By Julie Kelley
My husband, Mark Kelley, and I are one of 20 couples in the diaconate class of 2016 and are just past the half-way point in our five-year formation program.
After two years of monthly gatherings, several of us noticed we had not only gained knowledge but we had also gained weight. So, we banded together to form a prayer and weight-loss group which we have named “Prayers by the Pound — Where We See Less of Each Other by Seeing More of Each Other.”
We have recently grown to 13 members, including one couple from the class of 2012, and we have lost more than 270 pounds. We meet at St. Michael Church each week and wish to thank Father Richard Sullivan and the staff for allowing us to use their facilities.
Mike and Toni Sowers, who joined around Thanksgiving, have lost more than 130 pounds as a couple. Mike says, “Toni and I joined the group to be in better shape, (for) better health, to feel better, and thereby be better able to serve.
“To serve is what we have all been called to do,” he said, “and we are obligated to do anything that will make our service better or more effective.”
Rick Fagan, down almost 30 pounds, added that “the group is much more than just a weight-loss group — it is more about Christian fellowship, brotherhood and spiritual growth.” He said “my wife, Julie, was skeptical at first but she was impressed by the results and is now on board.”
My husband, Mark, who wanted to lose 10 pounds, joined so that he could support his fellow classmates. After losing 18 pounds, he has come to realize “this group is not just about weight loss — it is about challenging ourselves to be healthier servants.”
Steve Age, who has lost 30 pounds, says “Prayers by the Pound has driven home the fact that our bodies are temples, and this aspect of my formation has become the physical sign of my spiritual journey and has affirmed my calling as a servant for Christ.”
Steve’s wife, Shannon, who is down 6 pounds, added that “more people are bringing in healthier snacks to our weekend long sessions, even those who are not yet part of the group.”
According to Sam King, now 30 pounds slimmer, “Those of us in ministry, by nature, are very social and tend to ‘gather around the table’ at every opportunity. However, I have also noticed when my wife, Sheila, and I eat out, if we order first and order something healthy, others follow suit.”
Connie Schlueter says, “I love the group support, and it is always exciting to get new ideas we can take home to our families each week.”
Laurie Warren, down almost 20 pounds, says, “This is not a diet, it’s a way of life: a new, fresh healthy life. It’s so easy to follow our plan, which is based on calorie density, as you never have to go hungry. We eat foods that are high in nutrition, high in volume, but low in calories. And if you are hungry you eat something.
“It’s too easy. I now realize that I must be a better steward of my own health in order to be a good example for my children. The group support is phenomenal. If I am challenged by something, I can bring it to the weekly meeting or text someone. I love this group!”
Even though this particular group is only open to deacons, deacons in training and their immediate families, we hope this “model” will eventually spread throughout the archdiocese. Our program is very structured, and each participant is given a binder of materials. There are no fees, and supplies and educational materials are paid through donations.