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ManAlive in Christ discussion-based catechesis programs for men - faithful, formative, and free.
While most men occasionally think about the most important things in life, they uncommonly talk about them - especially with other men or in the context of their Catholic faith.
The ManAlive programs give men a safe, all-male opportunity to discuss marriage and family, religion and politics, and work and friendship with men who desire to be Catholic in all areas of their lives.
Course characteristics include
What can you do to launch a successful ManAlive program in your parish?
Choose one or two faithful Catholic men to lead a group.
Personally invite 8-12 men to participate (this is the greatest predictor of a group’s success).
ManAlive in Christ: Bringing Life to the Men of Your Parish
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly - John 10:10
How would your parish change if its men prayed regularly, understood their faith, and led their family spiritual activities? If your men do all these things, read no further; this article is not for you. If your men could use a spiritual jolt, read on.
What’s The Problem?
American men are isolated. The average American man has many buddies, but few close friends. Men are natural philosophers who need to talk to other men about the most important things in life.
“Strong male friendship must be revived if Catholic men and their progeny are to get on with the holy and ambitious task in this young millennium: to build the civilization of love and truth in the 21st century. The future of America as a state, society, and culture depends upon it.” (John C. McCloskey, SJ)
Parishes have many men who want more out of their relationship with God, and they usually don’t know that other likeminded men even exist. As one ManAlive member put it, “the biggest surprise [in our ManAlive group] is meeting other men in the parish that are alive in faith. I realize I am not close enough to Christ, and this group brings me closer – pure and simple.”
What is The ManAlive Vision?
In your parish, children are probably the principal focus of catechesis. But you might be surprised to learn that
“The catechesis of adults . . . is the principal form of catechesis, because it is addressed to persons who have the greatest responsibilities and the capacity to live the Christian message in its fully developed form. (Catechesis Tradendae, 43, Pope John Paul II)
The ManAlive in Christ programs provide adult catechesis in a male-only setting where friendships can develop. The ManAlive vision is that men become wise and loving husbands, fathers, friends and workers through knowledge and daily application of the Catholic Faith. This vision becomes realized through discussion-based catechesis in a structured, yet flexible format.
One ManAlive participant says that “in order to incorporate the vast wealth of Catholic teachings in our life, we need to hear what the Church has to say. However, it does not just fall from the sky, we must seek it to find it.” However, many men won’t seek it. That’s where you come in, Father. Your personal invitation is perhaps the strongest motivation for a man to become active in such a group. In my parish, that has proved to be a stronger recruiter than one-on-one invitations by other men.
What is ManAlive in Christ?
ManAlive in Christ is a series of discussion-based catechetical programs written for men. Current courses range from four to sixteen 90-minute sessions. In my parish, we meet during the children’s religious education time between Sunday morning masses. Study guides and leader guides are provided. While men gain more if they read the lesson material before meeting, no preparation is required for participants; this removes the excuse that “I didn’t have time to prepare for our meeting.”
Each session starts with short, written prayers and the reading of a passage from the Gospels that relates to that lesson’s topic. After reflecting silently for several minutes, men may state the main inspiration they received. No man is required to speak. This portion is not a discussion, and it helps men to focus on hearing God’s voice during the rest of the session. This exercise introduces men to lectio divina.
One man then reads aloud the three goals for that session. For most courses, a Catechesis section follows that fleshes out the meanings of some of the terms used in the document. Men often don’t understand certain words because society has misappropriated their meanings (such as choice, freedom, and love) or because of inadequate catechesis.
Men bring their copies of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and several relevant paragraphs are read aloud to help understand the catechesis terms. I learned that some men do not know that there is an official Catechism, and they are generally excited to discover it. The ManAlive study guide includes a more extensive explanation of the various catechesis terms relying on quotes by saints, popes, and great spiritual writers. The men in our group especially enjoy quotes by GK Chesterton and Peter Kreeft, and when they found out during a discussion on Arianism that Saint Nicholas punched Arius at the Council of Nicea, their thirst for the topic skyrocketed!
