Men's fellowship groups offer encouragement, support for fathers

Being a committed Catholic father doesn’t come without its share of challenges, but men who struggle to balance the responsibilities of careers, faith and family life are not alone.

In fact, thousands of Catholic men have expressed a desire to grow in their faith and to strengthen their vocations as husbands and fathers. And with the help of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men, they have found new opportunities to share their faith and build community.

The National Fellowship of Catholic Men helps bring together groups of men at annual conferences to offer a public witness of faith and to help attendees strengthen their commitment to living the teachings of the Church. Conferences are held in 60 U.S. cities and have expanded to countries such as Canada, Ireland and Australia, with roughly 75,000 men attending each year.

Dan Spencer, executive director of the fellowship, told Our Sunday Visitor that men tend to struggle with opening up about their faith, but the conferences help to connect them with others who share their beliefs.

“There’s a sense of support (at the conferences) and a sense that ‘I am not in this alone,’ that ‘I am not strange for having a relationship with Christ,’” Spencer said. “So I think men take away from the conference a sense of pride and a sense of confidence and camaraderie with other men.”

Though the conferences cover a wide range of topics relating to male spirituality, they often feature breakout sessions that focus on specific issues such as being a good husband and teaching the Faith to your children.

“Inevitably one of the speakers will talk about fatherhood, how to be a man in your family and what your obligations are to protect, to provide, to lead, to teach, to model,” said Spencer. “We have breakouts that really get down to the brass tacks of how you do this.”

Bringing men together to share their faith also offers an opportunity for those who have more experience with raising children to pass on advice to younger fathers, Spencer told OSV. The intergenerational component allows men of all ages to learn from one another, share experiences and gain insight into more effective parenting.

While the annual conferences offer many resources and tips for men to utilize in their daily lives, they can also serve as a starting point for ongoing men’s fellowship. The National Fellowship of Catholic Men provides resources and assistance to men looking to form fellowship groups in their parishes.

Those groups can have a general focus on men’s issues or can be geared to a specific topic, such as fatherhood.

“Whether it is specific needs you have, or whether it is a general group you’re looking for, we have resources to address that,” said Spencer. “There is just a myriad of ways that we try and help men successfully be Christ in every venue that they find themselves in.” 

Scott Alessi writes from Illinois.