‘Silent saint’ inspires men to be spiritual leaders

Men of St. Joseph at St. Edward the Confessor, Richmond, discuss a Gospel reading. Deacon Kevin Hogan is first from the right. (Photo/Joe Staniunas)

As hazy sunlight began to shine through the sanctuary windows at Holy Spirit, Christiansburg, four men met to pray on the Monday before the Second Sunday of Lent.

They were beginning their work week with the psalms, antiphons and recitations of the Liturgy of the Hours, and a reading of the story of the Transfiguration, the Gospel reading they would hear in six days. The reader was Sam Swindell, a lawyer and retired Army officer. He and his companions are members of the Holy Spirit chapter of the Men of St. Joseph.

“This is how I face the beginning of the week, the first workday. I leave the rest of the household and come here with other Catholic men,” Swindell said. “We’re going to go out in the world and be surrounded by all the things in the world for the rest of the week. This is a way to share our reflections, pray together. The fellowship has been great.”

Across the state on Friday of that same week, about 20 members of another Men of St. Joseph chapter sat in a circle in the chapel of St. Edward the Confessor, in North Chesterfield. After reciting prayers from the “Magnificat” guide, group members began their reflections on next Sunday’s Gospel reading. Deacon Kevin Hogan prompted them with questions, sometimes calling on men who are shy to speak. Preparing for Sunday Mass is a big part of this particular ministry, but not all.

“It’s really about how to become better fathers, brothers, sons and husbands, and that’s the core to this thing,” Deacon Hogan said. For men whose schedules conflict with the morning meeting, Deacon Hogan has recently started a session one night a week at his home.

‘Men on a mission’

The chapters at St. Edward and Holy Spirit are two of the five in the Diocese of Richmond. The others are at St. Francis of Assisi, Staunton; Church of the Resurrection, Portsmouth; and St. John the Apostle, Virginia Beach. Established and organized by the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama, in 2011, Men of St. Joseph now includes groups in 23 states and six countries.

Many parishes have ministries for men – Bible study groups, fellowship outings, and Knights of Columbus chapters. The Men of St. Joseph movement focuses not on service or a curriculum, but one hour of reading, prayer and discussion each week. It’s open to men who are married or single, though one of its main aims is to help men be the spiritual leaders of their families and strengthen their family’s relationship to Christ.

Joe Mizell has been part of the Men of St. Joseph group at St. Edward for about a year, though he’s been a parishioner for more than 35 years.

“This is the maintenance that I do for myself. I come in, adjust my perspective, go on and take on the week,” he said.

As a member of St. Edward for about 20 years, Tony Knorr has seen these men at Mass, but didn’t really know them until joining the group a year ago.

“When you’re sitting at church you might have ideas of who they are,” he said. “You see them with their families, and you might have pre-conceived ideas and then you come in here and, wow! To see this guy, I wouldn’t have expected him to come up with that idea or that thought.”

Phil Sido appreciates the trust that has developed among these men. “Men praying together is so powerful,” he said. “I think, as you can see, everyone has an opinion and it’s just a comfortable place where men can feel the support of each other, too, and that’s what I like.”

The men involved in the chapter at Holy Spirit shared similar thoughts.

“It’s really good and amazing for men to get together with other men in the community,” said James Swindell, Sam’s son. “It helps Catholic men form each other, get better in our faith.”

Micah Pasquarel, one of the original members of this group, has four children. He said the temptation for many men is to make Sunday a day of some prayer and concentrate on other things the rest of the week.

“If you start your week with fraternity, with reading the Word, praying with the Church and for the Church, you’ve started on such a good note,” he said. As he spoke, he kept an eye on a potential recruit – his toddler, John. “It sets me up for success, helps me to remain mindful.”

Zach Conger is married but has no children yet. “It’s just a different feeling to be with a group of men on a mission,” he said. “And the St. Joseph portion of that is like you’re the head of household, you’re in charge of your family, so prayer feels more solemn.”

(Left to right): Zach Conger, James Swindell, Micah Pasquarel and Sam Swindell, all members of Men of St. Joseph at Holy Spirit, Christiansburg, share reflections on a reading. (Photo/Joe Staniunas)

Man of no words

Another ritual at a Men of St. Joseph meeting is prayer for intentions. At St. Edward, the men mention a relative facing a serious operation; a couple married over 50 years who is struggling to stay together; fathers estranged from their children.

“It’s been a very important ministry to me personally,” said Carl Tarantino, an original member and coordinator for the group at St. Edward, as well as a diocesan representative for Men of St. Joseph. “I wasn’t there for my three children when they were very young. I felt I couldn’t give back to them, but this is something to promote fatherhood to current fathers or even future fathers.”

In the New Testament, St. Joseph is a man of no words. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the spouse with the quotes that faithful Catholics have pondered and cherished for thousands of years. But the portrayal of St. Joseph as a strong and faithful husband and foster father continues to inspire these Catholic men and many others as they gather each week in their patron’s name.

“He was a quiet leader,” said Deacon Hogan. “He protected Mary and Jesus. He was spoken to in dreams, by angels, and he obeyed. All these things are things we are called to do as men.”


Anyone interested in forming a chapter of Men of St. Joseph, after consulting with his parish pastor, is welcome to contact Carl Tarantino at [email protected].


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