1,000 Catholic men take a stand, then kneel: (with slideshow)

Photo Caption: Nearly 1,000 men march through downtown Peoria in a public defense of faith, family, and the priesthood at the sixth annual “Call to Catholic Men of Faith.”

By: By Tom Dermody

The nearly 1,000 Catholic men taking a public stand in defense of faith, family, and priesthood in downtown Peoria last Saturday also received practical advice on living for Christ when they returned home.

“There is nothing more important than being men of humble, sincere prayer, thereby passing on the faith to the next generation,” said Father John Phalen, CSC, homilist at the Mass during the diocese-wide “A Call to Catholic Men of Faith.”

President of Holy Cross Family Ministries, Father Phalen gave the men — who had just marched in a mile-long trek through the streets of downtown Peoria — five suggestions for witnessing that the Gospel is “alive in your lives.”

The suggestions included turning off the TV in order to spend more time talking with and modeling prayer for their children; learning “new languages” free of expletives and including phrases such as “Yes, dear!;” protecting their families from “shameless profiteers” who do not share Catholic values or virtues of faith; “drinking in” the Gospel rather than too much alcohol; and visiting loved ones when they are ill.

For the sixth consecutive year, men from throughout the Diocese of Peoria responded to an invitation by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, to “rise up” and defend their Catholic faith in the midst of a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christ and the church.

“For the last few years, I don’t know if anything has built up my faith more than participating in this march and celebrating the holy sacrifice of the Mass with you,” said Bishop Jenky in welcoming the men who packed the cathedral.

Two hours earlier, the bishop had joined them on the banks of the Illinois River for a brief program prior to the march.

The program featured a spirited talk by Chase Hilgenbrinck, a former professional soccer player now studying to be a priest of the Diocese of Peoria. (See related story at www.thecatholipost.com) Following the march, Hilgenbrinck led the men in recitation of the rosary.

While always under the patronage of St. Joseph the Worker, this year’s march featured special devotion to the Blessed Mother as the diocese prepares to open a Year of the Rosary. Leading the march was a statue of Mary, carried by members of the Newman Community at Bradley University throughout the mile-long route.

Following the statue were members of the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus in full regalia, and then banner carriers from St. Mary of the Fields Parish in Hooppole, site of a Marian shrine in the diocese. The throng of Catholic men — including Bishop Jenky, several priests and deacons, and many fathers and grandfathers walking with or carrying their children and grandchildren — then stretched behind as the group made its way to the cathedral.

At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Jenky blessed more than 1,000 medallions created to commemorate this year’s march. The medallions incorporate a rosary design with raised beads to serve as a devotional.

Hilgenbrinck called the rosary “beads for battle.”

“Every time we pick up the rosary our Blessed Mother takes us to her Son,” he said. “And by coming closer to ‘The Man’ we become true men.”

Father Phalen urged the men to pray with their families, especially the rosary. He remained in Peoria throughout the week to lead a nightly mission at St. Vincent de Paul Parish relating rosary mysteries to those which occur in our daily lives.

Father Phalen is a classmate and longtime friend of Bishop Jenky’s. His organization, Holy Cross Family Ministries — founded by Father Patrick Peyton, the “rosary priest” known for his motto “the family that prays together, stays together” — is helping the Diocese of Peoria prepare for a special Year of the Rosary to begin in August.

While some men at Saturday’s events have attend all six diocesan men’s marches, Luke Willett of Christ the King Parish in Moline participated for the first time.

“My wife encouraged me to go,” he told The Catholic Post after enjoying a rally concluding time of food and fellowship at the new Spalding Pastoral Center. The event’s traditional fare, including tasty “porksicles,” was prepared by the men’s club of St. Mark’s Parish in Peoria.

Willett, a new father with a 4-month-old son, said he had never been part of a public march before, but this unique experience of the diocesan church impressed him.

“I’ll go back and share the experience with my parish,” he said.

“A Call to Catholic Men of Faith” is planned by a committee headed by Tim Roder and Jeanne Whalen of the diocesan Office of Family Life. Other members of this year’s committee included Leslie Wright of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Galesburg; Paul Martin of Blessed Sacrament, Morton; Dan Hunt and Ty Hartness of St. Patrick of Merna, Bloomington; and Joel Gray and Joe Jochman of Holy Family Parish, Peoria.

“May all our efforts and all our marches give glory to God,” said Whalen.

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