Two Catechesis discussion questions follow to help men bridge the gap from possible misunderstanding of terms to a true understanding. The leader’s guide provides possible answers to all questions, and these can serve to spur a slow discussion.
Document Summary and Discussion
Next, men take turns reading portions of a one-page summary that explains in simpler language the paragraphs of the document being discussed. This allows visual, aural, oral, and kinesthetic (writing notes or underlining) learning, since each person processes information differently. It also prevents a long-winded group leader from monopolizing the session.
The men’s favorite part of the sessions are the discussions. Typically, four multi-part discussion questions follow. The questions help men to see a truth or problem more clearly and learn how to apply what they have learned in their daily lives.
Discussions are stimulating, thoughtful, humorous, and challenging. As one man said,” It’s Catholic Focused – we don’t dance around political correctness – it’s facts and core Catholic Beliefs. Get on the bus or be run over by it!”
Take it Home
Each lesson provides two or three options for applying that week’s lesson to daily life. After a lesson on purgatory, we might pray for the faithful departed at each meal. After a lesson on conscience, we might examine our conscience each evening. After a lesson on loving our wives, we might speak only positively about our wives whenever we talk about them - this has been a favorite! As a group, the men pick one action that they will each do during the week.
To provide some accountability, men are then given the option to discuss the prior week’s action item. A written closing prayer follows. Because discussions sometimes have to be shortened to end on time, the men are thirsty to come back for more.
Why the name ManAlive?
The name ManAlive derives from a quote of Saint Irenaeus, a second century Father of the Church who wrote that
"The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God."
A second reason for the title ManAlive is taken from the book Manalive by GK Chesterton where he vividly demonstrates what a fully alive man might look like.
Who leads each course?
While the ManAlive Leader’s Guide provides all the information a man needs to lead a group, a leader should be someone who is
committed to following the Magisterium of the Church
knowledgeable about the Catholic Faith
adept at leading a discussion without monopolizing it or letting other men monopolize it
It is often helpful to have two men take turns leading who can support each other.
What courses are available?
My bishop Kevin Rhoades reads and approves each of these courses for catechetical use. He assigns me course topics based on what he most wants men to learn.
Last year he commissioned a course on Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict’s encyclical on Integral Human Development; this explains and applies Catholic Social Teaching in the wake of the 2008-2009 economic meltdown. Men discover that the Church is neither liberal nor conservative, Republican nor Democrat; it is something else entirely, and this new way of seeing life captivates men.
This year he has asked for five courses based on the two-volume Jesus of Nazareth, by Pope Benedict. Currently, programs have been approved on the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Parables of Jesus. Yet to come are courses on Jesus’ Passion and his Post-Resurrection Appearances.
More basic six-week courses are available for Lent patterned after the Sunday Gospels. Following the three-year cycle of Lenten Gospels, key concepts are covered including the seven sacraments, the theological virtues, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Person of Christ, the Four Last Things, and others. Year A, B and C courses are complete and approved by Bishop Rhoades.
Men and Marriage is a 12-lesson course based on Pope John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio, and God is Love is a 10-lesson program based on Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est.
How can I examine a course?
Courses are free of charge and transmitted via e-mail. You can contact me at email@example.com if you would like to review any of the programs or ask questions. Perhaps a ManAlive in Christ program is just what the men in your parish need.
MANALIVE REACHES OUT TO MEN OF THE DIOCESE
By Tim Johnson
FORT WAYNE — Fort Wayne dermatologist Dr. Tom McGovern loves being a doctor, but he also loves and is excited about his Catholic faith.
Dr. Tom McGovern, a dermatologist in Fort Wayne, has created ManAlive, a catechetical series to help transform men into wise, loving husbands, fathers, friends and workers by applying the truths of the Catholic faith. The native of the upper peninsula of Michigan is a husband, father of seven and active member of St. Patrick Parish, Arcola.The program that he has created, ManAlive, which has an imprimatur from Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, is catching on at parishes throughout the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend as men are being transformed into wise and loving husbands, fathers, friends and workers through knowledge and application of the truths of the Catholic faith.
