Men's group meets spiritual need - Catholic Courier

Men’s group meets spiritual need

Jim Wagner and Sam Smith were brought together by a spiritual desire they couldn’t fulfill through existing parish organizations. So they took action by forming a men’s fellowship group, not knowing how many parishioners shared their objective.
 

“We decided to go for it and see what happened,” Wagner said.
As the final minutes wound down before their first meeting, Smith was concerned that attendance might be sparse. Not to worry: He and Wagner were pleased to see approximately 20 men show up.
 

“All of a sudden people started coming down the steps,” Smith recalled. He said they voiced varying reasons for attending, but there was one basic intent: “They all seemed to have that hunger.”
 

Five meetings later, the Men’s Fellowship Group continues to provide spiritual nourishment for men. It averages about 15 people per session, gathering on the third Sunday of each month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the basement of Holy Family Junior High School, 1010 Davis St.
Participants include men who are married with children, such as Wagner and Smith, as well as single and divorced men. Ages have typically ranged from early 30s to late 60s, but anybody over age 18 is welcome. Though the group was originally formed for St. Casimir/St. Charles Borromeo parishioners, Wagner said it’s open to anybody in the Elmira area.
 

“We’re always looking for more, that’s for sure,” Wagner said. (More details can be obtained by calling Wagner at 607/737-2636 or Smith at 607/562-8081.)
 

Meetings combine what’s taking place in members’ personal lives “how their walk with the Lord is going,” as Wagner puts it with Bible study.
“Our Scripture is our lifeblood. Some guys say, ‘I’ve been in the church 50 years and never picked up my Bible.’ And now they’re starting to do that,” Wagner said.
 

Although discussions can get deep, Wagner said the meetings are also fun and relaxed: “It’s not a stuffy group it’s a very confidential, open group. People can talk about their feelings about faith in the workplace and raising children.”
 

Wagner said he and Smith felt it was important to make this a strictly faith-related venture “not another group to build finances, but a spiritual group to help lift up the men of the church. Sometimes you look at the pews and you just see the ladies and the kids.”
 

As the Men’s Fellowship Group evolves, Wagner and Smith hope to stage a men’s breakfast and have members become more involved in parish volunteerism. On April 8, the group viewed the movie “The Passion of the Christ,” which replaced the regular monthly meeting that would have fallen on Easter Sunday. Members also have developed an Internet prayer chain.
Wagner, 34, and Smith, 42, have both seen the Catholic faith from inside and out. Wagner went through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults upon getting married eight years ago, and Smith has been back in the Catholic Church for five years after having left it for a decade. Upon his return, Smith said, he realized that Catholics, especially men are comparatively less demonstrative with their faith than other denominations.
 

“Zeal for the Lord, to know him and be close to him sometimes it was very frustrating trying to get somebody to bear witness with you in a fellowship kind of way,” Smith said.
 

Wagner expressed similar concerns to Mary Ann Philpott, religious-education coordinator for St. Casimir/St. Charles Borromeo, who put him in touch with Smith. Since the group began, Wagner credits it with being a key navigator on his spiritual journey.
“It has forced me to dig deeper into what I believe,” he said. “Is it an overnight change? No. Is God is working our hearts? Absolutely. It’s helped me so much to be able to talk to the people and feel solid about my faith.”
Smith, who has eight children, said the Men’s Fellowship Group is a great way for him to step back and reflect.
 

“It’s refreshed my hunger to get into the Scriptures more, when sometimes the busyness of life can take you over and you don’t have something reminding you of it,” he remarked.

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