The last weekend of February 2020 ushered in the second annual Croatian Men’s Conference – Miles Christi 2020 with the theme “Budi Čovjek”. Building on the foundations set in the inaugural Croatian Catholic Men’s Conference “Man up” of 2019, the event was once again held at the St Benedict XVI Retreat Centre in Gross Vale, NSW. Over 75 Croatian-Australian men gathered together in fellowship and fraternity for this increasingly popular event. With access to the healing sacrament of Reconciliation during the weekend, participants listened to inspiring and gifted speakers, engaged in group workshops, and participated in Holy Mass and Eucharistic Adoration, to help them to face up to the challenges of today’s world and to live out their God-given potential as men.
The inaugural conference was an important event in the Croatian community as it also commemorated the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Mass in Nin, celebrated by the Croatian Bishop, Franjo Kuharić, and attended by the largest gathering of Croatian faithful at that time. During that time, the Church gave a vow to the Croats expressed in a motto: “The Croatian Catholic family prays daily and celebrates Mass on Sundays”. The first group of men who attended the first conference, numbered at over 40, have continued to live this motto.
In preparation for the conference, over 30 men prayed the 54-day Rosary Novena with the intention of drawing the Lord’s blessing upon the Conference and for spiritual renewal amongst Croatian men. They were joined in spirit by religious Sisters from an orphanage in Zagreb and a ‘Braniteljkski’ rosary group in Zagreb, who were also praying for the Lord’s favour on the conference.
The conference MC was Stuart Brady from menAlive, promptly nicknamed ‘Stipe’ by the attendees and thus becoming an honorary Croatian for the weekend. ‘Stipe’ did an excellent job introducing each session, and managed to practise his Croatian at the same time by throwing in a word or two where he could.
Conference highlights included dynamic talks from dignified speakers such as internationally renowned Raymond de Souza and Robert Haddad, as well as our gifted home-grown Croatian speakers, Mijo Ticinović and Jakov Periša. The talks generated a great deal of thought-provoking discussion in the small groups and served as vehicles to ignite the fervour for faith, Church, family and society in the attendees.
Auxiliary Bishop Richard Umbers graced the conference with his presence on Saturday as he spoke about the current culture in society and the challenges the Church faces not only in Australia, but the world. The ‘Budi Čovjek’ conference was also blessed to have the Eucharistic celebration led by Don Marinko Mlakić from Šibenik, together with our newest local Croatian Franciscan friar, Fra Davor Filko.
Feedback from the conference attendees confirmed that they had, indeed, gained a great deal of clarity over the weekend, both in their understanding of the faith and in their relationship with God. One of the men present wrote, “Thanks to all the men for organising such a wonderful retreat. I’m really glad I came and got a lot out of it. I finally bought a journal and started with my takeaways from the weekend. May God bless you for all the work you put into helping the rest of us.” Another revealed, “This was my first time [attending the conference], really felt closer to God and there were quite a few light bulb moments”
Other great testimonies revealed that the conference led to healing and reconnection for some of the men: “That was a great weekend and it helped resolve my personal shame and my shame of the Catholic Church. So great to see all the old faces!”
Others attested to lives being turned around and to prodigal sons returning to the fold of Holy Mother Church. One attendee reported, “I just talked to someone who was at the conference and in a dark place before the conference. On Monday after the weekend he took the day off work, went to confession, went to Mass yesterday and received communion for the first time in a long time. Sounds like a different man today. The crew organising these conferences need to understand the impact they are having.”
Looking back, ‘Budi Čovjek’ was an inspiring event that changed lives for the better and roused men to grow in their relationship with God, their families and the Croatian community. It taught them that making a positive impact on society is being a real man, a man of God. The next conference, to be held in 2021, will only look to improve on this year’s success and blessings. The organisers hope to attract more Croatian Men who are willing to reconnect with God, and with other like-minded men, to fulfil the promise the Croatian nation made in the year of Branimir 879, to devote themselves to Christ and to the Catholic Church. Until next time, Budi Čovjek.
Bog i Hrvati.
Miles Christi 2020 Photos: https://www.kofpb.org/photo-gallery/
Men’s Conference article Domovina: https://domovina.info/index.php/2020/03/08/mens-conference-2020-u-sydneyu-veliki-izvestaj/