Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in major newspapers. He is the author of Fruits of Fatima — Century of Signs and Wonders. He holds an MS degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
Want to get men involved in the parish, help them be better Catholics in love with their faith, and therefore even better husbands, fathers, brothers, and friends?
Then on Thursday, Dec. 1, watch Father Brian Gannon on EWTN TV’s At Home with Jim and Joy talk about what’s happening in this regard with his parish’s Sons of Saint Joseph. The show airs on EWTN at 2 pm Eastern time.
The pastor of St. Theresa Church in Trumbull, Connecticut, Father Gannon got the invitation from the international Eternal Word Television Network after they learned of the success of the parish’s thriving men’s group, the Sons of Saint Joseph. Father Gannon will talk about the ways the Sons of Saint Joseph has inspired and involved men in the parish and how it is a model for starting such groups in parishes around the country.
Prior to the show, I had a chat with this dynamic pastor. Father Gannon explained that Sons of Saint Joseph was founded six years ago with 12 men meeting at 6:30 am on a Saturday morning. It was somewhat reminiscent of the apostles — but the group expanded quickly.
“We have over 120 men registered and usually we get about 30 or more a week at 6:30 am,” Father Gannon says. Once men attend the first time, they’re thrilled to become regular members. The pastor describes a typical reaction: “As one guy says, ‘If you had asked me a year ago if I would be at church at 6:30 am on Saturday morning singing a Latin hymn, I would have told you you’re crazy. But I love it!’”
Father Gannon described the Sons of Saint Joseph as “a dynamic group of outstanding men who work very hard, love their families very much, and want to be good Catholic men in today’s world.”
Typical Saturday Morning
After the sun rises, the sons begin with Eucharistic adoration to honor the Son. That is key. Then he or another priest in the parish gives an 8-10 minute reflection. After it the men break into small groups and discuss the particular topic in the context of being Catholic men in today’s world and culture.
And they don’t forget the fortifications — “We have bagels. And good strong coffee to get everybody going,” Father Gannon chuckled. “We make 80 cups of coffee and go through then all!”
The weekly sessions focus on wide-ranging Catholic topics. The reflections are not academic lectures but points to see and discuss “how does this impact me as a man?” says Father Gannon. “The thrust is that every teaching of the faith impacts us spiritually and morally, and how generous our infinite and loving God is.”
General topics shift from spirituality, to Church history, moral teachings, and learning more about the liturgy. Topics also focus on marriage and families, the Fathers of the Church, spiritual warfare, conquering the seven deadly sins, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the masculinity of Jesus.
Speaking of masculinity, Father Gannon explained, “The reason why we chose Saint Joseph is because he would be the ultimate human father and human husband. And the fact that he is the ‘terror of demons’ gives us an extra incentive of devotion.”
All is so necessary in today’s world and culture for the men and their families.
The fruits emerging from the Sons of Saint Joseph are outstanding.
One beautiful fruit is a brand new Knights of Columbus council that has been exceptionally active in its apostolate, doing such works as feeding the homeless, helping the elderly, visiting prisons, and “assisting our wonderful parish in incredible ways,” says Father Gannon.
The benefits to members and families keep adding up. Father Gannon says, “The guys have said this has really made me stronger and has really strengthened my relationship with my family. It’s led me to be a better disciple of Christ and to lead my children to be disciples of Christ.”
Wives have remarked to him how the Sons of Saint Joseph “has had such a positive effect on their husbands,” he added. That comes home to benefit their families too.
For instance, after one very informative six-week session on different apparitions of the Blessed Mother, Father Gannon noted a number of members “started praying the Rosary more often. They came to realize that in their car and other places they can use the time to pray. They could use certain times they never thought about before to pray the Rosary.”
Several men then brought the practice to their families.
There’s yet another bonus according to Father Gannon. “One fellow said: ‘When we first began I thought: I should do this even though it will probably be tiring, but once I started I realized the opposite — that it was very energizing!’”
That story has been repeated times over by the men who range from their 20s to even a spry 94-year-old veteran of D-Day. The biggest percentage are men in their 30s through 50s, with families.
Father Gannon’s inspiration for the Sons of Saint Joseph had its roots in his assignment prior to coming to St. Theresa’s.
“Part of the genesis of this was my experience in Ridgefield (Conn.) at Saint Mary’s with their men’s ministry,” he recalled. “I witnessed a group of very dedicated and faithful men meeting every Saturday morning at 6:45 am. That’s where the template in my mind first came from.”
When several men at Saint Theresa’s approached him with interest in forming a men’s group, Father Gannon already had that mental template at the ready.
Because of this success at Saint Theresa’s, he encourages men to approach their pastor to start a Sons of Saint Joseph in their parish. They even have the template attached to the group’s website (SonsOfSaintJoseph.org) and anyone can use it as is or adjust it to the needs of the group they’re forming. They can even contact the Sons of Saint Joseph for advice.
Father Gannon emphasized one important necessity that should not be “adjusted”: “Eucharistic Adoration has been central to the success of our group.”
Looking at what the Sons of Saint Joseph is accomplishing, Father Gannon is “personally inspired by men who are so busy with work and busy with families who come devotedly and volunteer their time to help this group keep going and going.”
Surely EWTN viewers hearing about the Sons of Saint Joseph on At Home with Jim and Joy on Dec. 1 will find that same inspiration.
The show airs on Thurs., Dec. 1 at 2 pm and repeats on Sat., Dec. 3 at 1 am and Sun., Dec. 4 at 10:30 am (Eastern times)