Two and a half years ago, Billy Baker’s article in Boston Globe magazine about middle-aged men and the loneliness they face touched a nerve in American culture. In plain English, Baker summed up what researchers have known for years – that the lack of meaningful friendships among American males is a health risk. Our parish men are lonely.
Is the Catholic Church in America responding? Yes and no. The Knights of Columbus have long been a formal organization that promotes male friendships, but given that Millennials aren’t really joiners, your parish can’t leave it to the Knights and move on to other things. Here are a few less formal ways your parish could promote healthy friendships among male parishioners:
- Informal activities that are always available: A parish in Minnesota has a Saturday morning pickup basketball game for men. A small number of parishioners keep the event going, curate the email list, and make sure the gym doors are unlocked every morning, but that’s about it. There are no membership fees or requirements beyond showing up.
- Accomplishing something meaningful: It might be yardwork around the parish or fixing up neighbors’ homes a little, but giving men tasks to accomplish together creates good memories and ultimately friendship.
- Acknowledging the good in everyday activities: Pair natural goods – sports, food, movies, and so on – with supernatural goods. A parish in Missouri has a regular activity night for men that introduces them to something good (for example, a craft beer tasting) and pairs it with a brief reflection on the supernatural goods associated with it (hard work, craftsmanship, truth, beauty, goodness, etc.)
By implementing one or more of these ideas, you’ll be well on your way to fighting the good fight and helping men build lasting friendships in your church. Parish men are lonely – but you can help!