By Deacon Dan Rouse
Special to The Witness
CEDAR RAPIDS — This year marks the 25th anniversary of Catholic Men’s Ministry in the Cedar Rapids area. Eighty men gathered at the St. Patrick parish center on Saturday, Nov. 2, to commemorate this milestone. The morning consisted of breakfast, fellowship and several talks from laymen and permanent deacons.
Dan Montague, St. Joseph Men of Action in Marion, was one of the men in attendance. He has been involved in a weekly men’s group at his parish for over a year.
“The biggest benefit is sharing your faith with a group of men,” Montague said. “I feel spiritually enriched to carry on with my week.”
Meeting each week challenges him as a man to reach deeper and improve his relationships with his wife and better connect with his children as a father.
“It breaks down the macho attitude meeting with other men,” Montague added. “I feel a yearning for a deeper connection with the Lord and my parish community.”
One of the morning’s presenters was Dr. Brad Beer of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Men of Action. He spoke about the challenges men face today. He said men can spend hours talking about sports, music, movies and craft beer, but faith usually gets little attention.
“Our faith should be more than just one hour a week,” Beer stated.
He said the emphasis on media, cellphones and social media makes men think “the idea of unplugging themselves seems irresponsible.”
Beer added, “The hectic pace of society and life contribute to us asking each other ‘what have you been doing,’ not ‘how are you doing.”
George Erwin, St. Mary’s Fishers of Men in Solon, also spoke during the breakfast. He focused on how many men live their life with a “Do It Yourself” approach. He said men need other men to encourage each other and walk together on their journey of faith.
“Jesus had a community; he sent the disciples out two-by-two, and the early church was a community,” Erwin reminded the men. “DIY was never God’s plan when it came to living out our faith.”
Deacon Frank Easton, also of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Men of Action, concluded the morning by challenging the men to be intentional in living out their faith.
“Just as a football player spends hours training, practicing and learning plays; we too must do the same in our faith lives.”
“Each player knows their mission and is ‘all in’ when comes to carrying out that mission,” Easton continued.
“We need to be on a mission and be ‘all in’ with our faith.”
“We can’t do this alone,” he added. “We need brothers with us on our mission. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
Cedar Rapids Catholic Men’s Ministry began in the summer of 1994, when several Catholic men attended a Promise Keepers conference at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis. Promise Keepers is a nondenominational, nonprofit organization founded in 1990 with a focus on helping men live with integrity.
Upon returning to Cedar Rapids, a few of the men decided to meet and discuss what each had heard at the conference and how the messages had impacted their lives. Most of the men had young families, so they decided to meet at a local cafe at 6 a.m. on a weekday, so as not to take away from their family time. What started as a one-time breakfast, turned into regular weekly gatherings. The small group soon grew to about 20 men, and they began meeting at St. Pius X Church in Cedar Rapids and eventually formed groups at several metro parishes.
The men also determined a formal name for the group. After much prayer and discussion, “Men of Action” was selected. The men decided on this name because they wanted to be men of action with and for their faith … Catholic men of action as husbands and fathers, employees, parishioners and members of the community.
Tony May, St. Pius Men of Action, was instrumental in inviting men to Promise Keepers and to suggest meeting for the first 6 a.m. breakfast session. May had gone to Promise Keepers in 1993, but since there were no Catholic men’s fellowship groups at the time, he found one at Maranatha Bible Church in Cedar Rapids.
Meeting with these men helped him see what a men’s group could be, and he longed to see a similar group created within the Catholic community, which he eventually did.
Today, there are 12 Catholic men’s fellowship groups in the Cedar Rapids metro area. And while not all of them are named “Men of Action” or follow the same format, each includes men of all ages and backgrounds and encourages them to be the men God is calling them to be. While Men of Action began as the result of a Promise Keepers’ conference 25 years ago, it is definitely Catholic in its approach to faith and men’s ministry. Many of the groups use Catholic resources in their weekly meetings. Some of the groups go over the upcoming Sunday readings and discuss them. Each includes prayer with and for the men of the group and others in the parish and community.
Over the past 25 years, much fruit has come from Catholic Men’s Ministry in the Cedar Rapids area … numerous conversions and reversions to the Catholic faith … saved and/or strengthened marriages … the continuation of an annual Catholic Men’s Conference (now in its 24th year) … vocations of sons and daughters to the priesthood and religious life … numerous vocations to the permanent diaconate among the men who have been involved … but most importantly, a renewed vigor in the lives of men who have decided each day to take their faith seriously and live it out in the midst of challenges, setbacks and difficulties. These Catholic men are not afraid to stand up for their faith, pray with and for their families, and to witness the love of Jesus Christ to the world around them.
A list of Catholic men’s fellowship groups in Cedar Rapids and throughout the diocese can be found at Catholic
Dr. Brad Beer of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish’s Men of Action speaks to the crowd during the Cedar Rapids area Catholic Men’s Ministry 25th anniversary celebration Nov. 2 at St. Patrick Parish.