By Dave Jolivet

NEW BEDFORD — In a homecoming of sorts, Father Roger J. Landry, currently serving as the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York City, and a former pastor of St. Anthony Parish in New Bedford, will be returning to the parish he loved, on October 30 to preach and take part in a Men’s Retreat there. The focus of the retreat is, “St. Joseph — A Call to Manly Holiness.”

A Liturgy at a previous Menʼs Retreat at St. Anthony Church in New Bedford. This year’s event will take place on October 30.

Father Landry has led retreats and has taught at events all over the world.

In an interview with The Anchor, where Father Landry was once Executive Editor and still submits a regular column, he said, “One of the great privileges of my life was to serve as pastor of St. Anthony for seven years (2005-2012). It is one of the most beautiful churches in the United States, built by humble hard working immigrants who wanted to do something truly beautiful for God. 

“I always love to return there. Not only does the extraordinary beauty always lift me up, but it reminds me of so many graces I received there, from God and the parishioners. I can’t wait for October 30.

“The Year of St. Joseph is a special year of grace for all Catholics, but especially for Catholic men. As a Spiritual father, model and intercessor, he helps us grow to become, like him, more just, faithful, obedient, converted, prayerful, Christ-centered, charitable, humble, meek, vigilant, fatherly, hard-working, chaste, and in love with our Lady. 

“I look forward to being able to speak very practically about how devotion to St. Joseph helps us to become stronger, better and holier Catholic men.”

The retreat will take place on a Saturday, beginning with the celebration of Mass with Father Landry at 9 a.m. The events of the day will begin following the 10 a..m. Liturgy.

Father Mariano Varelo, pastor of St. Anthony’s, shared with The Anchor his happiness hosting the retreat: “With much enthusiasm and joy, I recently learned that Father Roger Landry, former pastor, is going to lead a retreat for youth and men based on the life and Spirituality of St. Joseph. This day of prayer and reflection seems to me a particular grace for men, fathers and husbands, and young men, who today need a lot of encouragement to fulfill their vocation ‘a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph 4:13). 

“I say a particular grace, because this meeting will take place within the framework of the year dedicated to St. Joseph, foster father of our blessed Lord. Nowadays, it is common to observe that very often the figure of a father as leader, educator, and protector of the family is being disfigured by false models who want to equate the personality and role of men.”

The day is open to all men ages 13 and up. “We highly encourage youth beyond the age of reason to either come with a family member, friend or by himself,” Edwin Aldarondo, a parishioner involved with the retreat, told The Anchor. “It is very important our youth also be included since they will have to face the challenges and need to be prepared for them.

“St. Pope John Paul II said, ‘As the family goes, so goes the nation.’”

In addition to the opening and closing Liturgies, the day will include talks, praying the Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, the availability of the Sacrament of Confession, and fellowship.

The one-day, guided retreat is a wonderful opportunity for men, including fathers and sons, to live a Spiritual encounter with other men and youth.

Father Varelo told The Anchor, “Pope Leo XIII already at the beginning of the 20th century in one of his encyclical letter dedicated to St. Joseph imploring the protection for the Church said, ‘We see faith, the root of all the Christian virtues, lessening in many souls; we see charity growing cold; the young generation daily growing in depravity of morals and views; the Church of Jesus Christ attacked on every side by open force or by craft.’ Being said that the beginning of the 20th century was threatened by this coldness in young generation, how much more we need to be ready to face the new challenges of the 21st century? 

“That is why I encourage all fathers and their sons to make every effort to participate in this retreat. This is the moment the Lord is knocking at the door of your hearts; open the door to Jesus Who invites you to renew with joy your commitment as His disciples in order to contribute for the common good of the society, being the salt of the earth and the light of the nations.

“Our modern world is filled with too many uncertainties, and we must prepare ourselves and our family to meet those challenges,” said the event promotion in the parish bulletin.

“The retreat day was scheduled for two days before the celebration of All Saints Day, to give us a chance to focus on how St. Joseph helps us to fulfill the vocation we’ve received through our Baptism, to become holy as God is holy,” Father Landry told The Anchor

“Sometimes we can have the impression that holiness is just for a few uncommon heroes, the Bobby Orrs and Larry Birds of the Christian life. But St. Joseph shows us that holiness is very compatible with being hardworking, protective, provident men and fathers, men whose deeds speak more loudly than their words, men who give their lives to make it possible for their wives and children to fulfill their vocations. Pope Francis talks about the ‘saints next door.’ We’re going to examine how allowing St. Joseph more into our life can help us to become such holy neighbors.”

In stressing the importance of gathering together in a retreat environment, Father Landry explained, “Jesus was constantly taking the Apostles away from the crowds for a little while to be with Him, to speak to them about their work, to help them recuperate and rest in a way that would press the reset button for their bodies and their souls. 

“Jesus would take them out on boats, up high mountains, into gardens. It’s essential for us to take some extended time with Him each year, so that He can reinvigorate us for the journey of life, so that not only we can finish but support others to continue the journey as well. St. Joseph is a model of manly prayer, of the importance of silence, of wonder at the blessing of Jesus in his life. I think Jesus and Mary are praying that many men make the decision to take some time away, to focus on St. Joseph and the Call to Manly Holiness, because he will help to bring us to Mary and together with Mary to Jesus.”

Aldarondo added, “We ask from everyone, prayers for the fruits of this Men’s Retreat.”

The cost for the day of inspiration and Spirituality is $20 per person. Attendees are asked to bring their own lunch. Coffee will be served in the morning.

Men interested in attending the day of retreat can visit the St. Anthony’s rectory at 1359 Acushnet Avenue to request a registration form, or call 508-993-1691. Folks may also register at the door the day of the event, but pre-registration is encouraged.