Arkansas Parishes Seek Faith Training for Men – Arkansas Catholic

Participants say men’s ministry strengthens faith and builds relationships

Posted: October 20, 2022

Courtesy of Robby Cole

The Men of Faith Prayer Group to Christ the King in Little Rock, seen here on Friday October 14, has grown from one gathering at a table to up to 80 men at their weekly meetings.

It has become a generally accepted belief among Catholics that women – in their roles as wives and mothers – are often the driving force behind family involvement in the Church, and men’s parish participation is lower than that women.

But many churches across Arkansas are taking steps to provide men with opportunities for greater growth in their faith and their involvement and participation in church life.

While many parishes in the Diocese of Little Rock have social and service organizations like men’s clubs, the Knights of Columbus, or the Knights of Peter Claver, fewer offer men’s ministries dedicated to faith formation.

Jeff Hines, diocesan director of faith formation, said creating opportunities for men to develop their faith is a priority for his office and referenced Luke 5:10, “Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will catch men.

“Other than Marriage Encounter, it’s been the best thing for my soul and my spirituality and my relationships with my wife, kids, extended family and friends,” Cole said.

“A group of ward men can put this into action. It can be a way to take seriously Jesus’ great mission to go out and make disciples,” Hines said. “I think it’s in our nature as men to be goal-oriented and process-oriented. God knows. He made us that way. Go for it. The goal is for men to be disciples and to make disciples.

A year ago, Father Stephen Hart, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Church in Lake Village, Holy Cross Church in Crossett and Holy Spirit Church in Hamburg, started and led a ministry men at Our Lady of the Lake. His reasoning was simple: congregations need to set aside time, space, and resources to train mature Christian men.

“While it can be rewarding to be part of a men’s service group in a parish, it can also take a lot of time and energy,” Fr. Hart said. “Wards need to provide their men with a faith formation opportunity where all they have to do is show up, and (we) give them something rather than ask them to give.”

When he started the group, Father Hart issued a general invitation to the men of the parish, then followed up individually with phone calls and in-person conversations to generate interest. The men of the parish, he says, reacted well.

“Every week someone brings food for the group and the parish provides coffee,” he said. “We used the Formed app a lot, usually watching a small section on certain series and then breaking into groups to discuss certain issues. The men appreciate the simplicity.

As a farming community, attendance at the weekly Notre Dame du Lac men’s gatherings, which take place at 6am on Fridays, depends on the time of year. Father Hart said that during planting and harvesting around 12 to 15 men can be relied upon, but these figures rise to as high as 22 men per week after harvest, with more presence as new spreads.

Dr. Jim Wright has been a regular participant in Father Hart’s group since its inception. As a convert, he said the teachings and discussions, especially those centered on Mass and the Eucharist, deepened his understanding of faith and its relationships.

“The Friday morning men’s group was instrumental in connecting with other parishioners (especially to) getting to know them on a deeper, more intimate level,” Wright said. “The group seems to become a community with a touch of brotherhood.”

Lawyer and lifelong Catholic Joe Mazzanti said he joined the group because opportunities to share the faith with like-minded people don’t come too often.

“I realized that other men have the same worries and concerns as I do, especially when it comes to relationships with our wives, children, colleagues, neighbors, etc.,” he said. declared. “It certainly helps for us men to be open to these things. It’s not something men do naturally.

“I relish this additional opportunity to get together with other parishioners and talk about what’s going on in their lives and let them know what’s going on in my life,” he said. “I feel it brings us closer together as a parish and as friends. To be honest, I first thought I would dread getting up so early on Friday. (But now) I’m really looking forward to it.

Like many activities over the past two years, the men’s Bible study at Blessed Sacrament in Jonesboro has become a casualty of the COVID pandemic. Having missed the scholarship, parishioner Dean Massey worked with pastor Msgr. Scott Friend to relaunch the group in March.

“Men can often be quiet when it comes to their spiritual growth or spiritual shortcomings, even their thoughts in general,” Massey said. “But it seems when we get in the right atmosphere, in the right spirit, things just flow. There are three or four guys in the band who when they talk I lean forward to listen and always feel like I’m learning a bit.

The group, which attracts about 12 men a week, meets every Thursday for dinner and a quiz session before embarking on their spiritual work.

“We really want to engage our young men, those between 22 and 45. Many have family activities, but we are constantly recruiting. I’m making calls from the church directory. If I see someone I don’t know at church, I introduce myself and make sure to invite them.

For more than a decade at Christ the King Church in Little Rock, the Men of Faith prayer group has met every Friday at 6 a.m., parishioner Robby Cole said.

“Other than Marriage Encounter, it’s been the best thing for my soul and my spirituality and my relationships with my wife, kids, extended family and friends,” Cole said.

What started as a handful of men around a table has grown to 60-80 attendees each week.

“We have guys from all over Little Rock — Holy Souls, IC, Cathedral — coming in every week,” he said. “We’ve created an environment where men can be open about the things they’re dealing with, and usually someone has been through something similar and can offer advice. It’s become a place where men can lean on and learn from each other, and we can bond together.

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