Rick Keating/Catholic Sentinel
Lay evangelist Jesse Romero discusses the need to fight for what is good. 

Rick Keating/Catholic Sentinel

Lay evangelist Jesse Romero discusses the need to fight for what is good. 

SALEM — Catholic men need to awake from spiritual slumber and prepare to do battle for what’s good and true. 

That was the main message at a conference organized by the Holy League Men’s Ministry Dec. 16-17 at St. Joseph Parish here.

According to event coordinator James Thurman, almost 800 men attended. Most came from Oregon, but others traveled from Washington state and as far as San Francisco and Houston.

The conference, featuring all-star Catholic speakers, began with the celebration of Mass by Father Theodore Lange, Oregon state chaplain for the Knights of Columbus. Father Lange then gave a talk titled “Missing in Action.” The night ended with Benediction.

The next morning began with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Alexander Sample in a packed St. Joseph Church. Pews were jammed and men lined the side aisles. In his homily, the archbishop commended the conference as something essential to the mission of the church, both in the Archdiocese of Portland and elsewhere. He noticed the significant presence of young men at the conference and called the development promising as the church continues on its journey.

The day was full of more talks, beginning with Father Donald Calloway, a member of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception who discussed the rosary as a spiritual weapon. Father Calloway cited examples and described the rosary as a spiritual sword crafted by the “divine blacksmith,” the Virgin Mary, to defend against the forces of evil.  

“Having the rosary emphasized in this way really helped me see how it can make me a better person overall and prepare for the spiritual battle we face each day,” said Cody Bartholomew, a member of St. Mary Parish in Mount Angel.

Catholic lay evangelist Jesse Romero said that Jesus doesn’t want spectators, but gladiators. “We all received a [spiritual] sword at confirmation, and we need to return it to Our Lord bloodied and disfigured,” said Romero, holding up an actual sword.  “That way he knows we spent life fighting for him.”

Father Calloway gave his second talk of the day, focusing on the importance of seeing and treating Mary as our heavenly mother. This talk stood out for Matthew Edmonds of St. Paul Parish in Silverton.

“I knew a lot about Mary before this, but this talk helped me learn more about her and the importance of having a devotion to her, because I think many times, we tend to forget that,” said Edmonds.

After lunch, the men reconvened to hear Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers of Portland speak on the importance of fatherhood for the family and society, followed by Carl Olson of Catholic World Report discussing the vocation men have as priest, prophet and king. Burke-Sivers gave the final talk of the conference, in which he prepared men for the spiritual battle ahead.

The devil might let attendees enjoy and reap the fruits of the conference for a week, a month or even six months, but sooner or later, the devil will find his way back in, so we need to have the spiritual defenses in place for when that happens, Burke-Sivers said.

After the final talk, the conference moved to Benediction and Marian consecration.

James Thurman, who heads up adult faith formation at St. Joseph, closed the conference by announcing the dates for next year’s event and challenging all in attendance to “take what you’ve learned and apply it to your daily life.”

Greg Pashley, a member of St. Agatha Parish in Portland, said the conference helped men who are excited for their faith learn how to keep it that way.

“[Fathers] Calloway and Lange, along with the rest of the speakers, made complex things simple,” said Pashley. “They were blunt and to the point, and this allowed us to take their words to heart.”

Thurman summarized the weekend by saying, “Men need to be called out from their spiritual sleep and wake up to see what is going on around them. Their wives, families and church need them to step up and be the men that God has called them to be. That is what the conference is about.”