“The world needs you, the world in our time needs men.” This statement from Patrick Sullivan speaking at the 2021 Virtual Men of Faith Conference runs counter to a modern culture offering a lifestyle for men far from the virtue, strength, responsibility, and love that used to be part of “being a man.” Counter cultural, yes, but as Patrick highlighted in his two virtual talks – the Christian faith has always been subversive in its world view and moral tenets and being a man of faith is a precise distinction to be made in the modern era.
For men of all ages, the Men of Faith Conference from Family Foundations Institute seeks to provide an opportunity for men to reinvigorate their Catholic faith with dynamic guest speakers, Q&A sessions, and fellowship with like-minded men serious about living their faith in the world today. This year’s conference took place on Saturday January 16th with the theme Men of Faith, 365 Days of the Year, challenging men of faith to live up to the resolutions they know deep down are required for them to succeed in their faith journey. Patrick Sullivan, the featured speaker, offered ideas throughout his talks to help participants make one or two solid resolutions to work on everyday, 365 days of the year. Part of this challenge was also remembering as men of faith that yes, falling is part of the faith journey but it is important to take courage. Rather than despairing after falling one day, a man of faith must resolve to start again the next day.
210 men registered for the virtual conference and many more tuned in via the livestream on YouTube and Facebook – capturing over 400 views combined. The conference looked different this year, as organizers responded to the unique social situation of our time. While St. Michael’s Parish is the traditional and gracious host of the in-person event – due to challenges cause by the COVID-19 pandemic, Family Foundations Institute pivoted to offer the same great material and connection online. Men gathered virtually for Holy Mass in the morning, following by talks, Q&A, and the Rosary in the afternoon. This was an opportunity for men to learn and pray together while also engaging with one-another and the speaker through live chat.
The guest speaker of the virtual conference was Patrick Sullivan, a Catholic author, speaker, educator, and founder of Evango, a Catholic media organization that meets the baptized where they are at while inspiring them to engage in the new evangelization. Patrick travels across North America leading parish missions, retreats, and conferences, encouraging Catholics to love and live the faith. Evango’s ground-breaking project is the “Me & My House” Catholic parenting program, a theology of parenting video series infused with practical parenting advice rooted in the Catholic faith. Patrick offered two talks at the conference, One Small House, and A Plan for the Watchmen.
In his first talk One Small House, Patrick Sullivan returned to scripture as he outlined the need for husbands and fathers to hold the line in a cultural war that is overtaking many. Your house, your family, needs to keep the light burning if a new generation is going to make it safely home. Speaking about the persecution of the Jews in the Old Testament, and the lives of early Christians, Patrick made the point that as a Christian you may always expect to face challenges, but your mission begins with your own soul, your own house. Make it your mission to keep your house alight so that those who are lost can find land.
In his second talk A Plan for the Watchmen, Patrick turned to the more practical issue of motivating and sustaining oneself in the faith journey. We have all been to retreats and missions that have excited us and raised our spirits just when we needed them to. But then, upon returning home our zeal for the mission dies out. “Very often we come to retreats, we come to missions, we come to conference, we get ignited, but then we fizzle out” – what happened? In this talk, Patrick Sullivan explained why our past efforts have borne little fruit and how this time around things can be very different. Patrick emphasized how the Church is not just a gathering place for you and your friends, “your parish is the first outpost, it’s to call people in…it’s to be a sign in the new world that in this place the Lord is present”. The parish is not on the defensive, but rather it is on the frontlines. Referring to his earlier talk, if the parish is our outpost, then our home is the garrison.
This year’s conference programming included something a little different – a testimony from a man of faith. Usually, through the breaks in the day the participants can hang out and connect with one another hearing their own stories, maintaining, and building relationships. Given the virtual environment for the conference, there was a need to provide a personal story and connection for the participants to relate with as they saw fit. The testimony was entitled Born from Above (John 3) and was offered by Patrick O’Connor. Born and raised in London, Ontario, through is faith journey and reversion Patrick has come to offer ministry for masculine development – leading retreats and classes for men in partnership with schools and dioceses. With his testimony, Patrick provided a sincere story about his relationship with his father, sharing an experience of hurt, forgiveness, and love, concluding with some practical tips on how he maintains a life of prayer.
By God’s Grace the 2022 Men of Faith Conference will take place once more at St. Michael’s Parish in London, Ontario on Saturday January 22nd featuring Peter Herbeck from Renewal Ministries.