GOOSE CREEK—A trio of national authors and speakers told a gathering of men of all ages — from fathers to grandfathers — how to become “ordinary heroes,” while avoiding turning into “wimps.”
Around 300 men filled Immaculate Conception Church for the South Carolina Catholic Men’s Conference March 5. The event, now in its third year, is sponsored by the South Carolina State Council Knights of Columbus.
“Building Men of the Family of God” was the theme, and Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone set the tone for the day at the morning Mass, challenging his audience during this Year of Mercy to be better husbands, fathers, co-workers and mentors in the communities in which they live.
“What is my relationship with Jesus?” the bishop asked. “That is at the heart of why we are here today.”
Father Dwight Longenecker encouraged the attendees to “grow into the full manhood of Christ,” and resist the modern temptation to church for one’s own purposes.
“American Christianity has become a kind of group therapy in which we’re all called to be better people, to be nicer people,” said Father Longenecker, pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville.
He has written several books, including “How to be an Ordinary Hero”, which challenges readers to leave their “comfortable world, their warm-and-cozy place,” and answer the call to adventure.
There are 10 steps to follow and the priest said many people get stuck at step two — recognizing the call to adventure.
“They spend the rest of their lives building and defending their little world,” he said. Adding that it is a choice that is “the exact opposite of what our faith is supposed to be about.”
“The Catholic faith is a great adventure or it’s nothing at all,” he said. “Whatever the Lord does with his disciples applies universally to the Church.”
By staying on the path, one claims what Father Longenecker calls “the prize” or “the full manhood of Christ Jesus.”
Ray Guarendi, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author, carried that manhood theme a step further with a presentation titled “Catholic Men Are Not Wimps.” He told participants they need to “take a bullet” for their wives in the raising of their families. He said families today are struggling in what Guarendi calls a “microwave society.”
“We want it now. We want results now,” Guarendi said, a mindset that has impacted how parents raise their children.
Father Jason S. Caganap, pastor at Immaculate Conception, led the conference in the eucharistic adoration and benediction, followed by an inspirational presentation from Chad Judice, a speaker and the award-winning author of a pair of pro-life books, “Waiting for Eli” and “Eli’s Reach”.
Eli, who just celebrated his seventh birthday, was born with a severe form of spina bifida. Judice told the conference that he and his wife Ashley were shaken when told that, should their son even survive birth, Eli and his family would enter into an extremely difficult life.
“We were told he would never walk, he would never be able to have a family of his own. We were told a lot of things,” Judice said.
Judice, a Catholic educator for 14 years, said he struggled to accept the idea that God had a purpose for Eli.
“That kind of trust is very difficult to embrace,” Judice said, but he and his family did, learning a lot about themselves in the process.
“I used to take life for granted, but now there are constant reminders not to do that,” he said. “We truly believe, without a doubt, that Eli is indeed a miracle.”
In addition to the men’s conference, around 90 women also gathered at Immaculate Conception March 4 to hear Guarendi and Judice speak at their portion of the conference.
Tom Monahon is the Knights’ director of the men’s event. He said planning is already well underway for next year’s conference, to be held at Prince of Peace Church in Taylors.
Photos by Terry Cregar