Parishes collaborate to give men time of renewal

Paul Brooks, a Holy Trinity parishioner, gave a presentation during the Welcome retreat at St. Albert the Great Church over the weekend of Jan. 28 and 29. (Photo Special to The Record)

Craig Vermost said that a men’s retreat held at St. Albert the Great Church last month was a gift he and many other men needed.

“For us, that weekend was such a gift. They helped us take a huge step as individuals and as a group,” he said. “It was a gift of community that many guys were needing.”

Vermost, a member of St. Albert, was among close to 40 men who attended the Jan. 28 and 29 overnight retreat called “Welcome.”

“Welcome,” previously known as “Christ Renews His Parish,” is a national program from Dynamic Catholic. The program aims to inspire parishioners to have a personal transformation and then, with a sense of renewal, make a difference in their parish, according to the nonprofit’s website.

The weekend at St. Albert drew men from varying backgrounds and who are in different places on their faith journey, Vermost said, but he added they had something in common: They all felt a sense of isolation, likely left over from the pandemic.

Carving out time to connect with men in his parish and find a sense of camaraderie is “something I know was missing from my life,” Vermost said. “I wasn’t alone in that.”

While the retreat felt like a gift to participants, the program itself is also meant to be a gift, shared from parish to parish.

Chris Spalding, a member of St. Albert Church, left, and Mark Klein, a member of Holy Trinity, were among the men who worked together to organize and host a “Welcome” retreat at St. Albert the weekend of Jan. 28 and 29. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Holy Trinity Church received that gift about 20 years ago when parishioners from St. Susanna Church in Mason, Ohio, helped Holy Trinity offer its first retreat. When St. Albert inquired about bringing the retreat to its parishioners, Holy Trinity was glad to help, said Mark Klein, a member of Holy Trinity.

“It’s one of the best gifts you can give another church,” Klein said. “You would have thought we hung the moon” from the men’s reaction to the event.

A group of men from Holy Trinity and St. Albert worked together to plan the event over the course of about 12 months, said Father Dave Harris, pastor of St. Albert.

Chris Spalding, a St. Albert parishioner who was part of that group, said, “There’s a warm heart at Holy Trinity to do this” because of what they received from St. Susanna.

Spalding said the weekend provided time to be renewed from the stresses of home and work life. It included time to read Scripture and reflect, team-building activities and discussions.

Klein said it was all aimed at helping the men “build bonds with each other in an effort to reconnect with their parish,” he said.

Spalding said he has heard from participants who said the weekend provided an experience they didn’t realize they needed.

Vermost agreed. Some men feel like they always have to be “strong men” and so they don’t know how to ask for this type of experience, he noted. He was reminded over the weekend that he doesn’t always have to be a “strong” man, he said.

The men from Holy Trinity “shared from their hearts in a way most guys don’t share. … They showed vulnerability. … It was a strong experience for us to see that,” Vermost said. “We’re not alone. We’re walking this walk together.”

He walked away with a sense of “peace and calm” that will overflow into every area of his life, he said.

Father Harris said the retreat can also be offered to women and the parish plans to offer that down the road.

The collaborative effort of the retreat, he said, sets it apart from others. Father Harris added that he hopes other parishes work together to present this experience to men in their pews.

Ruby Thomas
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Ruby Thomas
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