By Frank J Casella
“Catholic Men Chicago Southland is an apostolate of Reverend Bishop Joseph N Perry, and works to encourage and support contemporary Catholic Men to grow spiritually, and to bring Jesus Christ into their daily lives and all of their relationships.” — The CMCS Mission
That was the mission we started with in 2004 when Deacon John Rangel, David Taylor (who no longer lives in the Archdiocese), and I went to Bishop Joseph N Perry with our vision, and hope for his blessing. And it’s still our mission today. We went to Bishop Perry because he was, and is, our local Vicar (as one) of the six Vicariates (divisions) of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
We could have tried to do this on our own, but I learned from my previous experiences, both with the Catholic Men In Action that I was a territory rep for (and is no longer a ministry), and from my photography work for the archdiocese and covering the ministry of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, that you need to have a platform to work from.
Bishop Perry not only understood this, he also was interested is providing a challenge to men in the Vicariate to live the Virtues of a Catholic Man and make Christ the center of our daily lives. So it has been proven many times over the years that Bishop Perry’s belief in CMCS, and nurturing Catholic men’s spirituality, has opened more doors — and hearts — than we could ever do on our own. And this I am personally grateful for!
I’m glad that we also followed his advice to stay a manageable size in the Vicariate, instead of trying to reach the whole archdiocese, since each Vicariate is about the size of the average diocese in the American Church. That if a group of men wanted to start a movement in another vicariate, we’d provide their Vicar with the template for doing this. So far there has been much interest, but no commitment.
You might say that Catholic men’s ministry is second nature to me, having been raised as a third-generation Knights of Columbus. I recall vividly helping my late father as a kid with all the functions, causes, parties, and parades. From going to talk to the butcher, to table set up, promotion and ticket sales, serving the participants, clean up, and finally awarding the results to a charity, which CMCS does today. Event planning is my conditioned skill.
But there was something missing in all of this. I saw this void. A need for a Catholic men’s prayer breakfast, to challenge men to replace bad habits with good habits and to develop a holy life. To feed the stomach, and then feed the Soul.
As far back as the 1980’s I recall men’s conferences starting to trickle into the fabric of our faith life. And this is where I met Deacon John Rangel, who has a passion for parish men’s groups and Pro-Life. We went to many of these events, from many faiths. Some called for men to be accountable to each other, and others had an Altar Call, or to be Born Again. And most of the Catholic men’s conferences had a great message but fell short of making that challenge or commitment to holiness.
We need Catholic and holy men in our lives, who practice virtues and goodness, make a positive difference, and that we can look to as models of a life work in progress.
“We are a people of possibility, the Holy Spirit is the great encourager … holiness is possible.Matthew Kelly
In Covenant With Jesus
It is true, Jesus Christ wants to have a personal relationship with each of us as our Savior and Lord. But Jesus wants much more than that; he wants us in covenant with himself. I can have a personal relationship with the neighbor down the street; but that doesn’t mean he wants me to move in and share his home.
Jesus Christ wants us in the New Covenant that he established through his own flesh and blood, the same covenant he renews through the Holy Eucharist. When his sacrifice for us is renewed at the altar, we gather at the family table for the sacred meal that makes us one.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me.” (Rev 3:20)
Likewise, in the home, us men are called to lay down our life for our wife. To serve her as Jesus served her. To love and sacrifice for her the way Jesus loved and sacrificed for you.
The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called “the domestic church,” a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1666
But remember Christ’s words to Saint Paul that “power is made perfect in weakness.” That is, most men will admit that their strength, their rock is their wives.
Jesus wants us to know not only the Father and the Holy Spirit but his Blessed Mother and all his sainted brothers and sisters as well. He also wants us to live according to the family structure he established for his Church on earth: the Pope and all the bishops and priests united to him.
The Gospel is not about setting up a legal system, but about transforming hearts. It is about freeing people, one at a time, from the darkness and slavery of sin.
Presenting The Challenge
I remember when the late Cardinal Francis George, then archbishop of Chicago, said one of his many profound words in the public square, when he said that “we as a Catholic Church have much to learn from our Protestant brothers and sisters about marketing and promotion, and evangelization. “
This was my answer. So around 2009 we began an online ministry to reach Catholic men in any way possible, and learn from those who are good at it. But Bishop Perry reminded the need to balance that with the community ‘in the pews’. Community is the foundation of our Catholicism.
So in the era of TV Evangelists, Internet Churches, and Social Media Ministry, CMCS sets the tone in Chicago Southland for nurturing Catholic men’s spirituality, and presenting men the challenge for holiness, in Covenant with Jesus. And we do this in-person, through our gatherings, where men can discuss and connect the dots with each other about their spiritual journey. And we have Mass with bishop who presents the challenge to the men.
The men will tell you how the personal impact from this is profound in a way that can not be experienced online. Then, what we do online is a symptom of what is working with community ‘in the pews’, to continue their spiritual journey. We are all a work in progress, and learn from each other.
It’s not about accountability to each other, but Covenant with Jesus that transforms us as men.
I have seen over the years that when you foster a Man in holiness, the positive adjustments he makes creates a upstanding man, husband, or father, and this impact can be felt for three generations. What this takes is (for us) to transform one man at a time from good intentions into right-action, and thus to develop a holy church.
For just as the Church cannot survive without the sacramental priesthood, so too, the father is an essential element of a healthy family. Fathers have a significant spiritual impact on their (and men with all) children precisely because of their unique role in the order of creation.
Frank J Casella is an Artistic Photographer, and co-founder of Catholic Men Chicago Southland, and the Bishop Perry Catholic Chicago Men’s Forum.