Monthly meetings of the JPII Men’s Group include prayer, fellowship and catechesis. (Submitted photo)

You may not be familiar with the name, but if you have attended the Ballpark Day of Faith, a Men of Christ, John Bosco Youth Day, the Wisconsin Catholic Youth Rally or most any liturgical event hosted by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee outside of a church sanctuary, you have experienced the ministry of the JPII Men’s Group.

It’s not always obvious to those not involved in the planning, but pulling together all the requisite smells, bells and furniture for a Eucharistic procession or an outdoor Mass is no easy feat. Michael Tennies and his close friend Evan Nosacek saw that over many years acting as sacristans and altar servers at similar events.

“We would see the liturgist scrambling to 12 different churches to get enough ciboria, chalices, candles — ‘Where’s the altar coming from?’ — and we thought, why not become that one-stop shop?” said Tennies, a parishioner of St. Mary of the Hill Parish.

Five years ago, Tennies and Nosacek (who is now a seminarian at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary) decided to form that one-stop shop in the JPII Men’s Group, a sacristy on wheels that can furnish any event with the necessary sacred vessels and supplies.

But the JPII Men’s Group goes one step further. The mobile sacristy is their service to the community, but the men who accompany it and provide help setting up and deconstructing when the event is over are more than just Mass roadies. They’re a brotherhood of men who come together on a monthly basis to partake in fellowship and deepen their understanding of the mysteries of the Catholic faith. Fr. Christopher Klusman currently serves as their chaplain, and member Matthew Schmitz makes himself available to haul the sacristy wherever it needs to go.

Meeting locations vary from month to month, from the Panther Catholic Center at UW-Milwaukee to the Hartford/Slinger area, where Tennies lives. “We have Mass, confession, pray the Rosary together, we have a meal and we have ongoing catechesis,” said Tennies.

The ongoing catechesis becomes a lived experience in the service the men do by bringing the sacristy on wheels wherever it is needed. The group believes in the words of Sacrosanctum Concilium, that “in the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy, which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims.”

“Every sanctuary is an extension of heaven, even if it’s in a hotel. Our group is around to make sure people remember that,” said Tennies. “We need to be reminded of it. Look at the proof — 75 percent (of Catholics) don’t believe in the True Presence. We need to work more toward reverence. We need to be intentional with each and every single Mass that we set up. We need to be intentional with how we serve our Lord at each liturgy.”

Brian Magliocco, Executive Director of Arise Milwaukee, called the JPII Men’s Group “an extreme blessing to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and to Arise Milwaukee, specifically.”

“Prior to starting this ministry, it was very difficult to pull together all the liturgical supplies needed to have a remote Mass at an event like the Wisconsin Catholic Youth Rally,” Magliocco said. “Now, we just call them, request their presence at the event and they arrive a few hours early to get things set up for Eucharistic Adoration or holy Mass. You can trust when you reach out to Michael and his group that the liturgy will be done well and with beauty first and foremost in mind. We could not host the amount of Holy Hours or liturgies we provide at our Arise Milwaukee events without the assistance of their team.”

Kim Mandelkow, Director of the Archdiocese Office for Worship, utilizes the services of the JPII Men’s Group frequently and said she has recommended them to many others, including the Canon Law Society of America, whose convention in Milwaukee this year includes five Masses in a hotel conference room.

“Whenever we have Mass outside of a church — for example, an outdoor Mass or a Mass in a hotel conference room — I immediately call Michael,” she said. “Each member of the Men’s Group has a deep faith, a profound love for the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and a willing and generous heart.”

“We’re training men how to set up a liturgy, and at the same time it brings them closer to service and fraternity, and it helps them understand the liturgy more, which brings them closer to Christ because all liturgies should, and they do,” said Tennies. “We’re providing a service, we’re providing material things, but spiritually, to us, it’s worth so much more than the items that are within this traveling sacristy that we have. At the end of the day, someone needs to set the table for our Lord. That’s where we come into play. We find it a complete honor to do it.”

To learn more about the JPII Men’s Group, find them on Facebook at