Nationally Recognized Speaker, Two Priests, and Six Parishioners to Help Men “Journey to Jesus”


A unique faith experience is planned for local Catholic men at the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown STRENGTH IN CHRIST Men’s Conference.

The event will happen on March 3 from 11:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. at the Bertschi Center on the campus of Mount Aloysius College in Cresson.

The conference theme is J2J (Journey to Jesus).

Keynote presenter Cooper Ray, a nationally recognized speaker, storyteller, and musician, will highlight that theme as he leads guys to a greater awareness of who they are as Catholic men and inspires them to take their faith to the next level.

Ray is especially known for his presentations at diocesan, parish, and school events across the country. He has spoken and led worship at the National Catholic Youth Conference, the National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry, Catholic Heart Work Camp, and Steubenville Youth Conferences.

Also speaking will be two of the diocese’s young priests, Father Michael Pleva, Administrator of Saint Matthew Parish in Tyrone and Saint Joseph Parish in Bellwood, and Father Brian Norris, Administrator of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Parish in Altoona.

“Both of these priests are so authentic in their personal faith lives,” noted Tony DeGol, Diocesan Director of Communications and Master of Ceremonies for the conference. “They have very inspiring stories about their own relationships with Jesus Christ and their paths to the priesthood. I think all guys will connect in some way with their journeys.”

Six men from various parishes are partnering with the diocese to plan the conference. Those men – Roy Holtz from Saint Augustine Parish in Dysart, John McIntyre from Saint Mary Parish in Hollidaysburg, Sean O’Dowd of Our Mother of Sorrows Parish in Johnstown, Brandon Peters from Saint Demetrius Parish in Gallitzin, Jeff Philibin of Saint Benedict Parish in Johnstown, and Eric Rusnak of Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Philipsburg – will participate in a panel discussion, moderated by DeGol, in which they will discuss their personal Holy Spirit stories and encourage conference attendees to go back to their families and their parishes and make a difference.

“We’re a bunch of regular guys living far-from-regular lives,” said Philibin.

“The Lord has a way of getting your attention when He wants it,” added Rusnak. “This conference will help guys determine what to do next.”

Holtz admitted he was nervous when he attended his first men’s conference a few years ago.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but I went anyway, trusting in the Holy Spirit,” he noted. “I had a great time and met some new friends who I stay in touch with today.”

The conference includes a great lunch, praise and worship, and Mass at 5:00 p.m. with Bishop Mark Bartchak, which will fulfill the Sunday obligation.

“Men face a lot of challenges in today’s world,” DeGol said. “This conference will be an opportunity for them to join other Catholic guys and be renewed in their efforts to be men of faith who are good husbands, fathers, friends, and parishioners.”

There is no cost to attend, but registration is required. Men can sign up on the diocesan website. Click HERE to register. Hard copy registration forms are also available at any parish in the diocese. The registration deadline is February 23.