Mieles Christi 2023
Like many men, I was reluctant to attend my first annual Croatian Men’s Conference. I’m a busy husband and father, with many conflicting priorities to juggle each weekend. Attending a 2.5 day weekend retreat with a group of Catholic men was very low on my list of priorities in life. After a lot of mental debate and discussion with my wife about managing the kids activities, I decided to make it work and attend. It was clearly the correct decision and 2023 marks my 4th annual attendance.
The Benedict XVI Retreat Centre is an awesome place to experience the tranquility of nature and a contrast to what our lives generally contain. Despite an extensive conference program on offer, spending time away from the pressures of our daily lives in a place where mobile reception is limited provides for a priceless recharge from the usual weekend.
This year’s theme was ‘All in for Jesus’. This sounds quite intimidating and is a statement that many of us struggle to get our heads around, with initial thoughts being ‘Isn’t that what the life of a priest is?’ Through the many different talks we had the privilege of listening to, it became apparent that being ‘All in for Jesus’ is something that all men are called to do. Being a men’s conference we learned that being “All in for Jesus” is a way of life that men cannot strive to achieve on their own – we need our fellow brothers to support us on our journey toward this end goal.
Check-in commenced at 17:00, and gave us an opportunity to catch up with old friends from previous conferences as well as to meet some new faces from outside our local parishes and groups. This year we were blessed with a group from Victoria, a man from Adelaide, as well as 5 men from outside the Croatian community.
Rob Zrilic again did a great job of MC’ing, and got the conference off to a fun start with an interesting ice breaker. Our first speaker for the conference was Dr Andrew Wood, who I think is the most intelligent man I’ve ever come across. He spoke to us on the topic ‘What a man is called to’, and went into depth about ‘what is God’s plan for me’. Dr Wood explained to us that we were made for eternal life, and provided us with a number of tools to include in our daily lives to help us achieve God’s plan for us. Dr Wood has a special way of articulating the Catholic faith, and one line in his presentation that had a deep impact on me and many other men was “life is a waste of time if we don’t get to heaven”. For me, this set the theme for the rest of the weekend, as I wanted to know more about ensuring my life is not a waste of time.
Day 2 started with a group rosary, prayer and Mass. This was followed by a great breakfast, which filled us all up for the big program ahead. If anyone is unsure about attending the conference due to not being fed physically you have nothing to be concerned about. We had an awesome menu across the weekend, and our stomachs were adequately filled to ensure we had energy for the days ahead.
Jakov Perisa presented the topic “You were made to hear his voice”. I always enjoy listening to Jakov who poses challenging questions to us men about how we live our lives. Jakov talked about how to hear God’s voice in our lives, and discerning between the different voices we hear in our heads. Jakov also gave us some important “governing principals” for living our lives as men of God.
The next speaker for the day was Marinko Crnjac, who gave a powerful testimony on the story of his life and his conversion to the faith. I won’t say much about his story, but it had a deep impact on many of the men in attendance. I had the pleasure of spending a few minutes with Marinko at the end of the conference and it was a conversation I will never forget. The testimonies delivered at the conference each year are an important part of the program and show the importance of opening up and sharing our stories with one another as we strive together to build our fraternity of men in our community.
Next up was Mijo Ticinovic. Mijo has a unique style of presenting and his talks go straight to the heart. Like Jakov, Mijo poses many powerful questions to get us men to think about where we are at in our various relationships – with God, our families and our jobs. This year Mijo focused on distractions in our relationships, in particular our relationship with God. Mijo talked about how distractions are like idols, and that as men we fill our lives with these and we don’t know how to rest. Mijo also gave us a great acronym for BUSY – Be Under Satan’s Yoke, which is quite accurate when you break down what we busy ourselves with.
Saturday afternoon saw us have a couple of hours of free time, in which men could look to Fr Davor for some spiritual guidance or further build the fraternity among the men through socialising. It’s a great opportunity to get to know the men we meet across the weekend. Being the Feast of the Annunciation, it gave the Exodus90 men an opportunity to break from their fasting and enjoy a small treat to celebrate the feast day.
