|Robert Smolen of St. Gabriel the Archangel Church in McKinney listens to Father Wade Menezes during the 2016 North Texas Catholic Men's Conference. (Photo by Lance Murray / NTC) MORE PHOTOS|
GRAPEVINE — More than 900 Catholic men joined together April 23 for the 5th Annual North Texas Men’s Conference at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Grapevine, where they heard inspirational messages about mercy and virtue.
The event, which attracted men from 110 parishes and five states, was organized as part of the ministries of the North Texas Catholic Brothers for Christ, a group of men from parishes throughout North Texas committed to building up Christ’s body.
In his message before the event, Conference Lead Rich Self said, “In this, the Jubilee Year of Mercy, we have a beautiful opportunity to incorporate the Corporal and Spiritual Acts of Mercy in our everyday lives.”
It was a message that resounded through each speaker’s presentation.
Attendees heard from Denton resident Jared Zimmerer, the author of Man Up: Becoming the New Catholic Renaissance Man; Father Wade L.J. Menezes, CPM, a member of the Fathers of Mercy; Vinny Flynn, the man who sings the Divine Mercy Chaplet on EWTN; and Arkansas resident Jim Drake, who spoke about his family’s journey of faith after his daughter, Mary, was critically injured in a 2009 car crash. Curtis Stephan was the featured Catholic composer/musician for the event.
In the day’s final address, Drake spoke about the crash and its aftermath, as Mary and his wife, Patti, sat nearby in the audience. Drake held the men in rapt attention as he recounted how faith in God helped his family get through the ordeal.
|Jim Drake embraces his wife, Patti, after talking with attendees about the crash involving their daughter, Mary (left), that led their family on a journey of faith and divine mercy. (Photo by Lance Murray / NTC)|
Mary Drake was 16 in 2009 when she was involved in a head-on crash on Interstate 530 south of Little Rock, Arkansas. She was driving home with her boyfriend, Blaine, after a day of raking leaves for her grandmother, Jim Drake said.
While driving, Mary attempted to swat a bug away and ended up swerving into oncoming traffic.
Mary was the only one of the people involved in the crash who received serious injuries — bones were broken in every limb, and she received a traumatic brain injury.
The family wasn’t sure she would survive and had to make many important decisions in the first days following the crash, including allowing doctors to open a piece of her skull to relieve swelling. In doing so, “We had to rely on God,” Jim Drake said.
Unable to be with Mary as she received immediate treatment at the hospital, Drake said his wife prayed to the Blessed Virgin to hold Mary for her until she could. Soon, Jim and Patti weren’t alone.
“Within 24 hours, our family surrounded us at the hospital,” he said.
To keep family and friends updated on Mary’s condition, the family used CaringBridge.com to post updates throughout her hospitalization and rehabilitation.
They ended each entry on the website this way: “Jesus, we place our trust in you.”
As Jim Drake spoke, a video titled “Miracles for Mary,” played on a screen nearby, enhancing the power of his words about having faith in God.
|Father Wade Menezes talks about how virtue gives us a blueprint for our lives at the 2016 North Texas Catholic Men's Conference.(Photo by Lance Murray / NTC)|
“If you let Him, He will make good out of misery,” Drake said.
Mary underwent numerous surgeries and was hospitalized for eight months before being released.
The Drakes’ church family at Christ the King Church in Little Rock made sure the family had dinners each night, and Mary’s school family at Mount St. Mary Academy joined together to support the Drakes with fundraisers to help cover medical treatments and expenses.
Miracles for Mary Foundation fundraising events continue to this day through a golf tournament that raises money to help other families who have endured a life-changing event, Jim Drake said.
Today, Mary uses a wheelchair for mobility and is unable to speak. She graduated from high school in the class of 2011, completing her requirements by answering test questions with the assistance of a keyboard.
Patti Drake has been her daughter’s constant caregiver, and sat lovingly holding her daughter’s hand Saturday while listening to Jim Drake’s address.
He said that during her hospitalization, Mary did not spend one night alone as family and friends supported their family.
“Where does this love come from, if not from God,” Drake said.
|Men pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet during the North Texas Catholic Men's Conference in Grapevine. (Photo by Lance Murray / NTC)|
The journey has changed him personally, and made his family stronger, Drake told the men.
“My encounter with Divine Mercy has been a blessing on me, and on my family,” Drake said.
Drake said Mary continues to have strong faith.
“She has the will to live, but she recognizes it is God who has brought her this far,” he said.
“Never, ever give up,” Drake said. “Expect a miracle, or you won’t see one.”
Earlier in the afternoon, attendees heard Fr. Menezes speak about the qualities of virtue and mercy, and Vinny Flynn, who sang the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Zimmerer incorporated fitness and physical challenge into his message of faith.