Thousands Participate in Gatherings at Cintas Center

By Therese Shuler
The Catholic Telegraph [Cincinnati OH]
Downloaded April 11, 2003

ARCHDIOCESE - Two local groups registered thousands of participants each for spiritual conferences they sponsored at Xavier University's Cintas Center during March.

About 5,000 women attending the 8th Annual Women's Event gathered to hear speakers, pray the rosary, go to confession and participate in eucharistic adoration. Peg Black, director of the archdiocesan Family Life Office, offered the opening prayer, and Bishop Carl Moeddel celebrated the Eucharist. He also presided at the closing Mass for the "Answer the Call" men's conference March 29, which had a similar format of speakers, prayer, music and confession.

Former Miss Ohio-USA Carolyn Kollegger was one of four speakers; the lineup also included Matthew Kelly, former Croatian pop star Tatiana and Katrina Zeno, who has a theology degree from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Like Tatiana and Zeno, Kollegger offered dramatic testimonies to God's ability to change lives. A sometimes-troubled relationship with world-class skier Erwin Kollegger eventually led to marriage for the couple. "When we weren't going or doing or spending, we were arguing," said the former model.

"I didn't need a role in a soap opera. I was living one," she said. Then she met Christian neighbors who suggested the couple go to church. Much to her surprise, Erwin agreed to meet with a Catholic priest, and, at the priest's suggestion, to see a Catholic marriage counselor. Eventually the couple married in the church and made a Marriage Encounter. Daily Mass and the rosary became part of their routine.

At one point, grieving past abortions, Kollegger was tempted to suicide. But in a dream of Jesus, "I was embraced by love," she said, and woke up with the desire to go on living.

Wanting a family while her husband didn't, she was considering divorce. But Erwin, who had had a vasectomy after their marriage, had it reversed. The couple now has five children.

"Answer the Call," the men's March 29 gathering, also featured several well-known speakers, including Franciscan Friar of the Renewal Father Stan Fortuna, an EWTN regular; retired General Charlie Duke, a member of the Apollo 16 crew; Missionary of the Poor founder Father Richard Ho Lung; Father Phillip Merdinger, who founded the Brotherhood of Hope; Jim Crosby, a pastoral associate at Good Shepherd Parish and former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating. The sponsor, the Catholic Men's Fellowship, estimated 5,500 to 6,000 men participated.

Keating, who chairs the National Review Board for the United States bishops, criticized some aspects of American society while thanking God for being born in the United States. He called on the men present to be Christian warriors in spite of their weakness. "For us as Catholic men who have made a commitment to follow Christ in every way.that requires action," he said. "That requires struggle. That requires commitment."

He also addressed the issue of the sexual abuse scandal, proclaiming support for the majority of faithful priests. "This challenge to our faith is a huge challenge," he said. "Fidelity is the answer."

The Catholic Women's Event is sponsored by "Embrace the Children," a Cincinnati-based lay, predominately Catholic organization. The first Women's Event took place in 1996 with the purpose of praying for the Catholic Men's Conference. According to figures from "Embrace the Children," the number of participants has risen dramatically over the years, with 5,000 attending in 2003.

Sponsor of the men's conference is "Answer the Call," a fellowship of primarily Catholic men. According to the fellowship, more than 50,000 men have attended its conferences over the past nine years, with an estimated 5,500 participating in the 2003 event.


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