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Bas Rutten to headline Men’s Conference

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“If you would have told me five years ago that I would come to deliver this message,” MMA champion turned actor Bas Rutten said in his introductory video for the Cincinnati Men’s Conference, “I would have told you that you are crazy, my friend.” Now an American citizen who has appeared in feature films and as a regular on the sitcom “Kevin Can Wait,” the Dutch native will share his powerful conversion story. (Courtesy photo)

Mixed Martial Arts heavyweight champ turned actor a staunch Catholic

By Gail Finke

The Cincinnati Men’s Conference owes its revival, in part, to Scotland’s great hero William Wallace.

“’Braveheart’ happened to be on while I was thinking about it,” said Catholic Speakers Organization founder Joe Condit. “A lot of people in Scotland wanted to stand up and fight, but someone had to start. I thought, ‘I’m going to be that crazy guy who gets the ball rolling and hopes people follow.’”

Condit booked the Taft Theater without even one confirmed speaker, he said, but was confident that speakers who normally book two or more years in advance would sign on to the rebirth of the nation’s first Catholic men’s conference. “There are now more than 200 conferences around the country where 50 or more men attend,” he said. “Cincinnati’s conference has been incredibly impactful, what the founders accomplished it needs to be recognized.”

Former UFC Heavyweight World Champion Bas Rutten will headline the conference, which will also feature popular speaker and radio host Father Larry Richards. The remaining speakers have Cincinnati connections: Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa taught at St. Xavier High School, and former Notre Dame Coach Gerry Faust began his fabled career at Moeller, where he was one of the most successful high school coaches in the country.

“Coach Faust was a speaker at the very first Cincinnati Men’s Conference,” Condit said. “He doesn’t speak often anymore, so it’s wonderful that we’ve been able to get him.”

Titled, “Be A Man! What it Means To be a True Christian Man in Today’s Society,” the conference will be held April 28th at the newly renovated Taft Theater in downtown Cincinnati. Events include the four talks, Mass celebrated by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr, vendors, and lunch.

Sean Ater, director of new evangelization for the archdiocese, said hundreds of area men travel to Columbus and St. Leon, Ind., for their popular men’s conferences. “We know they’re searching for it,” he said. “We’re not in competition with those conferences, we want to give more men an opportunity to come to a conference right here as well, and for men to come from nearby areas. In today’s culture, men are looking for this.”

“Men’s ministry in Catholic Cincinnati got a boost with the first men’s conferences,” added Father Jan Schmidt, director of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Office for Pastoral Life and Evangelization and rector of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains. “My hope and prayer is this event will light an evangelizing fire.”

Condit said the idea of the revived conference is the same as the idea behind the original: Bringing good men together. “The world is against the Catholic faith,” he said. “The other side is really organized and well-funded, but what are the good men doing? As the saying goes: Evil prevails when good men do nothing. Men’s conferences are about getting good, like-minded men together for networking and to form organizations, and to bring guys that haven’t been to church for years in and helping them see the need for making time for church in their lives.”

Plans are already being made for 2019 conference, when actor Jim Caviezel (“The Passion of the Christ,” “Person of Interest,” “Paul, Apostle of the Christ”) will be the featured speaker, Condit said. “The Cincinnati Men’s Conference is definitely back and is going to have an incredible first two years.”

For more on the Cincinnati Men’s Conference click here

Cincinnati Catholic Men’s Conference:
April 28, 9 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Taft Theater, Cincinnati
Tickets: $25-$50 (by seat location), plus $5 if ordered through TicketMaster
(Download order form at CincinnatiMen’sConference.com)
Group discounts available

Walt Schaefer contributed to this story. For more on the conference, see “Declan O’Sullivan Looks Back” and “The Book the Men’s Conference Inspired.”

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