Catholic men urged to ‘go to St. Joseph’ for help, guidance

Photo Caption: Nearly 700 men walked from the Peoria riverfront to St. Mary’s Cathedral May 1 as part of “A Call to Catholic Men of Faith.” For more photos, see slideshow below.

By: By Tom Dermody

Heaven is not for cowards, and Catholic men “perhaps more than ever before” need to look to St. Joseph for help, guidance and inspiration.

The “go to Joseph” challenge was issued by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, at a Mass attended by nearly 700 men from throughout the diocese taking part in the “A Call to Catholic Men of Faith” events in Peoria on May 1.

“Joseph did not always understand everything that happened to him, but he never stopped trusting and believing in God,” said Bishop Jenky, who had just accompanied the men on a one-mile walk through the city’s downtown streets. (See the YouTube link above for a video slideshow from the event and a four-minute excerpt from Bishop Jenky’s message to the men.)

The public demonstration in support of faith, family, and the priesthood has been held annually since 2004 in response to a call from Bishop Jenky for Catholics to “rise up” and defend the church from cultural attacks.

This year’s event — held on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker — began at the Peoria riverfront and led to St. Mary’s Cathedral, where the men prayed the rosary prior to an 11 a.m. Mass.

“Unlike so many of us today, Joseph never went back on his promises or withdrew from his commitments,” said Bishop Jenky, principal celebrant and homilist. Looking out over a packed cathedral, the bishop said the church needs “high octane men” willing to fulfill “sacred roles” in their families, communities, parishes and workplaces.

But to be successful, he stressed, the “army of the Lord” has to know and follow its leader.

“This annual Men’s March,” said the bishop, “will not help those we say we love, or build up the unity and peace of the (church), unless each one of us, just like St. Joseph, also determines to do without any compromise what God has commanded,” said Bishop Jenky.

One under-utilized “game-changing weapon” for God’s army is fasting, said Father Thomas Holloway, who addressed the men at the riverfront gathering prior to the walk.

Defining fasting as “refraining from food for a definite period of time for a specific purpose,” Father Holloway said the biblical practice can “move God’s hand” to accomplish things we can’t on our own. He encouraged fasting for specific intentions, whether it be personal (deliverance from an addiction, healing in marriage, deeper holiness, etc.) or “for the release of God’s power in the life of someone we care about.”

Father Holloway, pastor of St. Dominic’s Parish in Wyoming and St. Augustine’s Parish, St. Augustine, is a former campus minister at the University of Illinois and chaplain of the Fighting Illini football team. He is also a weightlifter, and compared three aspects of weight training to the Christian practices of prayer, sacrificial giving, and fasting.

Prayer is like the bench press in weightlifting, said Father Holloway, in that “everyone does it.” Sacrificial giving is like the squat technique and is done by the “more serious” practitioner.

But fasting is like the dead lift in weight training. It’s difficult, often uncomfortable, and “nobody wants to do it,” he said.

It’s also effective, said Father Holloway, who said fasting has “changed my life and challenged my priesthood.”

“Every significant spiritual leap in my life was accomplished by fast,” he said. “I credit my parents with fasting me out of spiritual darkness.”

There’s never a convenient time to fast, so “don’t wait for it,” he told the men. He challenged them against settling for the “minimal” fasting requirements during Lent or the hour before Mass.

Also speaking at the riverfront was Father Jerry Logan, who emphasized in brief remakrs that “the vocation of all men is the protection of children.” He led the men in the Litany of St. Joseph. Father Logan is pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Annawan, St. Mary’s, Hooppole, and St. Patrick’s, Sheffield.

Because this year’s “A Call to Catholic Men of Faith” took place during the Year for Priests, each participant received a blessed medallion featuring St. John Vianney, the patron of priests. Members of St. John Vianney Parish in Cambridge carried the identifying banners at the start of the march.

Near the end of Mass, Bishop Jenky invited the assembly of men to show their appreciation for all priests of the diocese who were represented by about a dozen concelebrants. The men responded with a prolonged standing ovation.

The bishop also expressed his gratitude to the day’s participants, saying “your presence builds up my faith.”

That works both ways, said men interviewed by The Catholic Post.

“It’s a time to show my faith and see other men who have the same faith,” said Doug Madar, a member of Christ the King Parish in Moline who was accompanied for the third year in a row by his grandson, Jeffrey Parker, a fourth grader who is an altar server at Christ the King.

“He looks forward to it each year,” said Madar of his grandson, “and reminds me when it’s coming close. How proud I am to walk with him.”
“I get to spend time with my Grandpa and I always get to see Bishop Jenky,” said Jeffrey in explaining his love of the event.

Craig Cooper of Princeville, who brought four of his five sons, said he enjoys the fellowship of the day and is “happy to publicly display our faith.”

The 2010 “A Call to Catholic Men of Faith” was planned by a committee of 20 men from across the diocese under the direction of Tim Roder, director of the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family. The day concluded with a lunch at the Spalding Pastoral Center served with the assistance of the St. Mark’s Parish Men’s Club and the parish’s Boy Scouts.

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