June 24, 2015 STEUBENVILLE, OH— Stressing that priests, deacons, and seminarians must first recognize that they are loved by their heavenly Father before they can properly be fathers to others, Bishop Emeritus Sam Jacobs told the nearly 150 gathered men, "The Father has said to us, and says again tonight, 'You are my beloved sons in whom I am well pleased,' and the Spirit has anointed and empowered us and desires to do it again this week."Bishop Jacobs, who retired from the diocese of Houma-Thibodaux in 2013, opened the Priests, Deacons, and Seminarians Retreat held June 15-19 at Franciscan University of Steubenville, with his talk "You Are My Beloved Sons in Whom I Delight."The retreat centered on the theme "Father" and was hosted by Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, nationally known conference speaker and pilgrimage leader.Bishop Jacobs told them to follow the example that Jesus gave through his public ministry, showing mercy and compassion, reaching out to sinners and outcasts, and forgiving sins.Photos: Facebook"God waits for us with a greater loving and passionate love," Bishop Jacobs said. "He sends his grace upon us to draw us home, but he waits for us to chose to come home and to be united with him in a father and son relationship of love."Father Andrew Apostoli, CFR, vice postulator for the cause of canonization for Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, gave a talk titled, "How Do I View Celibacy: Blessing or Burden?"Father Apostoli said those entering the priesthood should not accept celibacy merely as a discipline. "That would be terrible," he said. "Because it would miss the beauty and depth of what celibacy holds us to, and how it helps us to grow in our spiritual life."He spoke of the many wonderful gifts that come from the priesthood, including the Eucharist and reconciliation, in addition to becoming spiritual fathers."We have a desire to married life," Father Apostoli said. "We have the freedom to embrace it. But it's because of the love that Jesus calls us to that we are willing to forego that so that we might belong totally to Christ.""The Church sees our celibacy as linking us to Christ in his love for the Church. Jesus is the bridegroom, the Church is the bride. ... In sharing Christ's priesthood, we in some way have that almost spousal relationship to the Church."Mary Bielski, founder of ALL4HIM, spoke on "Fathers of a Feminine Heart."Bielski recalled watching a friend genuflect to his bride as she walked down the aisle on his wedding day and how she was struck by its beauty. "Can you imagine if we had priests who genuflected to the beauty of his Church, his bride? Can you imagine the power of what it would do for women as we saw men, not heroic and fighting battles, but in the posture of Christ, saying 'I lay down my life for you'? When I see that as a woman, it makes me not want to wrestle or fight or try to grasp for power.""When you speak in persona Christi, you have authority," Bielski said. "When you stand in that sonship and proclaim truth over the people, over the generation that needs fathers, that needs truth and needs protection, when you do that as men, there's such power. There's power in your priesthood, to know the authority that Christ has given you. We need you."Dr. Bob Schuchts, founder of the John Paul II Healing Center in Tallahassee, Florida, said, "Fatherhood isn't something we do; fatherhood is something we are," in his talk, "Fighting for the Hearts of our Children."Schuchts listed the many struggles faced by Catholics today. Many are leaving the Church, others have fallen into sins of pornography and self harm, and some are confused with gender identity."This is the Church you are called to father," Schuchts said, also saying that prayer is the best weapon. "You fight for the hearts of your children in prayer."Paraphrasing Pope St. John Paul II, he said, "Any fatherhood that isn't a radiation of the fatherhood of the heavenly Father is a false fatherhood."Perrin Atisha, a seminarian from Detroit in the Chaldean Rite, was impressed by Schuchts' talk. "It just really struck me that we’re not just called to baptize people; we're called to be fathers to them. We have to nourish them, feed them. We have to give them the opportunity to become disciples."The week also consisted of praise and worship led by Franciscan University professor and musician Bob Rice, Mass, Holy Hours, and reflection time.This year Franciscan University will offer 5 adult, 2 young adult, and 21 youth conferences in 13 states and 2 Canadian provinces. For a complete list of conferences, visit www.steubenvilleconferences.com.