Hundreds at Catholic men’s breakfast in Christchurch

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A Catholic men’s breakfast on May 13 has seen a record number of men attend, with all being hungry for one thing: real food. And not only a good old Kiwi bacon and eggs breakfast.

The breakfast, organised by Christchurch diocese, was attended by some 200 men, who travelled to Sacred Heart church in Addington to receive spiritual food from Christchurch Bishop Michael Gielen, and to meet like-minded men, to explore how they could be part of the life of the Church.

“There’s a real yearning out there at the moment, let’s face it, the world is getting more and more bonkers every day,” said Dr Chris Pemberton, one of the organisers and a parishioner in Christchurch South parish.

Dr Pemberton, with many other men who were at the breakfast, belongs to a growing St Joseph’s consecration and rosary group that started for men two and a half years ago. The group is now consistently attracting more than 30 men, with three quarters of those who’ve done the consecration being 35 years old or younger.

“So, there’s a real desire there. It’s really heartening,” Dr Pemberton said.

The men are bonding and belonging at those groups, which have become the springboard for bolder plans envisioned for the future growth of Catholic men in the diocese. The breakfast event was one of them.

Jonny Hutchison, a member of the consecration to St Joseph’s group, has been a Catholic for more than four years. He said that men need the support of each other through the likes of consecration groups, which he wants to see more of.

“A smallish group of 25 members is beneficial because, on a personal level, we can help each other in our faith”.

The father of six says that the hard truth is that he and his family have to swim against the tide of secularism, in a world that isn’t focused on God. He says that it’s hard trying to encourage and support his younger boys to grow more deeply with Christ.

“It’s hard to get them to connect as much to find their own faith.

“The more you can normalise your faith with your kids, it is better. Even going to Catholic schools and going to Mass every Sunday is a rarity amongst their peers, which is not really a good trend to see.

“To see this many men come in to listen to this talk with the bishop is really positive, I was reasonably surprised”, Mr Hutchison said.

Dr Pemberton said that many men today are searching for meaning and purpose, whether they’re committed Christians, Catholics, or of some other background. He said that the half-committed Catholics are making better decisions, and are choosing to return, serve, and be part of the Church.

“But the way the world is going, they’re going: ‘hang on a minute, I look at what’s happening there, and the Church is clearly better than [the chaos of the world], so I am going to double down on what I am already doing’.”

He said that men want to give to the Church.

“They’re looking to give of themselves in a way where they think it’s going to be most beneficial and, at the same time, it’s going to be acknowledged.”

He, with two other men, including Catholic speaker Brendan Malone, approached Christchurch Bishop Michael Gielen asking for support for a gathering of men in the diocese.

“And [the bishop] just said, I’ve been waiting for this, and he’s a big supporter of this kind of thing, and it just went on from there.”

The director of the Bishop’s Pastoral Office at Christchurch diocese, Mike Stopforth, was “thrilled” at the very good turnout for the breakfast.

“We were not sure how many would attend, and have been pleased with the response. I have had a number of comments from people impressed with the number of young men who have come.  We look forward to seeing how this initiative under the patronage of St Joseph grows.”

Bishop Gielen said that, to be with so many men of different ages, cultures and backgrounds, is inspiring.

“A lot of the men said they appreciate gathering with other like-minded people, like other Catholic brothers, yeah, it was really inspiring,” Bishop Gielen said.

“We all want to walk together in every aspect of life, you don’t want to walk alone, so if you’ve got faith, you want other people with faith to walk with.”

Bishop Gielen unveiled a statue of St Joseph, made in the Holy Land from olive wood, as part of the diocese’s initiative to further strengthen and expand the St Joseph’s consecration practice within households.

The consecration to St Joseph is a fairly recent practice, which emerged and was made popular after Pope Francis declared 2020 to be the year of St Joseph. Many churches, families and individuals began taking more notice of the saint, and honoured him in prayer, reverence, and consecration.

Dr Pemberton hopes that the breakfast becomes an annual event where hundreds more men would turn up.

He encourages men to find a St Joseph consecration group and get involved.

In a post on Christchurch diocese’s Facebook page after the breakfast, Bishop Gielen said that “it was a joy to gather with over 200 men this morning at the diocese men’s breakfast”.

“We are all called to support each other, like St Joseph, through prayer and service,” Bishop Gielen said.

“To the women of our diocese, watch this space! A similar function is being organised for women.”

NZ Catholic understands that, in a few weeks time, Christchurch diocese will make available 125 copies of “Consecration to St Joseph” by Fr Don Calloway, MIC, for those who are interested in being consecrated.

(Photo: Mina Amso)

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