Men from near and far had the opportunity to better their spiritual lives, confess long-lasting sins and learn how to act more like a man of God at the fourth annual Men’s Conference Saturday at the Warner Theatre in downtown Erie.
The whole conference was MC’d by the Rev. Larry Richards of Saint Joseph Church/Bread of Life Community in Erie.
Over 700 men gathered together in the historic theater to listen to the stories and advice from Capt. Guy Gruters, a Vietnam War veteran who was in a POW camp for 5 1/2 years. Gruters talked about how that experience brought him closer to God.
After that, attendees listened to Erie native and Cathedral Prep graduate Justin Fatica, the executive director and founder of the Hard as Nails ministry.
The third speaker was Gary Zimak from “Following The Truth,” an apostolate whose mission is to lead souls to Jesus Christ. A former hypochondriac, Zimak left a six-figure income to a no-guarantee income as he continued his journey doing the Lord’s work.
The event concluded with Mass led by Bishop Lawrence T. Persico following confession, lunch and Zimak’s talk.
The conference was sponsored by 2232 Men, whose mission is to bring all men to Jesus Christ so that they can experience the calmness and peace that comes from having your life anchored by God.
The number 2232 comes from the Bible passage, Luke 22:23, “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
The Rev. Michael Kesicki, associate vice president for university Mission and Ministry, said the conference gives men the opportunity to renew their faith, which is what the verse is telling us to do.
“It’s OK to acknowledge weaknesses and find strength in each other, it all comes from Jesus,” Kesicki said.
Among those in the crowd were some Gannon students studying to become a part of the seminary.
Senior philosophy major Brandon Feikles was there for the second time. He and fellow seminarians helped celebrate Mass.
“It’s a wonderful day,” Feikles said. “I’m excited for the powerful speakers, and Father Larry is dynamic.”
Larry said the goal of 2232 Men is to bring all men to Christ, for men to come together, find out that they are men of God and that when it comes to faith, you can’t be weak.
Richards referenced past conversations that he has had with men about faith and time management. He said he has heard many excuses, but he doesn’t buy any of them.
The most famous one he cited was that men tell him that they don’t go to church on Sunday because it’s boring.
His response to that is, “Grow up and be a man.”
There are many approaches when it comes to faith, but Richards and all the speakers agreed that men and all people need God in their lives.