Conference focuses on unique challenges men face

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone speaks at the S.C. Catholic Men’s Conference held March 7 in Columbia. (Provided)

COLUMBIA—When it comes to growing their Catholic faith, many men face unique challenges. Oftentimes viewed as spiritual leaders in their families and churches, in their jobs and communities, men face certain societal pressures to be that strong rock on which so many rely. 

Recently, about 200 Catholic men from every county in the state gathered together at the South Carolina Catholic Men’s Conference in Columbia. 

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated Mass at the event. Presentations were given by Father Sean Kilcawley, director of family life for the Diocese of Lincoln, and by Mike Aquilina, a Catholic evangelist, author and television host. 

Thomas Monahon, from Aiken, was one of the organizers of the conference. He is a member of the South Carolina State Council for the Knights of Columbus, who sponsored the event. 

“We want to inspire men of the diocese to live their Catholic faith,” he said. “As you look around at daily Masses, women outnumber men by about 3 to 1. Where are the men?”

He also noted that March 7, the date of the conference, was the beginning of Lent. 

“What better way to start Lent than by challenging men to take stock of themselves and look deeper, to be men of God,” he said.

Aquilina, author and editor of over 50 books, including “The Fathers of the Church”, “The Mass of the Early Christians” and “Angels of God”, gave two presentations. His first was grounded in scripture focusing on the devotion of holy angels.

“The bottom line is that we’re never alone. Everyone has a guardian angel. Jesus said so. And each of these angels is smarter than a hundred Einsteins and stronger than the combined offensive and defensive lines of the Pittsburgh Steelers on a good Sunday,” he said. 

“This is a great gift from our Father God, and he expects us to make the most of every gift he gives us,” Aquilina continued. 

That discussion had an impact on William DiMaggio, who attends Our Lady of the Lake Church in Chapin. He said it opened his eyes to the fact that there is much more to the role of angels in the spiritual journey as Christians than just the fact that they exist. As a result, he said he is  motivated to explore angels in more depth.

Aquilina’s second talk was about martyrs of the early Church and how they understood their own lives and deaths, in terms of the Eucharist. 

“In the sacrament, Jesus gives himself. He lays down his life. He gives himself entirely — body, blood, soul, and divinity — and he holds nothing back,” Aquilina said. “In Lent, we strive to imitate Him in self-denial for the sake of self-possession, and self-possession for the sake of self-giving. We cannot truly love unless we give ourselves away in love. We cannot give ourselves away unless we first have some degree of control over ourselves.” 

Father Kilcawley, the director of the office of family life and theological advisor for Integrity Restored, a nonprofit organization focusing on families, gave two presentations on the effect of pornography on families. His goal was to provide education and resources on how to prevent and heal wounds inflicted by the current sexualized culture.

“As a parent I want to be proactive in guarding my children’s purity and hearts so that they don’t fall victim,” DiMaggio said. “Being aware of how big of a problem this issue is in our society motivates me to make a more conscious effort in educating my children rather than turning a blind eye. Most people either don’t take it seriously or are too ashamed to speak about it, while it does real damage to relationships. 

“Hearing more on that subject opened my eyes to how big of a problem it has become in our country,” he said.

In conclusion, Aquilina said the conference was just one way of providing continuing eductation for Catholic men.

“All of us need ongoing Christian formation and the best kind is when it is tailored to our particular circumstances,” he said. “Men face different challenges in different ways than women. I think it is good to have occasional activities that focus on those issues.” 

By Theresa Stratford