There’s no avoiding it: Dads take a beating in the popular culture. When they’re not portrayed as hopelessly inept, fathers are made out to be crude, ignorant or otherwise loathsome (often in some new, shocking, “envelope-pushing” way).
The Knights of Columbus are out to fight back against the lies with their new, Web-based initiative called Fathers for Good. (It’s online at FathersforGood.org.)
“The goal of Fathers for Good is really to restore a positive image of the father and a confidence in the father,” explains the website’s editor, Brian Caulfield. “He does have this vocation, the calling by God to be a father to his children.”
Of course, many resources already exist to help Christian fathers fulfill their duties. Fathers for Good’s animating characteristic is promoting the sacraments of the Catholic Church, along with the classic virtues, in ways family men can relate to. And it’s open to all, meaning non-Knights are most welcome.
According to Caulfield, the idea for Fathers for Good came directly from the Knights of Columbus’ supreme knight, Carl Anderson. Why mainly on a website? Not only is the Internet a major source of information and ideas for many men today, but “we’re responding to the Vatican’s call for presence on the Web,” says Caulfield.
Just this spring, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated his call to deploy “new technologies” in the service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Along with its rich and well-established website, the Vatican itself has an impressively dynamic presence on YouTube and Facebook.)
Many aspects about Fathers for Good are drawing viewers eager to learn what real fatherhood is and how to live it. For one, the multimedia approach is attracting the curious as well as the committed.
Says Bill Lukas, a knight from St. Louis: “It’s all good, down-to-earth, moral, Christian-related advice and information.”
As president of the St. Louis Chapter of the Knights of Columbus, Lukas, along with 1,100 other men, learned of Fathers for Good in March at the annual Catholic Men for Christ Conference in St. Louis, where Caulfield set up a display.
“It was a great tie-in and a perfect match,” says Lukas of the website and that men’s conference. So much so, that through him the organizers have already invited Caulfield to return and incorporate Fathers for Good concepts into the 2010 conference.
Among the website’s most popular features are the podcasts focusing on big issues fathers face. One of these has former New York Giants Super Bowl champ Chris Godfrey offering tips for fathers reticent about having “the talk” with their kids. His basic message: Be confident. God gave you these children, and, if you’ll familiarize yourself with the Church’s teachings, he will give you the words to convey the theology of the body in a way your kids will both understand and appreciate.
There are also popular podcasts from the likes of Helen Alvare, Janet Smith, Mike Aquilina and Dr. Ray Guarendi, a Register “Family Matters” columnist.
There are recorded videos, too. Three new ones especially connected to Father’s Day bring perspectives and advice on fatherhood from EWTN news director Raymond Arroyo, theologian Scott Hahn and legal scholar Robert George.
In Portland, Ore., David Renshaw looks forward to Fathers for Good’s words of wisdom and finds the testimonies and guidance “a real godsend.”
“If we hear from people who are going through the same things we are, or are in the same place we are, it resonates,” says Renshaw, a father of three.
He also points to the question-and-answer interviews with knights and fathers. “Newsworthy Dads” brings these to viewers constantly. According to Caulfield, one of the biggest “hit getters” focused on U.S. Navy Commander Frank Castellano of the USS Bainbridge, who led the April rescue of the commercial captain held hostage by Somali pirates.
Others celebrate fathers who don’t make the national news but are heroes in their own communities or parishes.
Articles are plentiful too, beginning with the monthly feature. “These articles aren’t highfalutin but hit at the heart of the family, those day-to-day struggles we go through,” says Renshaw. “They make us perk up our ears and listen.”
Indeed, two other dynamics come into play here, as Renshaw explains. First, his wife, Heather, reads a lot of the Fathers for Good materials — including the resources in the aptly titled section “Good for Mothers.”
Second, as founder of a men’s apostolate called Real Catholic Men (RealCatholicMen.com), which launched the first Catholic men’s conferences in the Pacific Northwest, Renshaw shares links with anyone and everyone he thinks may have an interest.
Lukas gets the word out as well. In one instance, he took the three St. Joseph series booklets available from the Father’s Bookshelf on the website (they’re free in bulk to men’s groups and parishes) and distributed them to knights and non-knights alike. Wives appreciated them too, and he discovered them encouraging their husbands about the site.
Interactive features are another draw on the website. These provide a supportive online community, a father’s blog and a question-and-answer section that matches advice-seeking fathers with answering experts.
Everything works together with Fathers for Good in what Father Luke Sweeney, vocations director for the Archdiocese of New York, sees as a crucial time to re-establish the true meaning of fatherhood — and, with it, the essence of manhood.
Father Sweeney sees an additional major impact the site can have. “One of the reasons vocations have suffered,” he says, “is that the ideal of fatherhood and manhood in the Church, in society, and in our world has not been properly understood.”
He says the resulting “father wounds” evident in some seminary candidates need to be healed if the men are to become effective priests.
“When I see the website,” says Father Sweeney, “I can’t help but think what a great benefit this is for a parish priest.”
And what a wonderful post-Father’s Day gift it is — 365 days a year.
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen
is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.
ON THE WEBFathersforGood.org