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Fostering leaders in the home

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More than 200 men rise early on Saturday mornings in Fredericksburg for That Man is You. 

When King David plots the murder of Uriah in an effort to marry the man’s wife, Bathsheba, God calls upon the prophet, Nathan, to provide the king some clarity. Instead of accusing David directly, Nathan uses the king’s righteousness as a leader. He tells King David the story of the rich man stealing the poor man’s beloved sheep. When David “burned with anger against the man,” Nathan revealed to him, “You are the man.”

It’s from this verse in the second chapter of Samuel that the “That Man Is You” program gets its name. The nationwide program is designed to address the pressures and temptations that men face in modern culture, especially those relating to their roles as husbands and fathers.  Since its conception in 2004, TMIY has spread to dioceses across the country, including 18 parishes in the Arlington diocese. 

The program arrived at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg this summer when Father Sean T. Koehr, parochial vicar, saw the need for a formative men’s group at the parish. 

“I knew we needed something for men,” he said. “We had just come off a pandemic and the guys just seemed really hungry for it. The program is helping them rediscover their leadership role in their domestic church.”

According to Father Koehr, the key to success is to establish a core team of men to lead the program. He credits the Holy Spirit with the fact that every man he asked to help said yes.  

“They are really taking ownership of it,” said Father Koehr, who first reached out to Stephen Jones to spearhead the program.

“I was a little surprised he asked me since I am fairly new to the faith,” said Jones. “I was coming out of daily Mass one day and Father Koehr said, ‘What else do you do besides 6:30 a.m. Mass?’ ” Father asked Jones to look into the program, telling him, “I want you to do the footwork.” Jones agreed.

What immediately struck Jones on a personal level was the lack of leadership he saw in his own home growing up. 

“I thought to myself, after looking at the reviews and the testimonials, that it was eye-opening to see how much the leadership is lacking in most homes,” said Jones. “It opened my eyes to what it could be if we got it right and what it will be if we get it wrong.”

The group had their first meeting Sept. 11 with 215 men in attendance of the 300 who registered. With a group that large, they quickly outgrew the parish life center and with the permission of the pastor, Father John P. Mosimann, moved to the church.

The meetings begin with a light breakfast, followed by a video on the topic of leadership, which is packed with Scripture, statistics and science. The men break out into small groups of six to eight. Conveniently, things wrap up just as Saturday confessions begin at 8 a.m. 

Small groups coordinator Matthew Prohaska initially thought he was too busy to help when Father Koehr asked him to be involved. Launching the ministry reminded him of the Gospel passage in which Jesus asked Peter to throw out his fishing net one more time.

“We pulled in over 300 men,” said Prohaska. “It was clear that the Holy Spirit and Our Lord were leading this and bringing men together in this difficult time. Each of the leaders has blessed us with strong leadership and love for their brothers in Christ.”

According to organizers, the program draws around 200 men, including at the third meeting Sept. 25.

It continues throughout the fall and picks up again in the spring. 

For parishioner Robert Pata, this will be his second time going through TMIY.

“I did this in the Air Force when I was stationed in Texas,” said Pata. “I found it really fulfilling to be able to talk with other men in small groups. You get a lot of great advice on how to be a better Christian man.” 

Most of the St. Mary's parishioners are new to the program, including  Eric Radel, 20, who just happened to pick up a TMIY pamphlet the day before the first meeting three weeks ago. 

“I wanted to hear about the good aspects of masculinity,” said Radel. “I’m learning a lot that I didn't know about what happens to society when there are no good men.”

Peter Paquette, one of the organizers, sees the success of this program benefiting the entire parish. 

“It's a call to men to step up and be the leader that God created us to be,” said Paquette. “If we have that leadership, and this program gives us the weapons we need to fight this spiritual battle, then us as men, through the Holy Spirit, will make an awesome change in this community.”

Kassock is a freelancer in Fredericksburg

Find out more

Go to TMIY.org.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021