Jim Graves is a Catholic writer and editor living in Newport Beach, California. He previously served as Managing Editor for the Diocese of Orange Bulletin, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, California. His work has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Cal Catholic Daily and Catholic World Report.
Fred Goduti is a financial adviser from Davidson, North Carolina, who is also a commander (volunteer leader) in Fraternus, a parish-based apostolate that teaches Catholic boys virtue through the establishment of a brotherhood of men. Fraternus is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its establishment, and currently has chapters in 30 parishes throughout the U.S. Goduti was recruited to launch the program three years ago at his parish, St. Mark Church in Huntersville, after attending the Ranch, Fraternus’ weeklong summer program in eastern Tennessee that combines active outdoor programs with intense spiritual activities.
“I was blown away by my experience at the Ranch. It was a great balance of activities,” he said. “They gave boys a chance to be boys, but there was great respect for the Mass, prayers and each other.”
The men and boys had the opportunity to share their struggles of manhood with one another, letting “iron sharpen iron,” as one of the program’s co-founders, Jason Craig, explained.
Craig continued, “While Fraternus is a parish-based program, Ranch is a weeklong adventure which incorporates formation and the sacraments. And, the experience is not just coordinated by adults, but something we do all together.”
Goduti returned to his parish to share his experience with his pastor, Fr. John Putnam. Goduti said, “He told me if I wanted to run it, do it.”
As head of the parish chapter, Goduti serves as “commander.” He is assisted by other male adults, who are “captains.” One the brotherhood among the adult men had been established, they invited boys 11 and older to join the group.
Participants attend a weekly “Frat Night” and pray together, participate in a game or competition, watch a movie clip illustrating a particular virtue and have a challenge of some sort for the week, such as confession.
The program has grown quickly at St. Mark, and today is attended by 100 brothers (boys) and 40 captains. The parish’s three priests are also regular participants. While girls are not part of the program, there is a companion program for women and girls at the parish, Fidelis.
Goduti believes there are benefits to having same-sex programs. When boys are only around other boys, he said, “they are allowed to be more real, witness each others’ struggles and be accountable to one another.”
Among the participants in St. Mark’s Fraternus chapter are Goduti’s two sons, one of whom has since entered seminary for the diocese. Goduti said, “I won’t say that it was the deciding factor in his entering the seminary, but his participation in Fraternus certainly helped his discernment process.”
While Fraternus benefits boys by helping them grow into virtuous men, it is also beneficial to adult men, Goduti believes. He said, “It has caused me to dig deeper into my faith, and to be more accountable to other men as to how I’m living my life. It’s also kept me engaged in my parish family; seeing my parish as a family and not just a place I go on Sunday.”
He believes that Fraternus would be a good fit for any male over 11, including dads like himself who “don’t know how to engage their sons in the Faith” and boys and men “who need a place to be built up and encouraged.”
He continued, “After seeing the positive effect it has had on the families in our parish, I can’t be grateful enough for Fraternus.”
Craig concluded, “We need a paradigm shift among men in our parishes. We need to bring men into brotherhood, and find ways to invite boys into that brotherhood. I think Fraternus does this.”