McGovern says the best thing about ManAlive is “getting men excited about their faith and applying it to their lives — to their wives and families.” He describes ManAlive as “discussion-based catechesis programs for men.”
“It’s so fun seeing men discover things they didn’t know existed,” he says, “and being excited about it. I just love that.” Some may have heard McGovern’s “ManAlive Minutes” radio spots on Redeemer Radio — Catholic Radio 1450 AM. Other men at St. Patrick, Arcola, Sacred Heart, Warsaw, or St. Vincent de Paul, Fort Wayne, may have participated in the series offered at their parishes.
The program sessions, which are designed to run 90 minutes each, gather men at the parish level in groups of eight to 12. Each unit consists of opening prayers and a Gospel reflection, lesson objectives and catechesis, a lesson summary and discussion questions, a “take it home” project for the week and closing prayers.
The mission of ManAlive is to provide men with a structured, yet flexible format, in a friendly environment where they can discuss and apply the truths of the faith.
McGovern, who is married and the father of seven children, tells Today’s Catholic, “I always like getting together with men, because men in our society very rarely talk to other men about what’s important in life. They might talk about sports. They might talk about the weather. They might talk about politics. … Oftentimes men aren’t getting together to just ‘talk.’”
Discussion is an important element of the program, because, he says, “Men like to talk. They don’t just want to sit there and listen.”
Feedback from the Sacred Heart, Warsaw, program participants showed that the men liked the topics because they could discuss them.
The discussion topics that follow the reading and reflection of the Gospel allow the men to express “what struck them personally about it. … In other words, we are trying to get them in the first steps of ‘lectio divina,’ that the pope talks about. It’s to give them the experience of reflecting on the Gospel, and getting to know Christ that way.”
The papal documents’ programs offer a catechesis section with two discussion questions.
McGovern asks men to bring their catechisms to the sessions.
“It is amazing how many men didn’t even know that (the catechism) existed and how easily they have found it to understand,” he says.
The discussion questions are designed to help the men see, “how can this make a difference in the way they are living? What can I do today to apply this and have it make a difference?”
At the end of each lesson there is a “take it home” section that lists three options for the men to live out what they have learned in the following week. At the next session meeting, men have the opportunity to talk about their attempts to live out that resolution that week.
The program requires a leader who is committed to being faithful to Church teaching, McGovern says, and if the leader doesn’t know an answer he will be willing to say, “You know what, I don’t know the answer, but I’ll find out from father or somebody I can trust.”
McGovern has created courses for marriage and family life for men based on Blessed Pope John Paul II’s document “Familiaris Consortio,” courses based on Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, “God is Love,” sessions based on the Gospels of Lent, and courses based on Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate.”
And Bishop Rhoades has recently asked McGovern to do a five-course program based on the two-volume “Jesus of Nazareth” series by Pope Benedict.
McGovern has been working with Deacon Jim Tighe from the diocesan Office of Catechesis to make certain the lessons focus on the seven sacraments, the key virtues, Christ, Mary, concepts of sin and conscience.
While in medical school, McGovern was equally excited to learn about his faith as well as medicine. He started a young adults ministry and did a lot of spiritual and faith-formation reading while a student. As an intern and serving his residency, McGovern also received a catechetical diploma through the Catholic Homestead Institute. As a medical student, he took a semester off, which he spent at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minn., studying pre-theology.
McGovern loves learning about the faith — he is an avid reader of Catholic writing — and “I really love writing this (ManAlive series).”
Of making catechesis a lifelong journey, McGovern says, “It’s amazing how a lot of men — they’re very intelligent, very well respected in their field, risen to high levels in the institutions where they work — but their knowledge of their faith hasn’t kept pace with the rest of their lives.”
June 15, 2011