Sports figures featured at Men under construction
by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Organizers of Men Under Construction 17 are hoping this year’s conference on Feb. 16 will be a home run.
Or a touchdown.
Make that both a home run and a touchdown.
Chances are good it will be both, because they have an All-Star lineup of speakers: former KC Royals first- baseman Mike Sweeney and San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
The keynote speaker is an All-Star in his own right among Catholic evangelists and apologists: the former Pentecostal minister and now Catholic Deacon Alex Jones from the Archdiocese of Detroit.
And, as is traditional with each MUC event, the format has been tweaked a bit.
“We have made a special emphasis this year to reach out to young Catholic athletes, especially those involved in CYO sports,” said Dan Spencer, a member of Ascension Parish in Overland Park and MUC chairman.
“We welcome,” he continued, “any Catholic young man in seventh grade and above who would like to meet and listen to these two professional athletes who are strong Catholic role models.”
And to sweeten the deal, for the first time, MUC is offering CYO athletes, coaches, CYO fathers, or other Catholic boys team members age 12 years and older a reduced admission rate.
All CYO games have been canceled for Feb. 16, the first Saturday of Lent, to make it possible for these individuals to attend. Spencer hopes the marquee sports celebrities, clean schedule and bargain-rate admission will be a strong draw.
“We’re expecting a big crowd — shooting for at least 1,000 young men,” said Spencer. “Last year, we had a little over 1,000 attend.”
Like last year’s conference, MUC 17 will take place at the Church of the Ascension Parish, 9311 W. 127th St., in Overland Park. The conference begins at 7 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m.
The conference is a great way for men to begin Lent — and it’s a great way for women to help the men in their lives to become better men by attending, said Spencer.
The conference is also a great way for men to “reboot” the faith aspect of their lives, especially if they haven’t gone to confession in some time and are reluctant to receive the sacrament.
“With 900 men going to confession, it’s a little easier to get in line,” said Spencer.
“It’s a great witness to the young guys to see their fathers, grandfathers and other men go to confession by the hundreds,” he continued. “It’s a great witness for a father to show his sons the importance of the sacrament of reconciliation.”
A further tweak to this year’s program is the participation of the Knights of Columbus, Council No. 10932, which will prepare the conference lunch.
“It’s nice to have two major Catholic men’s organizations supporting one another,” said Spencer. “This is another example of how the Knights of Columbus are helping Catholic men and their sons.”
The cost to attend is $10 for students before Jan. 31, and $15 after. Early bird registration before Jan. 31 is $25, and $35 after. With the family plan, registrants may add teenage sons and grandsons at $10 each. Free admission is granted to “unemployed or scholarship” and clergy registrants (available online through the website).
Checks should be payable to the “Catholic Men’s Fellowship,” and mailed to: Catholic Men’s Fellowship, Box 26803, Overland Park, KS 66225
To register online, visit the website at: www.ksmuc.org. On the top of the page, click on the word “Register.”
6:30 a.m. — Walk-in registration
7 a.m. — Mass
7:45 a.m. — Breakfast begins
8:30 a.m. — Music
8:45 a.m. — Welcome
9 a.m. — Keynote: Deacon Alex Jones
10 a.m. — Break
10:30 a.m. — Witness speaker: Father Gregory Lockwood
11 a.m. — Group examination of conscience
11:15 a.m. — Reconciliation; athletes, coaches and fathers go to gymnasium with Mike Sweeney and Philip Rivers; Lunch for men not receiving the sacrament of reconciliation
11:30 a.m. — Lunch and Q & A with Rivers and Sweeney, CYO players, coaches and fathers in gymnasium
1 p.m. — “Faith, Family and Football” talk by Philip Rivers
1:30 p.m. — “Major League Faith” talk by Mike Sweeney
2 p.m. — Keynote: Deacon Alex Jones
2:45 p.m. — Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
3:30 p.m. — Final blessing and conclusion
Deacon Alex Jones
Deacon Alex Jones was senior minister of two churches in Detroit and taught in the Detroit school system for 28 years.
In March 1998, while reading the apostolic Fathers and church history in preparation for a Wednesday evening Bible study, he discovered the early church to be charismatic, liturgical, hierarchical and Eucharist-centered. This began a two-year journey by Jones and his wife Donna into the Catholic Church with 54 members of his previous congregation and 14 members of his family. They were welcomed into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil on April 14, 2001.
Jones was ordained a permanent deacon for the Archdiocese of Detroit on Oct. 1, 2005. He retired as coordinator for evangelization in 2007. In addition to his ministry as deacon and evangelist, Deacon Jones is the author of “No Price Too High,” a book that chronicles his journey into the church.
Father Gregory Lockwood
Ordained in 1988, Father Gregory Lockwood is a former Lutheran pastor who entered the Catholic Church as a married priest through the pastoral provision erected by Pope John Paul II. He became a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He taught at the archdiocesan seminary for 17 years and in the adult education program of the Paul VI Institute for 24 years. His priestly ministry has included parish work, high school teaching, Catholic adult education, and the formation of priests and permanent deacons. Bishop Robert Finn appointed him pastor of Christ the King Parish in Kansas City, Mo., on July 1. He and his wife Karen have five children.
Mike Sweeney is a retired Major League Baseball player who spent the greater part of his career with the Kansas City Royals. Among his many accomplishments in a stellar sports career, he made the American League All-Star team five times.
But even more dramatic than his baseball career is the renewal of his Catholic faith in 1998. Sweeney has spoken often about his Catholic faith since then. He is the advisory chairman of Catholic Athletes for Christ and a spokesman for Life Teen, a Catholic youth ministry. He has raised funds for crisis pregnancy centers.
In March 2012, Sweeney joined the MLB Network as a studio analyst.
Philip Rivers is currently a quarterback for the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League. His career passing rate is among the top of the all-time best NFL quarterbacks.
A native of Alabama, Rivers met his wife Tiffany in grade school and they married in college. They have six children. Rivers, a convert to the Catholic faith, is very active speaking to youth about the Catholic faith. He and his wife promote natural family planning and, in 2012, Rivers was a speaker at a men’s conference at Good Shepherd Parish in Huntsville, Ala.