'We All Have a Common Cause'
Hundreds of Catholic Men Join in Call to Faith Event

By Maya Tarter
Journal Star [Peoria IL]
May 2, 2004

PEORIA - Chances are that a weekend event involving hundreds of men congregating together would be in the name of a sports team.

But Saturday's "Call to Catholic Men of Faith" event at Liberty Park on the riverfront didn't include tailgaters, cheese<0x00AD>heads or bleacher bums. The silent march and Mass was in the name of a higher being.

"This is an opportunity to express our belief in Christ and be part of a movement," said participant Richard Wilks of Coal Valley.

More than 400 men from the 26-county Catholic Diocese of Peoria gathered to listen to clergy and organizers speak before marching to Bishop Daniel Jenky's Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception.

Members of a men's group at St. Mark's Catholic Church organized the Call to Faith event in response to a sermon by Jenky last summer that urged Catholics to defend their faith against cultural attacks.

"It's good to come together like this because it shows the world that Catholic men do love their church," said Brother Nathan Cromly, a minister at Bradley University's Newman Center.

While the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandals have been under national scrutiny recently, the issue was brought closer to home last week with sexual misconduct accusations directed toward Monsignor Thomas R. Miller, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church of Peoria.

Yet Call to Faith participants said their attendance had little to do with speculation swirling around the church and more to do with a better understanding of their faith.

"It (the march) is what I want to do for myself, not to change public opinion," Wilks said.

Participant Kevin Kirby of Danville agreed.

Rather than a response to negative

publicity involving the allegations, "I believe it's more about our own personal growth and relationship with God," he said. "When I heard about this event, it struck a chord in my heart. The church is starting to grow, and having more events like this encourages us to put our beliefs in action."

A variety of reasons brought each man to the march, but a common faith united them.

"Some of us are here to support a priest, the pro-life choice or to set a good example for our children, but we all have a common cause," said planning organizer Wayne Rakers.

"I wanted to be a part of this event to show my sons and daughter what it is we do as men and Catholics," said Tim Drew of Peoria, another organizer. "It's a chance to stand side-by-side next to men of character and defend what we believe. It's a great joy."

The all-male nature of the gathering unified the group and added a different dimension not present in other church events that often are organized by female members.

"It's hard to get men to commit to stuff. I don't mind admitting that women are better at organizing these kinds of events, but it's probably something that men need to do more of," Rakers said. "This is something men can do together besides playing golf with a buddy."

Sports were left out of the morning activities, but the final send-off had the air of a coach pushing his team to victory.

"OK, guys, let's go to Mass," Drew said emphatically as the crowd took to the streets.


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