‘That Man’ program energizes men’s faith
by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The U.S. Marines want “A Few Good Men.” But the spirituality and leadership program called “That Man is You” does the Marines one better: It wants authentic, Christian men — and as many as it can get!
It couldn’t come along at a better time, said Jim Kafka, That Man coordinator at the Church of the Nativity in Leawood.
“[The program demonstrates how] we [men] have strayed from the roles and direction God has asked of us, and we have allowed our society, ourselves, and our families to be influenced and corrupted by the world,” said Kafka.
“This program calls men back to authentic manhood, and to be authentic husbands and fathers,” he added.
Although That Man is currently offered at only two locations in the archdiocese, it has proved very popular, drawing in more men regularly than any other ministry directed at men. The groups at the Church of the Nativity in Leawood and Immaculate Conception in St. Marys have each completed one session (lasting 13 weeks, or roughly the school semester) and are in the middle of a second.
“I think it has far exceeded anyone’s expectations,” said Brian O’Neill, a That Man coordinator at Immaculate
Conception. “The overall response from the men has been very positive. We did a survey in the last week of the fall semester [of the program], and they rated the program an overall 9.6 out of 10.”
The program originated with Paradisus Dei (Latin for “Paradise of God”), a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization of lay Catholics founded in 2003 by Steve Bollman of Houston.
Bollman wanted to strengthen marriages by integrating Catholic theology with the tools of social science. To accomplish this, he formed a group in 2004 to develop a men’s leadership program, which evolved into That Man Is You.
The program takes its name from the Second Book of Samuel, where the prophet Nathan pronounces God’s rebuke to King David (12:7). David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged for the murder of her husband, Uriah, to conceal his sins and crimes.
The name is appropriate, said Kafka, because it reminds Catholic men that they have strayed from their duties and need to be called back to integrity and an authentic life within the roles that God has ordained for them.
That Man groups meet every week for a 13-week session in the fall and spring, paralleling the school year. Although the groups may choose to meet in the morning or evening, the two groups currently underway meet in the early morning.
The format is simple. The men first gather for a fellowship meal accompanied by light entertainment (like sports highlights) playing on a big screen TV. Next comes a music video of a spiritual nature to transition the participants to a more contemplative frame of mind. Then, a speaker, utilizing a PowerPoint presentation, addresses the issue or theme of the day, followed by small group discussion and a dismissal.
The group at Immaculate Conception meets on Thursdays at 5:30 a.m., and averages 40 men a meeting. It draws from four surrounding parishes and the Latin Mass community in Maple Hill.
Before That Man, there wasn’t much in terms of ministry for men at Immaculate Conception, O’Neill said. It has generated a bit of excitement, because it challenges men and offers them something.
And it’s making a difference in people’s lives.
“I think the most obvious area where you see change is in their excitement over their Catholicism,” said O’Neill. “Religion today it not seen as a manly thing. And, because [men] are so isolated, they tend to shy away from demonstrating their faith. This gives men a format [in which] to talk about their faith and participate with other men in living out their faith.”
The group at Church of the Nativity in Leawood meets on Tuesdays at 6 a.m. More than 100 men attend weekly, said Kafka, and most of the men tend to be between the ages of 30 and 50.
The rate of returning participants shows Kafka that participants are getting something out of the program.
“It’s like looking at yourself through God’s magnifying glass and being able to pinpoint areas where we’ve fallen short,” he said.
“I hear the men say they’ve had great conversations with their wives, and that they’re seeing their marriages and responsibilities differently. They’re seeing their roles differently as husbands and fathers,” he continued. “We’re seeing some incredible things happen. Guys are coming to see and embrace their faith much more deeply.”
Kafka said that the program was underwritten by the parish to help it get off the ground. But already the group is self-sufficient. Costs to the participants are kept very low to encourage participation, and men from neighboring parishes are also welcome to attend.
“It is our intention to see this spread,” said Kafka. “To see a couple of parishes start year one as we go into year two.”