Sunday, March 25, 2001

8,000 Catholics 'Answer the Call'


Men gather to share their faith

By Richelle Thompson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The lines stretched past the concession stands and bathrooms, beyond the tables of anti-abortion bumper stickers and Christian music CDs, nearly circling Xavier University's Cintas Center.

        Men from West Chester and Loveland, Piqua, Ohio, and Lexington, Ky., waited patiently, talked quietly, or bowed their heads. Some threw an arm of support around the shoulder of a friend. A few cried.

[photo] Father Giles Pater of Newtown hears confession from Chris Emmerich of Dayton, Ohio, at Saturday's Answer the Call Catholic Men's Conference.
(Mike Simons photo)
| ZOOM |
        About 4,000 of the 8,000 men at Saturday's Answer the Call Catholic Men's Conference waited to receive the Sacrament of Confession, in which they seek reconciliation with God through the help of about 120 priests.

        This seventh annual conference of spiritual renewal brought the men together to pray and sing with palms turned up, their rich tenors and basses blending.

        “Change my heart, oh God, may I be like you.”

        Justin Smoot got up at 5 a.m. to travel from Lexington with his dad, grandfather, uncle and cousin. It was a new experience for the 12-year-old.

        “It makes me feel really nice. It's really powerful.”

        The conference helped Tom Blankemeyer, 45, of Loveland, “feel like I am not alone ... that my problems and challenges are shared by men in all stations of life, in all ages.”

        The conference is similar to the Protestant Promise Keepers. It's also a starting point for men to develop small “accountability groups” that meet once or twice a month.

        It started 15 years ago with a few men meeting in an East Walnut Hills Frisch's. Today, 140 small men's groups convene around the Tristate and the movement has gone national.

        Chip Williamson, 39, of West Chester, has attended for several years.

        “I used to think it was a cry weekend away from the women,” he said. “But now I see it as an honest, genuine talk about love — and men don't do that everyday.”
       



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