In between the presentations we broke out into small groups to give the men an opportunity to discuss their thoughts and feelings on the topics that were presented. It’s an important part of the weekend, as different men form a different understanding of the talks and working through some of their challenges with other like-minded men in small groups is an important part of their spiritual growth and development. For me, it’s a highlight of the weekend, and these small groups can form strong bonds that are taken away from the weekend and can turn into lasting friendships.
Our late afternoon presentation was from Jakov again on the topic of ‘Are you in or out or sitting on the bench’. It was a fascinating talk about being an authentic Catholic man in the world. Jakov used many football analogies which made it easy for Croatian men to understand. My summary of the talk was that we cannot be lukewarm with our faith, and Jakov posed 7 challenges for us men as take-aways from the conference. These included ‘must carry his cross and face persecution’, ‘must make Jesus known to others’, ‘must spend time with Jesus’ and ‘must strive to live an authentic Catholic life’. It posed some good questions to me that I am working on implementing in my life.
Our next speaker was Fr Greg Morgan, who talked about what it means to be all in for Jesus as a man living today. Like the other speakers, Fr Greg posed some challenging points to us men in how we live our faith in the world – “let God’s work continue to be done through you – live your vocation” and “we fail in our vocation when we put other things in front of our vocation”. As a husband and father, I have seen how I struggle with this vocation when I put other things in front of what I am called to put first. Fr Greg has an amazing way of getting us to think about how we live our lives and how to live them better to fulfil our vocation. With the many distractions and mental storms in our lives, Fr Greg said that what God calls you to be will give you peace. Fr Greg finished with a fantastic Q and A, and there were many challenging questions posed during Q and A. A great session.
Saturday night is always a beautiful night where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and reconciliation is offered (and the take up on this opportunity is very big). It is the pinnacle and summit of the weekend. It is a night where men, some for the first time in years, have allowed themselves to hear the Lord speak to them and they are moved to a thorough reconciliation or a deep conversation with the Lord in adoration. I have heard many moving experiences over the years and it brings great joy to the whole group to see the change in some of the men from this experience.
The evening is also a great time for getting to know our brothers even better, and some great conversations were had and friendships formed. Even with the curfew we had a wonderful night of discussion and laughter.
Sunday morning is where the conference organisers wrap up what we have been through and give us some useful information to help us continue on our spiritual journey. Ivica Kovac gave us an overview of the wonderful work he is undertaking in the Men’s Ministry within the Archdiocese of Sydney and how we can “tap in” to the numerous resources available to continue on from what we have learned at the conference.
The penultimate highlight for weekend was the concluding Mass celebrated by Fr Davor. We started with a procession into the Church with incense, candles, the Croatian Men’s Cross, Banner of Christ the King and many other banners. Fr Davor gave us another great homily to wrap up the weekend, and the men’s Masses are always made special through the sound of a church full of men praying and singing together – something truly amazing.
Overall, the weekend was outstanding! I highly recommend this conference to any man who wants to grow in his faith and discern what God’s plan is for him. If you have concerns about anything I’m sure the event organisers or your mates can put them at ease. There are a large supply of ear plugs available (to block out the snorers), plenty of food, coffee and water throughout the weekend to keep you fed, hydrated and awake. Single rooms are also available if you don’t wish to share with anyone.
Bog i Hrvati
Some Feedback from Men that Attended
Really enjoyed my first conference. The pace was outlined really well. The sessions were valuable and provided insight to areas that helped close out open end questions and have key take away’s from the event.
Helpful & beneficial, I firmly believe that all Croatian men, young and old should attend. My experience while I know people I was somewhat shy. Yet my group helped me open up and I loved it, great people & I’ve benefited. God Bless.
Thanks for a great weekend mate. I really enjoyed it. A great bunch of blokes all fighting their own battles in life but with the same eye on the one prize. God bless
Praise God for the beautiful weekend, all the talks were amazing. Father Greg’s talk is what hit home with me. I had a thought and it was to have all the talks recorded so we can have the opportunity to listen to again with our family/ wife’s at home.
God bless you and the work you do. Thanks be to God for people like you in this world. I have enjoyed this weekend.
Keep it up. Speakers are awesome. Confession is awesome.