SALT LAKE CITY — A recent Catholic Utah event left Tom Thompson, a St. Vincent de Paul parishioner, with mixed emotions. While he was inspired by the speaker Patrick Madrid, he was deeply troubled and saddened to observe so few young men at the presentation. The audience instead was filled with older men, along with women of all ages.
Thompson thought and prayed on this phenomenon long and hard. He and Pat, his wife of 51 years, had recently been through what he describes as “unbelievable heartbreak” in their family, “the kind where you question everything,” he said, and it was his faith that ultimately brought him to a place of peace. How, he wondered, could men today, young men in particular, deal with all that life could throw at them without such an anchor? They couldn’t — at least not well, he concluded.
“The thought occurred to me, ‘We need to have a new lay conversation to help to attract men ultimately back to church but initially back to faith,’” he said. “I think there’s a conversation we’re not having in the Church, and that’s what it means to be a Christian man and the concerns that men can discuss among themselves.”
Men today, even with the prevalence of social media and easy access to technology, are often isolated, feel like they have nowhere to turn in dealing with their problems and don’t know where to find the answers they need, Thompson said.
He took the problem to his friend Jack Hale, who had also attended the Patrick Madrid talk, and some others from his parish, asking what they could do to help other men understand their place in the world and to come unto Christ. As they pondered and prayed, they came up with an idea to form an organization that would minister to men by concentrating on their deepest daily concerns.
The new organization, Men Alive in the Spirit, has no formal structure, dues or bylaws. It simply seeks to bring Christian men together to help each other understand their roles in life and the great gift their faith can be in giving that life meaning and direction.
“There’s a lot pulling the man away from the household in 2019, a lot of temptations,” Hale said. Those things also pull men away from each other and from God, he added.
Men Alive in the Spirit will hold its first meeting on Oct. 16. At Fiesta Night, men of all ages are invited to come and enjoy Mexican food, drink and socializing. There, the program will be introduced. From that beginning, participants will meet weekly at St. Vincent de Paul Parish for a series of seven discussions of what it means to be a Christian man, husband and father.
“We hope to reach men’s lives by talking about their roles as a Christian man and lead them into a deeper faith,” Thompson said.
In the seven discussions participants will explore different aspects of how to be more faith-centered and more balanced in their lives, how they are brothers in the Lord, he said. Once they complete the discussions, organizers will share resources with the group and decide together where to go from there, Hale and Thompson said. If response is positive, the leaders of Men Alive In The Spirit hope to get the program accepted at a diocesan level.