Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian
Every Friday morning at 7, a group of men gather at St. Edward the Confessor Parish, Richmond. Some come with coffee, almost all have a copy of the month’s Magnifcat publication or are able to access it on their smart- phones.
They are the Men of St. Joseph, one of four chapters in the Diocese of Richmond. When they come together, they pray, read and reflect upon Scripture, and, following the guidelines provided by the Men of St. Joseph national body, they share how that Scripture and those reflections relate to their lives.
Begun in 2013, The St. Edward group consistently draws a dozen or more participants every week. For each, the reason they attend varies.
“For them to be here at 7 a.m. is a commitment,” said Carl Tarantino, who coordinates the weekly meetings. “They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t want to be here.”
Jerry MacAuley, 53, is an example of that commitment.
“When I first joined (four years ago), the alarm would go off, and (I’d ask) ‘Do I want to sleep 45 more minutes or do I get up?’ and when I made the decision to get up, I never regretted it because I always get something out of it.”
Although Tarantino does not consider the Men of St. Joseph “a support group per se,” support is a draw.
“It provides prayer support as men, husbands and fathers,” said Blaise Perrello, 70. “I find it is encouraging to listen to other men of all ages express a very practical spirituality and a support that is very Christ-centered, yet very real.”
Hearing and reflecting on Scripture
The Scripture portion of the meeting is the Gospel for the upcoming Sunday. On one Friday, it was the Gospel for the Third Sunday in Lent in which Jesus clears the moneychangers out of the temple. Discussion — termed by the Men of St. Joseph as a “sacred and confidential time” — followed.
It moved quickly as the men reflected on what they had heard. One spoke about his anger in not being able to get a priest to visit a relative in a hospital.
“Sometimes the Catholic Church gets so wrapped up in building that we forget we have actual people who need ministry,” he said.
Another added, “We do a lot of good things, but sometimes we lose contact with our base in our community.”
When the discussion shifted to the shortage of priests, one expressed gratitude for the two priests serving the parish, while another added, “Talk to your kids about vocations.”
As it was the first Friday of the month, the meeting included a Communion service led by Deacon Kevin Hogan. Often on the Fridays preceding Sundays on which he is scheduled to preach, the deacon will share his homily with the group.
“I bounce my ideas off of them and solicit their feedback,” he said.
Deacon Hogan, ordained five years ago, introduced Men of St. Joseph to the parish in 2013 as part of the marriage and family life ministry he oversees.
“It has been a blessing to our parish,” he said.
Learning, growing in faith
At 69, John Saelens considers himself an elder of the group.
“I can give the perspective of ‘I’ve been there, done that,’” he said.
Yet, Saelens wants to hear the wisdom of other members.
“In all candor, a lot of this has to do with educating our children and learning about how these guys are dealing with their children,” he said. “My children are grown adults but still I’m still involved in their faith and trying to get them to go (to church). And it’s working.”
David Schallmo, 53, also finds the group helpful in his being able to teach his children about the faith.
“I come because I want to get closer to the faith, to learn why I’m Catholic and to be knowledgeable so I can explain to my own children why it is important to be Catholic,” said Schallmo, a youth catechist at St. Edward. “And why it’s important to know your faith and why it’s important to know why you do the things you do.”
Gustavo Ayon, 38, joined the group three weeks ago at the invitation of Tarantino.
“I was looking for a group where I could discuss faith, so I’m here because I want to be with gentlemen who are fathers and gain their wisdom and be able to reflect prayerfully on Scripture in a manner that I haven’t done before,” he said.
Newlyweds, Ayon and his wife are expecting their first child, a boy, later this year. He takes notes about what the men say, especially when it comes to parenting.
“These gentlemen all have children, some are teens, some are in college, some are older — I just want to be able to hear what they talk about, what they pray about with their families, what they do in a particular situation,” he said.
Community of faith
By coming together every Friday, praying and reflecting, and sharing common concerns, the Men of St. Joseph have grown into a faith community.
Schallmo noted being “energized” by the Scripture and discussion during the weekly meetings.
“It’s great to be in a group of men where there are no egos and we’re all honest with each other,” he said.
“I really appreciate that.” Saelens added, “I enjoy the camaraderie of the guys. I enjoy the intellectual stimulation of the talking about Catholicism.”
Ayon, who moved to the area from California, has gotten to know the men in the group.
“I want to have a community where I can have friends and that I can also draw on their experiences,” he said.
MacAuley termed them “a great group of guys.” “We laugh a lot and joke a lot, but we’re very serious,” he said. “We’re friends. I’ve developed a whole new group of friends here.”
For Tarantino, the Men of St. Joseph address what he termed a “real need — the mentoring of fathers.”
“How we can be like St. Joseph, and live the attributes of St. Joseph?” he asked.
For this group, the answers are found Friday mornings at 7.
Where to find an MOSJ chapter
The following list provides contact information for Men of St. Joseph chapters in the Diocese of Richmond:
• St. Paul, Portsmouth Contact Chuck Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org
• St. John the Apostle, Virginia Beach Contact John Domingo at email@example.com
• St. Francis of Assisi, Staunton Contact John Peduto at firstname.lastname@example.org
• St. Edward the Confessor, Richmond Contact Deacon Kevin Hogan at khogan@richmonddio cese.org or Carl Tarantino at email@example.com
Feast focuses on roles as husband, father
St. Joseph’s feast on March 19 encourages us to look at Joseph’s role as husband and head of the Holy Family.
Most of what we know about the life of St. Joseph comes to us from Scripture and legends that have sprung up regarding his life.
Though he is only mentioned by two of the evangelists, he is paid the compliment of being a “just” man. This is a way of saying that Joseph was such a good and holy man that he shares in God’s own holiness.
In addition, St. Joseph gives us an example of how to be a just spouse and how to have holy relationships.
His example as a husband can be best seen in how he respected Mary. He realized that God had a special plan for his wife and for his son, and Joseph did everything in his power to help this plan become reality. from the Catholic News Agency