If the mission of Men of Christ could be summed up in three words, it would be these: “Get the man.”
From isolation from his peers. From spiritual apathy. From anxiety, from depression, from a sense of purposelessness: the goal is always the same, said Men of Christ cofounder Kevin O’Brien. “We got to get the man, to make him whole — and to grow in holiness,” he said.
“We want to go out into the deep, like it says in Mark’s Gospel. We want to go into the mental and spiritual dark places where guys are, and pull them into the light,” O’Brien said. “We want to go out into the deep and get those men and bring them back. Where? We bring them back to the parish.”
Which makes the plan for Men of Christ 2022 — slated for Saturday, March 26 — especially fitting. Like last year, it will be a hybrid model that combines the feel of a large event with the intimacy of local parish settings, emphasizing the importance of hospitality and community in the spiritual life of a man. This year’s theme is “Reawakening the Catholic Man: A Life Rooted in Virtue.” Keynote presentations from Dr. Peter Kreeft, Fr. Burke Masters, Fr. Cajetan Cuddy and Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki will be pre-recorded and made available to participating parishes hosting groups at their own locations.
Currently, Men of Christ has 60 active groups for men in parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and O’Brien said he hopes there will be at least that many “mini-conferences” March 26, which will be at once cohesive and customized.
The morning will begin with Mass at each parish, subject to the availability of local priests. In addition to the pre-recorded talks, there will also be live elements incorporated into the day from the Men of Christ headquarters, featuring O’Brien and emcee Tom Pipines. The sacrament of Confession will also be offered, and parishes will have the option of adding other live components like local witness talks.
O’Brien said, more than ever, the Men of Christ “apostleship of friendship” is needed to help men return to their parish communities after two years of this isolating and divisive pandemic.
“We’re trying to unify men and to bring them together, to catechize and to evangelize them,” O’Brien said. “We want them to come back to their parishes, to facilitate that link back to the parish and that communion with the parish.”
The return of a Catholic man to the parish community and to the sacraments begins what O’Brien calls a “ripple effect of goodness.”
“He’ll help lead his family to Christ — 90 percent of wives and children will follow the father if he leads them to Christ. Now that’s cascaded out from his personal family to that parish family, and from there to his local community.”
The Men of Christ team is being very “intentional” this year about personally calling, texting and emailing men to invite them to be a part of the 2022 experience. “We’re working really hard to have the virtue of hospitality,” O’Brien said. “We believe we can change the world with just one shoulder tap. You picture a guy who’s been away from church — it could be months, it could be years. He gets a personal invitation from a friend to Men of Christ, and he’s welcomed at the door. We let him know we’re super excited he’s here with us. He realizes there’s a great community here. We enter into a very profound experience with him, and we don’t have a passive approach. It’s an active approach. We’re not waiting for people to come. We’re going to go get them. Christ told us to go out.”
Men of Christ is also offering three leadership events to help local parish leaders prepare for hosting, the first of which will take place Saturday, Jan. 15, at St. John Vianney Parish in Brookfield. Dr. Peter Kreeft will present.
Two more leadership events are being held on Saturday, Feb. 12 (featuring Fr. Masters as a presenter), and Saturday, March 5 (featuring Fr. Cuddy), at St. Joseph in Wauwatosa and Holy Apostles in New Berlin, respectively.
For more information and to register for the leadership events as well as the main conference, visit menofchrist.net.