Q: Archbishop J, Why launch a men’s ministry?
At a meeting with Catholics some time ago, I asked the group to look around. They did. I asked, “What do you see?” Eventually one woman said, “Oh, far more women than men?” “Yes”, I said, “and how many men with authority?” “Only one,” someone said. “Well,” I said, “he is not an imperfect woman. He is a man.”
They were complaining that he was not empathetic and compassionate; that his communication skills were lacking, etc. They were seeing him as a deficient woman without realising it, unaware of the underlying messages they were communicating. We had a good laugh. Our Church can be unwelcoming to men.
Look around your parishes and your various parish groups—whom do you see? Who is in ministry, women or men? Young or old? Are we welcoming to all?
In the Church, where men have a privileged role (priests and deacons) the Church is more effective in fostering female participation. For some reason, as they get older, men’s participation diminishes.
The National Catholic Men’s Ministry (NCMM) is the catalyst for the Church to evangelise and form Catholic men for the 21st century through an encounter with Christ, discipleship formation and missionary challenge.
Christ is the quintessential model for man, and from Him true masculinity must be drawn. The NCMM will form Catholic men for leadership within their families, the Church and the nation.
We have had women’s movements in our Church for several decades and we need to recognise the great contribution women have made and continue to make to our Church and society. Men, as disciples, will create a space of wholeness and hope for our future.
In the gospels, Jesus’s strategy was to call men to mission. There were many women who followed Him, with some providing for the community (Lk 8:1–3). The men were called. We need to call men of this generation to discipleship. Their need and spirituality is very different.
Men at risk
One obvious pastoral challenge raised by the data of the 2007 census is the disappearance of men over 20 (see graph). In the under 12 age group, males account for 46 per cent of the group; 43 per cent in the 12–19 group; 35 per cent in the 20–45 group and 33.5 per cent in the over 45 group. To put it differently there are twice as many women as men in the over 45 group. That is staggering.
There is much talk about men at risk in our society. When the Church cannot reach and sustain our men in a living faith there is a double risk. Those involved in ministry to men need to take the data seriously in their pastoral planning. But the whole Church needs to recognise our responsibility and failure in this regard. We need to study these trends so we can understand the issues deeply and find creative solutions to these urgent pastoral challenges.
The impact of the missing men
In the Caribbean, many women have borne the burden of raising the family. Where are the men? Those who work in the corporate world tell me that the top new employees are now women. They are focused, have passion, dedication and can manage far better in the top end of corporate life.
In education, it is possible for boys to go through school and never have a male teacher or principal. Women are now scout leaders. If a boy grows up without ever having a positive male role model, he faces serious challenges affecting his maturity into an adult man.
For women, socialising is hardwired into the system. Scientists in the late 1990s discovered a gene that women have and men do not: it controls socialisation. For men, socialisation is loaded into the system in adolescence by exposure to adult males.
Masculinity is caught, not taught. It can only be caught if the boy finds a male mentor he respects and can spend significant time with. For a boy to become a man, to hold all the adult responsibilities expected of him, he needs a father or a father figure to give him masculinity and grow him up emotionally.
In the tradition of masculine initiation, a boy needs two fathers. One who gives him birth and helps him to grow into maturity. The father is the first other in a child’s life. He is the first that represents God—the ultimate other. If he is absent, physically or emotionally a child will find it difficult to trust God as daddy.
A boy needs a second father; a spiritual father who points him on his path and gives him what is required for the journey. There are myths that elaborate this spiritual truth.
If there are no elder mentors in the Church, to initiate the boy, he will not transition into depth and spirituality. He will not learn the value of sacrifice and delaying gratification. He will not learn to be a husband and ultimately a father. He will not hear the call to priesthood; if he hears, he will not be able to live it.
NCMM will create a space to bring men into a vital relationship with Christ. It will form men to live their vocation fully—men of God, good husbands, fathers, priests, consecrated and single men. It will give them the opportunity to grow in depth in prayer and reliance upon God. These men will not be perfect but they will be graced and given the opportunity to grow in maturity.
The ministry will also reach out and mentor the young men in our parish and give them a space to grow into maturity. This is vital as we seek to revitalise marriage, family life and priesthood.
By consciously mentoring our young men we ensure they receive what they need for the journey towards Christ. This is a major evangelisation strategy that I am asking we all support.
Key Message: For a long time now we have had a major challenge with men practising their faith. This affects family life, fathering and priesthood.
Action Step: Support the launch at the Cathedral, March 19, 5 p.m. Men please participate in this wonderful new ministry. Women please pray for its success.
Scripture reading: 1 Colossians 1:9–14