Gib Lease has noticed a definite pattern about who is most active in his church. No matter the ministry, he said, chances are pretty good that women outnumber men. More women teach religious education at his parish, he said. More girls are altar servers. And Mr. Lease is the only man in his Bible studies program.
While he’s delighted that women are showing an active interest in their faith, Mr. Lease wishes more men would step up and do the same.
“I think our church is welcoming to men, but men are making the decision not to get involved,” said Mr. Lease, a 75-year-old parishioner of the Church of the Resurrection in Ellicott City.
Mr. Lease was one of about 250 men throughout the Archdiocese of Baltimore who gathered Feb. 23 at Archbishop Curley High School in Baltimore for the 11th-annual Catholic Men’s Fellowship Conference sponsored by Catholic Men’s Fellowship of Maryland.
The theme of the conference was “Answering his call,” and it was designed to help men get more serious about their faith.
In an address to the participants, Monsignor James P. Farmer, pastor of St. Ursula in Parkville, emphasized the importance of prayer. There are three types of prayer, he said, petition, thanksgiving and contrition. It is particularly important for men to take advantage of the sacrament of penance, Father Farmer said, so sins of the past can be wiped away and individuals can start anew on their journey of faith.
“We can’t change the past – it’s gone,” said Monsignor Farmer, who was one of about 10 priests who heard confessions at the conference. “Don’t be a prisoner of the past.”
The priest urged men to make time for prayer. In a society where the average American spends more than three hours a day watching television, Monsignor Farmer said people make time for what’s important to them. He suggested that men read at least one Bible verse a day, that they pray the rosary in the car or purchase CDs with religious messages.
“Without prayer, we’re like a car without batteries,” he said.
Monsignor Stuart W. Swetland, director of homiletics and pre-theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, reminded participants that everyone is called to be a saint.
“Your job is to make holy the world,” said Monsignor Swetland. “Let no one tell you differently.”
Pointing to a recent study that found more money was spent on pornography than all professional sports combined, Monsignor Swetland said men must bring their Catholic values into the wider world by supporting wholesome movies and serving as witnesses to the Gospel.
Tom Wiegand, vice president of Catholic Men’s Fellowship of Maryland, told The Catholic Review his goal is to encourage every parish to establish a men’s fellowship group. The small prayer and faith support groups are not designed to compete with other parish men’s organizations like the Holy Name Society or the Knights of Columbus, he said. They are meant to inspire men in their faith so believers can then volunteer in a variety of parish activities, he said.
“It helps form men in Christ,” said Mr. Wiegand, a parishioner of St. Margaret in Bel Air. “This is what Christ did 2,000 years ago – bring people together in fellowship. From that, we are sent forth.”
During the conference, Kevin Burke, cofounder of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries spoke about men and abortion. Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien celebrated the closing Mass.