September 12, 2014

Religious Education Supplement

Stepping up in faith: Programs aim to make men better husbands, fathers and disciples in a challenging culture

Aaron Hyre stands with a banner promoting “That Man Is You!” at St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis. The new program hopes to make Catholic men grow stronger in their faith. (Submitted photo)

Aaron Hyre stands with a banner promoting “That Man Is You!” at St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis. The new program hopes to make Catholic men grow stronger in their faith. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

When they each talk about their goals for their lives, Aaron Hyre and Art Johnson also focus on the potential they believe all Catholic men have:

The potential to grow stronger in their faith.

To use that deepened faith to be leaders of their families, their parishes and their Church.

To step out into the community to serve others.

In essence, to live life in such a way that defies a culture that often portrays men as weak, hapless and self-centered.

“If you watch the sitcoms on television, men are the comic relief while women are the leaders,” Hyre says. “The common view is that guys like to play, and they do dumb things, while women get them out of it.

“We’re after a more biblical definition of what a father, a husband and a man should be in our culture.”

That search has led Hyre to start a chapter of a program called “That Man Is You!” at St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis. It’s a national program that more than 500 parishes across the country have already embraced.

“The program combines Scriptures, the wisdom of the saints, the teachings of the Church and science to help show what’s going on in our culture and what men can do about it,” says Hyre, a husband and a father of four children.

“We want men to come together and enhance their personal relationship with Christ. We want guys to be more involved in their families and their faith, and to bring their wives and children closer to God.”

Hyre witnessed that potential when he attended a meeting of a “That Man Is You!” program at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Carmel, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese this past winter. The meeting started at 6 a.m. on a Monday morning in February, and 150 men were there.

“I knew there had to be something to the program,” Hyre says. “Men have a tendency to want to isolate themselves from spiritual things. You don’t hear discussions of God in men’s conversations. But when you talk to them, there’s a yearning for that. That’s what this program does. It brings these issues up to men, and there are discussions about what it means in our lives and how to implement it.”

Hyre knew he needed that approach in his own life.

“I’ve struggled with that masculine identity myself,” he says. “My father was basically out of my life since I was 13. He wasn’t the role model I needed. And I found a lot of other men were in that same situation. We were not the men God intended us to be. I knew I would be more fulfilled if I was following God’s design for me.”

So Hyre made a commitment to start the “That Man Is You!” program at St. Simon. He also saw it as an opportunity to reach out to the men of the two parishes that have been partnered with St. Simon through the archdiocese’s Connected in the Spirit process: St. Michael Parish in Greenfield and St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Fortville.

A three-year program, it will meet at St. Simon on Tuesday mornings for 13 weeks through the rest of this year, following the format of a school’s semester. Hyre chose a 6 a.m. start for the program so it doesn’t conflict with work schedules in the morning or family schedules in the evening. The first meeting at St. Simon was on Sept. 2.

“I had to assemble a team to start it. As soon as I explained it, people said they were in. I’ve actually had wives come up to me to get the information for their husbands. Fifty-six guys attended the first meeting. It was a very large success. I can see the Holy Spirit working in this already.”

Art Johnson also sees the Holy Spirit at work in his life, leading him to live his faith so he can make an impact on society.

As part of his development, Johnson traveled to Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, in late July to attend the annual “Defending the Faith Conference”—a weekend-long gathering with the theme this year, “Holy and Heroic: The Courage to be Catholic.”

“About 1,400 people attended, from teenagers to old guys like me,” said Johnson, a 71-year-old father of three who has been attending the conference for 15 years. “The speakers are people who give you a chance to better understand your faith. There’s the presence of the Holy Spirit. And there’s fellowship with your fellow believers.

“This year, as we were walking toward the bookstore on Friday, a man and his son asked for directions for registration. Later, we ran into them—they are Hispanic—and we sat with them and ate with them for the rest of the conference. They were so enthused, and they said they would bring their wives back next year.”

The conference gives Johnson the knowledge and the reinforcement to share and defend his faith.

“I think I understand the new evangelization,” says Johnson, a member of St. Lawrence Parish in Indianapolis. “I have a responsibility to my fellow Catholics, my fellow Christians and those who are struggling in the faith. You do that by being a good witness, and you do that by trying to explain your faith. If I can convince a Christian that Catholics are Christians and we do not worship Mary, it’s a step forward.”

Still, Johnson’s biggest strides may be as a witness of the Catholic faith.

He has been active in the Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis, interacting with people of different faith traditions. For several years, he served on the board of Celebration of Hope, an effort for racial reconciliation in Indianapolis. An attorney, he now volunteers at the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic in Indianapolis, helping people in need.

“My heart is in racial reconciliation,” says Johnson, who served in the U.S. Air Force for 28 years. “If we approach it as people of faith, the barriers can come down.”

For Johnson, strengthening his faith always leads to deepening his love for others.

“How do you love God? You love God by loving your neighbors. If I love my neighbors and I give witness to my faith, then I am advancing the Kingdom.

“I once heard someone say that God is responsible for the results, we’re responsible to try. I enjoy reaching out to help others. That’s what we’re supposed to do as Christians. It’s in my heart.”
 

(For more information on the “That Man is You!” program, visit the website, www.thatmanisyou.org. You can also contact Aaron Hyre at aahyre@gmail.com.)

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