The Step Up Men’s Conference at Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine in Auriesville drew close to 300 attendees. (Photos provided)
The Step Up Men’s Conference at Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine in Auriesville drew close to 300 attendees. (Photos provided)
Men all across the Diocese of Albany took a “Step Up” in their faith last month.

The first Step Up Men’s Conference was held at Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine in Auriesville on Aug. 20, with almost 300 attendees.

“It was an incredible success,” said Thomas G. Cronin, advisor to the Bishop for Family and Parish Evangelization. “It exceeded our expectations.”

Tom LaBruzzo, parishioner of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Richfield Springs; Father Brian Lehnert, administrator of Mater Christi Parish in Albany, and Cronin planned the event to help men “step up” in their faith.

“Family is the center of society and we need more men to lead their families in the faith,” Cronin said. “That was the crux of getting the Step Up Men’s Conference created. It was also the theme in my recent Evangelist column.”

In the column, which ran in the July 21 edition of The Evangelist, Cronin referenced a National Catholic Register story that stated a Swiss government study had found that “the religious practice of the father of the family determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children. If a father doesn’t attend church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions — only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, 75 percent of the children will continue as churchgoers.”

This inspired LaBruzzo, Father Lehnert and Cronin to take action and help men journey together in their faith.

“Our mission is to help men establish a closer relationship with Christ while also growing in love and support for each other,” Cronin said. “Small faith-sharing groups are the key. A successful byproduct of this is to have more men actively participating in their parish but, first and foremost, we want men to grow in holiness and to accompany their families in the faith.

“As the general Church population has continued a slow drift away from the Church because of secularization and the demands of our world today, I feel like it is easier for men (not to go to Mass). Men might have an easier excuse due to their jobs and other commitments.”

The conference last month was full of prayer and presentations. After an opening prayer, Father Donald Calloway, one of the two keynote speakers, gave a presentation titled, “St. Joseph – The Man, Courage of Example” which was followed by Father Roger Landry’s presentation “Courage of the North American Martyrs.” After lunch, Father Calloway presented on the “Power of the Rosary” followed by Adoration and then Mass celebrated by Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger. There were also 10 diocesan priests, along with Bishop Scharfenberger, on hand for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“It was a beautiful day for men to grow in holiness and be inspired by the powerful messages from the two keynote speakers,” Cronin said. “Attendees from other areas including the Archdiocese of New York were surprised we got both Father Calloway and Father Landry. They seemed very impressed and the entire day flowed incredibly well.”

The conference team intends on last month’s event being the start of more of these types of outings.

“The Step Up Men’s Conference was not meant to be a one-off, one-time event. The conference is intended to be a catalyst to connect men, accompany them, and help them do a better job leading their families in the faith,” Cronin said. “One of our next steps is to connect men from across our Diocese and see if we can help create men’s groups within their regions or parish clusters.”