Catholic Men’s Conference set October 19

HARTFORD—“Forge Your Path to Holiness” is the theme of the 2019 Connecticut Catholic Men’s Conference on Saturday, October 19 at St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol.

The conference, which will feature several nationally known speakers, will open with a talk by Bishop Juan Miguel Betancourt and conclude with a Vigil Mass celebrated by Archbishop Leonard P. Blair.

“We are all on a journey of life and the goal of life is intimacy with God. The goal is holiness—not just being a nice guy, a nice person, but truly to have a relationship with Christ,” said Father James Sullivan, chaplain of the conference and rector of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Waterbury. “We have seen the same old, same old for so long. A man is called to a deeper relationship. Religion isn’t just for women and children. Holiness is a manly thing.”

He believes the conference can give Catholic men the spiritual tools they need in a secular society and emphasizes the importance of the sacrament of reconciliation. Last year well over half of the almost 700 attendees went to confession. Some 21 priests were hearing confessions all day long, and Father Sullivan, alone, heard 30.

He said one of the challenges that men confront today is the radical individualism that modern society promotes. “We live in the world that keeps us from reaching out and living in community,” he said. “But we are called to that. It is OK to be a man of faith and to be with 700 men worshipping God together. Very often, men believe they can do it alone and blaze their own trail, but the truth is that we are made for family, we are made for community, we are made for friendship.”

Father Sullivan urges men around the state “to resist the resistance that tells you to do everything else instead of carving out time for God.”

He also encourages older men to invite young men to attend the conference: “They should reach out to their sons, their nephews, guys next to them in the pew and young men who are not even coming to church,” he said.

This year, in addition to the talks and different sessions, the conference will feature some fun competitive events for the men, he said. For more information and to buy tickets, visit

Speakers at the conference include:

Dan Burke, award-winning author, president of EWTN News and president of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of the Avila Institute, whose mission is to draw Christians worldwide into deeper union with Christ through spiritual education and formation. Burke is a regular co-host on Register Radio, an author, speaker and pilgrimage director who provides online spiritual formation and shares his conversion story and Catholic spirituality. Burke has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs. He is author of several books, including the award-winning Navigating the Interior Life—Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. His most recent book is The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila.

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers gives lectures nationwide and conducts retreats and seminars at parishes and conferences. He has appeared on national and international radio programs, including Catholic Answers Live and Kresta in the Afternoon. The author of The Mass in Sacred Scripture, he is a frequent contributor to Eternal World Network and hosts several EWTN series, including “Behold the Man: Spirituality for Men.” He is also president and CEO of Servant Enterprises, Inc., a non-profit organization that hosts an international institute for Catholic male spirituality, coordinates speaking tours and retreats and develops services that support family life.

Father John Bartunek, a member of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ entered into full communion with the Church in 1991 from an evangelical Christian background. He was ordained in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. Prior to entering the priesthood, he was a professional actor in Chicago. He provided support on the set of Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of Christ” and researched the book Inside the Passion. He has given commentary on religious issues at NBC, CNN, Fox and the BBC. He is the author of a trilogy of books of Christian meditation, including The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer. In 2016, he published a series of books that explored spiritual values behind the natural world.

Bishop Juan Miguel Betancourt was appointed auxiliary bishop of Hartford on September 18, 2018 and ordained as bishop on October 18, 2018 by Archbishop Leonard P. Blair. Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1970, he is the son of Miguel and Gloria Betancourt. He is a member of the Society of the Servants of the Eucharist and Mary, and served as vicar general of the community. He also served at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul, Minnesota, as vice rector of formation, associate academic dean and assistant professor of Sacred Scripture, and as the pastor of the Church of St. Francis de Sales of St. Paul in St. Paul. He is a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico with a bachelor’s in natural sciences, and he received a master of divinity degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico. Following his priestly ordination, he earned a licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.

Father Jeffrey Thompson is the vocations coordinator for the Missionaries of the Holy Apostles. Previously, he was a political lobbyist in California. Father also serves as dean of men at Holy Apostles College and Seminary.  During the summer, he conducts parish missions.

Archbishop Leonard P. Blair was named the fifth Archbishop of Hartford on October 29, 2013. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Detroit on June 26, 1976, following studies at Sacred Heart Seminary College, Detroit; the North American College, Rome; and the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome. Archbishop Blair holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Sacred Heart Seminary College; a bachelor’s in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University; a licentiate in theology with a specialization in patristics and the history of theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University; and a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.

Father James Sullivan has attended the conference since its first year and was appointed statewide Men’s Conference chaplain in 2017. He is rector of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Waterbury. Earlier this year, he was honored by the Knights of Columbus with its 44th annual Father Michael J. McGivney Award for advancing the ideals embodied by their founder.

Master of ceremonies Sam Todzia has more than a decade of experience working with teenagers, including at-risk teens and those suffering from mental illnesses. In 2011 Sam and his brother Jon began the Catholic men’s ministry Meat & Greet to bring together men of faith and strengthen them to live out their calling as Catholic men. In 2014 they founded Red Barn Ministries to expand their ministry and build up Catholic youth in New England. Todzia has a master’s degree in theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary.