St. Dominic Parish hosts first men’s conference, hopes to turn it into an annual Lenten event
By Bill Brewer
When the mission is sainthood, achieving the holiest of endeavors—getting to heaven—is of utmost importance to anyone of faith.
And for dozens of men in the Five Rivers Deanery who aspire to sainthood, that mission may have indeed seemed impossible on March 12 when they awoke to six inches of snow on the ground from a late-season snowstorm that blew through East Tennessee during the overnight hours.
But that didn’t keep them from their appointed objective: summon the Holy Spirit at St. Dominic Parish’s first Lenten men’s conference, where attendees could receive Him and come together in prayer, reflection, renewal, and fellowship.
In addition to the Holy Spirit’s presence, the men convened to hear Father Tom Charters of the Glenmary Home Missioners, who is pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Erwin, and Daniel Schachle of the Knights of Columbus, whose son’s healing in the womb is a miracle being attributed to Knights of Columbus founder Blessed Father Michael J. McGivney.
“This was the first area men’s conference hosted by St. Dominic Church. The theme was ‘Mission: Sainthood.’ The purpose of the conference was to provide an opportunity for men to grow in the Catholic faith and to receive support and encouragement from one another. The day was composed of three main presentations, witness talks, eucharistic adoration, the rosary, opportunity for confession, and the Mass,” said Father Michael Cummins, pastor of St. Dominic.
“The conference was well received by the participants,” Father Cummins added. “The hope is for this to become an annual opportunity.”
Father Cummins celebrated Mass for the men attending the day-long conference. Also taking part in the day-long celebration was Father Bart Okere, pastor of St. Henry Parish in Rogersville and chaplain of the state Knights of Columbus.
Greg Drone, one of the conference organizers who is a member of St. Mary Church in Johnson City, was pleased—relieved—that the snowstorm didn’t impact the conference too significantly.
“Amid the late-spring snowstorm, 70 men of all ages braved the weather for a powerful day of inspiring talks, fellowship, the holy Eucharist, great food, and the opportunity to meet men from the local deanery. The planning team of Jim MacDougal, me, Mark Walter, Jared Hammond, Paul Vachon, Humberto Collazo, and Kevin Musser have been preparing for five months for this inspiring event,” Mr. Drone said.
“It is hoped that this will be the launching of an annual event to be held during Lent each year. Men of all faiths are welcome to participate. Interest in opportunities for men to come together in prayer and be supported spiritually is very strong,” Mr. Drone added.
Mr. Schachle, who is the general agent for the Knights of Columbus insurance division in Tennessee, told the men of “The Miracle of Mikey.”
Michael “Mikey” Schachle is the youngest of Daniel and Michelle Schachle’s 13 children. During Mrs. Schachle’s pregnancy, doctors informed the Schachles that their baby had fetal hydrops, a life-threatening condition.
When the doctors informed the couple that their baby had zero chance of survival, the couple was given two options: terminate the pregnancy or wait for him to die on his own.
“I was angry at the doctor for telling me to kill my child. It’s my job as father to protect my children, not destroy them,” Mr. Schachle recalled. “God gave me the special grace of hope in that moment. As St. Augustine said, ‘Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.’”
The Schachles made a pilgrimage to Fatima and prayed to the Venerable Michael McGivney to intercede for Mikey.
Upon their return from Fatima, a visit to the obstetrician revealed the fetal hydrops condition had disappeared and Mrs. Schachle would give birth to a thriving baby.
“God works in our imperfection, in our frailty. All it takes for us is to be humble enough to submit to His will for our life, to abandon ourselves to His providence. To pray like it’s all up to Him, but act like it’s all up to us,” Mr. Schachle said.
Mikey Schachle has thrived since his birth. He was born with Down syndrome and some conditions associated with Down, but he is proving the medical community wrong and God’s community right.
Mikey’s medically unexplained healing is attributed to the prayers Mr. and Mrs. Schachle, along with many supporters, made to God through the intercession of the Blessed Mother and Father McGivney.
In May 2020, Pope Francis officially declared Mikey’s cure a miracle attributed to Father McGivney, opening the path for his beatification later that year.
The Schachles say their experience taught them to trust in God through even the most dire of circumstances, and that the family is a gift beyond measure.
Six years later, Mikey is a bounding little boy and an active, essential part of the Schachle clan.
Father Charters then addressed the men.
The Glenmary priest spoke fondly of his spiritual director, a Jesuit priest at Xavier University in Cincinnati. The 94-year-old Father Al Bischoff remains active and is popular on campus.
He refers to everyone he sees on campus as “Saint.”
“As one student said to him, ‘Father B, you call me saint because you don’t remember my name.’ Father B told him that was true. The student responded, ‘Father B, you may not remember my name, but I still like being called saint.’ If you understand Father B’s definition of saint then you will understand why each of you, me, in fact, all people can be called saint,” Father Charters told the men.
“Many years ago, Father B gave me his definition of a saint: ‘a saint is a sinner.’ After reflecting upon that definition, I made an addition. I define a saint as ‘a saint is a sinner who tries.’ A saint is a person who tries to live life as best as he or she can. And the way to mature in one’s sainthood is to incorporate three essential ingredients: listening, humility, and sacrifice,” Father Charters continued.
He offered some sobering insight and reflection into the men’s lives and their upbringing as males.
“I have found that men find it extremely difficult to accept the biblical truth that God’s Divine Image dwells within them,” Father Charters said.
“Why do I say it is difficult for men? It is the male image which deafens us to hearing God tell us that we are made in God’s Divine Image. We do not listen to God speaking to us because of the image we embrace as men. Our listening to dominance and power hinders us from listening to God.
“We seek to control, and often in turn, demean people by our desire to have power over others. Perhaps some of your fathers have dominated your lives over the years, and in turn, from their patterns you have passed the same patterns onto your sons. Or, perhaps you might be trying to dominate your sons’ lives at the present time,” he added.
Father Charters recalled a conversation with a young man he thought had gifts for the priesthood. After asking the young man if he had ever considered the priesthood, the young man told him he would like to consider it but his father forbid it. The family attended Mass every Sunday.
“When we cease to honor the Divine Image of God within another person, we side with the Evil One. Just as the Evil One distorted Adam and Eve’s view of themselves, so, too, does the Evil One continue to distort our vision of seeing ourselves as we are,” the Glenmary priest said.
Father Charters reminded the men that humility, the ability to listen, and sacrifice are key elements in achieving sainthood.
“Perhaps the fullest definition of sainthood is a ‘saint is a sinner who tries to listen, who tries to be humble, and who tries to sacrifice.’ If we men are to be saints, we need to listen; not just impose our wills, but really listen,” Father Charters advised. “God listens to us. We need to listen to God. If we men are to be saints, we need to humble ourselves. If we men are to be saints, we need to sacrifice in order to be whole. And in listening, being humble, and sacrificing, we are able to become the person God created us to be.
“I end this presentation with some questions for you. Do you really believe that God dwells within you? Do you reflect the Divine Presence of God to others; perhaps to your spouse, children, siblings, and others? Do you see the Divine Presence of God in others? Do you listen to others, seeking to hear God’s presence in them? Do you humble yourself, knowing honestly your faults and strengths and are willing to speak about both? Do you sacrifice, desiring to make others whole? Are you able to see yourself as a saint now, who is a sinner, and who is trying to listen, and seeking ways to refine the listening skills, and trying to be humble, as well as trying to sacrifice for others?”