During these first few weeks of my Sabbatical, I have been assisting at St. Ignatius Parish here in Mobile. There I have encountered 2 remarkable organizations that I would like to share with my readers. They are called the "Men of St. Joseph" and the "Daughters of Mary." Both were founded right here at St. Ignatius and grown beyond the parish. The principle forming these two organizations is quite simple: By staying close to the Lord and growing in His grace, we can be better men, husbands and fathers; or women, wives and mothers, respectively. Each is built around a weekly one-hour gathering for prayer, scripture, and reflection. The Men of St. Joseph "chapter"at St. Ignatius has a morning meeting on Tuesdays at 7 am and an evening gathering at 5:30 pm. The Daughters also meet twice on Tuesdays: at 9 am and at 6:30 pm. The structure is similar: a modified liturgy of the hours (the men use the prayers provided in the Magnificat) followed by an instruction based on the Gospel reading for the following Sunday. IN general, these reflections are prepared and presented by members of the organization - the same person usually presents at the morning and evening gatherings. Even in the summer, when many of St. Ignatius' parishioners are away, there were regularly more than 50 or 60 people at each of the gatherings. And, as a preacher, I was regularly blown away by the quality of the reflections offered by the lay men and women to their peers. The reflection or instruction lasts 10 or 15 minutes and is followed by a period of comments and sharing from the group. IN addition to these weekly gatherings, both the Men and the Daughters sponsor retreats and other faith formation opportunities for their members.
The Men of St. Joseph are about 5 years old and has spread throughout the Archdiocese of Mobile and beyond to nearly 60 parishes. They have a website: www.menofstjoseph.com. They are currently interviewing to hire an executive director and are making plans to continue growing and expanding.
The Daughters of Mary are about to celebrate their 3rd anniversary. They, too, have expanded to other parishes and dioceses. They are preparing a new website and also looking forward to future growth.
Based on discussions with members of both organizations, I would say that part of their success is the informality of their structure. While both have "membership lists" for communication, there are no dues, no formal declaration of membership, and few demands on participants. Leadership is volunteer and the leaders invite other participants to prepare the teaching. Anyone is invited to participate when they can. This having been said, I was impressed by the level of sharing and the commitment that exists in both groups at their founding parish.
I was able to attend several gatherings of both groups. The Men invited me to celebrate Mass for their annual summer retreat and the women invited me to offer the instruction at a Tuesday gathering. I was hesitant to accept the invitation of the Daughters because I so enjoyed the instruction I was getting from the lay women who took up the mantle of teacher each week I attended. St. Ignatius is a parish filled with educated professional with what I would call a greater-than-average level of faith formation. That means that the quality of the instruction and presentation is remarkable and I found myself in absolute awe each Tuesday I was able to attend. I am grateful for my contact with both of these fine organizations.
If you would like more information about the Men of St. Joseph, you can go directly to their website. If you'd like to know more about the Daughters of Mary, I would be happy to put you in touch with their leadership, just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
My multiple personality disorder is in full swing these days in Mobile: of course I am around family and friends who have known me forever and still call me "Chip" (and I would have it no other way). In the meantime, I am doing a lot of ministry, where I am "Father Bart." I am also doing a lot of final preparatory work for my overseas studies, all of which must be done in my legal name "James David." Circumstances of my life usually keep these identities pretty discrete from one another. It's enough to bring on a schizoid episode ;)