The Archdiocese of Detroit has a rich history of men’s ministries at the parish and diocesan level. I personally have benefited greatly from my involvement in men’s ministry groups from attending annual archdiocesan-sponsored men’s conferences to participating in small men’s group meetings when I was single and married. There is something irreplaceable and essential about having the fellowship, role models and mentorship of other Catholic men intent on fully living out their vocation of Catholic marriage as husbands and fathers.
Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron in his Pastoral Letter “Unleash the Gospel” highlighted the essential role of fathers in the well-being and flourishing of the domestic church and the need to support men in understanding and claiming their roles as Christian husbands and fathers.
“Parents are the primary evangelizers as well as the primary catechists and educators of
their children. Their role is absolutely irreplaceable. The role of fathers in particular is essential, since one of the greatest factors influencing a child’s future practice of the faith is the religious involvement of his or her father. Amid all the pressure to prepare their children for success in life, parents need to realize there is no greater success and no greater gift they can give their children than a relationship with Jesus and his Church, which endures throughout eternity.” (Unleash the Gospel, Marker 7.2)
“I charge parishes to mentor and accompany families through:...Helping men and women understand their identity and reclaim their sacrificial role as Christian husbands/wives and fathers/mothers.” (Action Step 1.2)
A number of parishes and Knights of Columbus chapters continue to offer a sustained men’s ministry with their own unique structures and emphases. As the Family of Parishes transition unfolds and various ministries are developed, it is important to consider ministry to men (and women) as integral to the archdiocesan efforts to unleash the Gospel:
“Families are at the very heart of our archdiocesan efforts to unleash the Gospel, because they are the first and most important setting in which evangelization takes place.
The family is the “domestic church”—the primary social unit in which life in Christ, the life of the Church, is experienced and lived. Through the sacrament of matrimony and through their love for one another, a husband and wife make visible the love between Christ and his Church.” (Unleash the Gospel, Guidepost 7)
I will highlight one parish’s example of what, why and how to establish and maintain a vibrant and substantial men’s ministry. St. John Vianney Parish in Shelby Township has offered a Men’s Group for nearly 10 years. Deacon Mike Houghton oversees the group and offers these guiding principles and best practices as key to the success of their longstanding men’s ministry.
Structure: We meet on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of every month. We always start off with a Mass or a Communion Service. This grounds us and keeps us focused on what really matters before we start any discussion. The Communion Service is in the Chapel at 7:30 am, and then discussion and fellowship is from 8:00 to 9:00 am.
One key to our longevity is that we are a small community. We know one another, care about one another, pray for one another, help one another. One small example: one of the men was struggling through a serious health issue with his wife and we all went over one Saturday and did the fall cleaning at his house—cutting the lawn, raking and bagging the leaves, trimming the shrubs and anything else he needed.
We take periodic “field trips” to keep things interesting. We’ve gone to the Solanus Casey Center, the Shrine of the Little Flower, and other points of interest in the AOD. When we do this, we always invite our wives and children to come along.
Topics of discussion have varied greatly over the years. For one period we asked the men to present topics of interest to them. We’ve also done guided Bible studies and watched video series from FORMED (an online Catholic resource). Our next series will be the Rescued series by Fr. Riccardo. Whatever we do, we allow time for discussion because this is where we grow.
If we have a planned topic for the day but something else comes up—say a national crisis, a significant news story, etc.—we simply push the planned topic back one meeting and spend the time discussing the hot topic of the day. We are never constrained by a planned topic. If something needs to be talked about, we talk about it. Recently one of our men returned from walking the Camino de Santiago and we took the entire session to have him discuss his experience. We didn’t plan for this, but the men felt it was important and so we went with it. There is good and bad aspects to this. The good is that we are always topical. The bad is that it can be tough to keep a schedule, and some of the men would prefer that we stay on the plan.
We pray for each other. If someone has an issue between meetings, they send an email and ask for prayers.
Deacon Mike Houghton would be happy to discuss your ideas and inspiration for establishing a men’s ministry in your Family of Parishes. Contact him at [email protected].
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