Living an authentic Catholic life, especially for men, might feel like swimming against the current, but when joined by like-minded friends who understand the vicissitudes of life, navigating it all is easier.
Men of Christ is a wildly successful nationwide men’s group that helps men in their Catholic walk and their vocations to the single or married life. The organization began in 2007 with a small group of men in the Milwaukee area. The first conference took place in West Bend with 1,200 attendees. Former Milwaukee Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan presided at Mass.
According to Pat Masterson, regional leader of Dynamic Men’s Groups (local derivatives of Men of Christ), there is a famine of manhood, especially fatherhood.
“Seven million prime-age men have dropped out of the U.S. labor economy. These men don’t worship, volunteer or help. We know that each man is on his own journey of faith,” he said. “Men of Christ encourages men to become better husbands, fathers and leaders through a focus on the sacraments, and by gathering together in friendship. We know men and train leaders. We challenge each other.”
Men of Christ is now an apostolate that provides an annual conference, leadership and development opportunities, Catholic Faith formation, and events for men to grow in their relationship with Christ and other men.
“In Southeast Wisconsin, there are more than 50 parish Dynamic Men’s Groups, and Men of Christ actively collaborates with these groups to help them grow,” said Masterson.
The annual Lenten Men of Christ Conference draws more than 3,000 men to worship and receive inspiration from dynamic Catholic speakers. To date, more than 80,000 men and boys, ages 8 and older, have attended the conferences. The next conference will take place March 9.
In 2022, the annual conference transitioned to a hybrid model where they livestreamed to more than 50 sites across Wisconsin and throughout the country, including parishes in Florida, Michigan, Illinois and New York.
“Through our affiliate program, we are growing Men of Christ nationwide to help build strong Catholic men who lead in their families, parishes and community,” Masterson said. “We recently helped launch Men of Christ Joliet, Illinois, where a dedicated leadership team is uniting Catholic men across the Diocese of Joliet.”
The DMGs meet weekly and are geared toward men ages 18 and older. Aside from the conference, there are no dues to participate in their events, as they are funded primarily through private donations.
“We are thankful for the many generous donors who recognize the work we are doing through our lay apostolate and have supported us over the years,” said Masterson.
Men of Christ is an alliance partner of the Catholic Men’s Leadership Alliance and a longtime partner of Ballpark Day of Faith. Additionally, the organization collaborates with Women of Christ, which will celebrate its 15th annual conference in November.
“Men of Christ has also offered events like Virtue Baseball, Aiming for Christ, Eucharistic processions, a Family 5K Run and Rosary Walk, and leadership retreats,” said Masterson. “As we head into the 2024 conference season, we are focused on the National Eucharistic Revival, apologetics training and strengthening our DMGs.”
A member of the Men of Christ Board of Directors, AJ (Alexander) Garcia explained three leadership training sessions are offered in the months leading up to the conference.
“During the leadership sessions, it is our hope to inspire the men in the faith, create excitement about the conference, and help them remove obstacles so they can confidently invite men to the conference and easily host the event at their parish,” he said. “We also offer different opportunities throughout the year for men to get together to be formed or encouraged in the faith.”
Men can join or begin their own Dynamic Men’s Group at their parish or serve as a host site for the 2024 conference. The organization currently consists of men from more than 100 parishes across eight states. Each host site meets in person with up to 500 participants. The format includes Mass, confession, prayer, breakfast, fellowship and livestreamed Catholic content.
“We hope to encourage men to become friends beyond the walls of the parish (with what) they may experience through worship or a regular small group,” Garcia said. “A great measure of our success is more than the number of men in a group or (whether they) attend the conference; but (it’s) when men start to live their faith differently because they’ve been inspired by a friend from their parish. It’s not about providing a safe space for like-minded men to get together, but for men to know who they can be encouraged by, who they need to encourage, and who they know will have their back when they’re challenged as a Catholic in their family, community or workplace.”
For more information on Men of Christ, including a replay of the last conference, visit menofchrist.net.