, while referencing Pope Pius XII’s often-cited com­ment on sport: “Sport, properly directed, de­velops character, makes a man courageous, a generous loser, and a gra­cious victor.”

The men’s and women’s conferences are spon­sored by the Knights of Columbus South Caro­lina State Council in support of the Diocese of Charleston. Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone opened the men’s con­ference with a morning Mass, where he offered praise and encourage­ment.

“You’re gathered here this day to focus on how you, as Catholic Christian men, can more fully lead your lives in conformity with what God wants from us,” the bishop said.

Living in conformity with God leads to that sense of fulfillment and joy, he added, which in turn leads to strong family ties and good parent­ing.

“The Lord calls us together for oc­casions such as this,” Bishop Gug­lielmone said.

John Olson, Grand Knight of Coun­cil 9184, said the conference helps reinforce what Catholic men are currently doing and inspires them to want to do more.

“Many of us live hustle-and-bustle lives, and events like this give every­one a chance to relax and socialize, to be able to talk and listen to people from other parishes and councils, and to use what we learn in our everyday lives.

“For me, as a Grand Knight, this is where it all starts from the per­spective of building on what we do as Knights and helping the parish,” Olson said.

Top photo, Miscellany/Terry Cregar: Father Jeffrey Kirby signs one of his books during a break at the annual South Carolina Catholic Men’s Conference held March 4 at Prince of Peace Church in Taylors.

Hundreds of men gathered for the annual men’s conference.