A movement that in 2003 was already living the message of Pope Francis' encyclical “Evangelium Gaudium” “The joy of the Gospel”. A movement that aims to encourage men to be unafraid and unashamed to practise their Catholic faith in their prayer life, family life and working life.
Last month, we, the parish of St Michael's at Nelson Bay hosted a “Men Alive” weekend. It was conducted by Robert Falzon, Roman Pazniewski and Glyn Ashman and attended by over 20 male parishioners and Fr Kevin Corrigan our parish priest.
Roman's testimony was emotional and inspiring and brought home the importance of getting to know God as 'Father'. Glyn's presentation focused on trusting God. It too was immensely personal and powerful. Robert painted the picture of what it means to be a 'family man' i.e husband and father and was captivating yet practical.
The weekend was a milestone and a dream of Fr Kevin's ever since he first came to our little parish almost two years ago. In the lead up to it we have been having monthly men's breakfasts to develop a core group of men in the parish but never before have over 20 men met in this parish to talk about God and their faith. It doesn't sound like a lot but then Jesus chose only 12 and look how they changed the world. We have already begun meeting in small groups to reflect on scripture and its application in our lives. This, as Robert and Pope Francis point out, is a vital first step before any evangelisation. Participants are already witnessing to the joyful change in their lives flowing from this weekend. In the small group with which I meet, there are testimonies of being able to cope better with work stress and enriching married life. For me, the change is not so clear, it may be for others to define, but I can sense that something has changed irrevocably in me that makes me more willing to follow the Spirit's promptings.
Can “Men Alive” renew the Church? No, only the Spirit can do that. But through men like Robert, Roman and Glyn, the Spirit can inspire others to live a fuller life in Christ and maybe, if enough of us men heed the call, we would no longer have to ask, “Where have all the men gone”?