Earlier this year in January, the 2023 Regnum Christi Men’s Convention was held at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center in Norwood, Ohio. Over 50 men gathered for the regional convention, including 45 lay men, six priests, one seminarian, and one member of Regnum Christi Mission Corps. The theme of the convention was “Igniting the Heart of the Apostle,” which is based on the North American territorial strategy for 2021-2024. The convention opened with Mass on Friday evening, and included talks and conferences from a variety of Regnum Christi men and Legionary priests, including two testimonies on the journey to Regnum Christi.
The highlight of the convention was having the North American Territorial Director, Fr. Shawn Aaron, LC, attend and deliver the keynote address, sharing his thoughts on what it means to ignite the heart of the apostle and how the Territory is working to support the localities.
During his talk, Fr. Shawn shared a powerful personal experience that had a lasting impact on how he viewed apostleship. While he was studying in Rome, he had the opportunity to attend a vigil Mass for Pentecost in St. Peter’s Square, celebrated by Pope John Paul II during the Jubilee Year. The plaza was full with over 250,000 people, and at the front near the altar, burned seven enormous flames, representing the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Immediately following the homily, seven individuals came forth, each with a long candle, which they proceeded to light from each of the large flames. They in turn approached to the crowd, lighting the candles of the people in the first row, who then turned and lit the candles of the people behind them, and so on, until every candle was lit. “I’ll never forget when the flame got to my candle, and I turned around,” shares Fr. Shawn. “I just stood turned around, and I kept watching the candle lighting work its way through 250,000 people within minutes. The orchestra was playing in the background Veni Sancte Spiritus, ‘Come Holy Spirit,’ as every flame went from one person to the next to the next. That’s Christianity. We’re meant to light each others’ fires, because we’ve been given one, and we’ve never been given it so we can hold onto it.”
Fr. Shawn continued to remind the men what it means to share this fire through the charism of Regnum Christi:
“We desire to ignite the heart of the apostle, who sees the needs of the world and the Church, discerns through the lens of our charism, and steps out boldly in mission. What do you see around you, and is there something that our Lord has entrusted to you that somehow you can help with? ‘Open your eyes, look around you, don’t you see that the fields are ripe with harvest?’ (cf. John 4:35). The first thing is always bringing the encounter of Christ, coming in contact with him who loves me, not because I deserve it, but because of who he is. And in Regnum Christi, that’s what we desire: we desire that first people encounter the merciful love of God that is transformative.”
Section leader, Charlie Bradley, gave a conference on the commitments of a Regnum Christi apostle, and how to make them practical in daily life. His calls to action included a variety of concrete tasks linked to the Promises of Christ made by Regnum Christi members, in the areas of formation, apostolate, accompaniment, and team life. But, Charlie emphasizes, the apostle’s priority must always be his own spiritual life. “Job #1 is prayer – we don’t get anywhere without habitual time with Christ.” Charlie also serves on the board for Camp River Ridge, which is a Regnum Christi apostolate, and is the lay man serving on the Territorial Directive College.
Fr. Matthew Summe, LC, is the section chaplain for RC Ohio Valley, and gave the second talk at the convention, speaking about the importance of accompaniment, which is, above all, a relationship. “Jesus didn’t invest in buildings, he didn’t invest in this and that, he invested in people. And he grew his gospel through people. So do I think of my responsibility, my fundamental life’s work, as growing people, empowering them, nurturing them, encouraging them, developing them? Because that’s our fundamental mission in life as Christians: to build a community of faith.”
The Convention concluded on Saturday afternoon with Mass, after which the men renewed their Regnum Christi promises and one man associated into Regnum Christi.
One of the important features of this year’s convention was the great demographic mix of attendees, which included men at all states of life – young single men, men who were newly married and just starting their family vocational life, fathers of adult children, and men with grandchildren and great grandchildren. John and his team invested time for the men to dialogue on the talks and to share insights with each other from their own unique perspectives. This year’s convention was also one day longer, beginning on Friday evening, in order to accommodate Regnum Christi men outside of the Greater Cincinnati area and offer them provide them with the opportunity to participate and connect; ten men from outside of the area attended.
Another key feature that contributed to the success of the convention was the collaboration of all areas of Regnum Christi, including Legionary priests, Consecrated women of Regnum Christi, and lay Regnum Christi men and women. John Carter, who serves as a Regnum Christi team leader in the Greater Cincinnati locality and as the Section Formation lead, planned and led the 2023 RC Men’s Convention. This entailed organizing a diverse team of men and women to market, promote, and oversee registration of the event; provide meals during the weekend, coordinate Masses and music, ensure tech support, and offer general hospitality to the attendees. Men from across the Midwest joined the convention, and all of the Legionary priests from Cincinnati attended; also, the Consecrated Women in the locality contributed in a special way by providing music for the two Masses during the convention as well as video support. The men’s and women’s sections in the locality provided meals for the weekend. “It was a significant compilation of work to successfully plan and deliver this event,” says Charlie, “and John is a wonderful leader who enlists and engages others. In fact, the entire Regnum Christi family came together to pull off the convention under John’s leadership.”
To find out more about Regnum Christi in Cincinnati and the Ohio Valley, visit their website at rcohiovalley.org. You can access all the talks and conferences from the convention, including a video of Fr. Shawn’s keynote address, at the 2023 Regnum Christi Men’s Convention website.