Baton Rouge man honored for cultivating faith formation among men

Posted February 19, 2016 at 12:00 am

The Catholic Commentator

Mark Hermann digs into the treasures of his own faith and family life to help supply other Catholic men with the resources they need to live better lives.

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Mark Hermann, back row, right, was nationally recognized by Paradisus Dei lay ministry for exemplifying the teachings of its ministry with its St. Joseph Award. Celebrating his achievement with him are back row, left, his wife, Leigh; front row, left, son Christopher, and daughter, Claire. Photo provided by Mark Hermann


He has seen the pope on three occasions, each time on American soil. He was a child in 1981 when St. John Paul II visited Fairbanks, Alaska when Hermann was living there. When the pontiff returned again in 1987, Hermann was living in New Orleans when he visited there.

“I felt the pope was always coming to see me,” said Hermann, who absorbed the pope’s messages about family life.

Now a husband, father and role model for Catholic men, Hermann, a member of Our Lady of Mercy Church in Baton Rouge, was nationally recognized for sowing seeds of faith and family life ministry in society by Paradisus Dei, a lay ministry, the international organization that introduced “That Man is You!” which presented him the St. Joseph Award as its Man of the Year.

Hermann’s faith started connecting with the Diocese of Baton Rouge when he was confirmed in 1990 at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Mandeville by Bishop Robert M. Muench, then auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Herman’s faith blossomed when he attended Christ the King Church and Catholic Center at LSU.

“I grew not only in being challenged by non-Catholics, I really gained a deeper appreciation of the sacraments,” said Hermann. He attended CTK after graduation because he had friends there, who introduced him to his wife, Leigh, who is also a cradle Catholic.

As they prepared for marriage, the couple attended an Engaged Encounter weekend.

“We were at different places in our faith journey. Engaged Encounter got us to realize the importance of the sacraments in our marriage,” Hermann said.

The couple continued to be involved with Engaged Encounter after they had their children, Christopher, 13, and Claire, 10.

“That (Engaged Encounter) for me was the foundation in my faith and family life ministry,” said Hermann. He was feeling confident about his marriage, especially compared with marriages across the rest of society. But God invited him to go deeper.

The Hermanns were newly weds and involved at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Baton Rouge when Father Miles Walsh, then pastor at Our Lady of Mercy, and Deacon Richard Grant invited Hermann to become involved with a new program produced by Paradisus Dei in Houston, Texas called “That Man is You!” founded by Steve Bollman.

TMIY is an interactive, multimedia men’s faith formation program focused upon the development of authentic male leadership. The program was only being presented in one church parish in Houston. Father Walsh and Deacon Grant introduced the program to the Baton Rouge area. OLOM was the first church parish outside of Houston to implement the TMIY.

“Father Walsh had a keen vision that women are at a different place in faith formation than men are,” Hermann said. “We’ve got to get the men right before we get marriages back on track and doing what they are supposed to do, being the leader of the domestic church, the center of our Catholic faith.”

Hermann was asked to serve on the core team for TMIY at OLOM.

“God helped me realize that I had a good faith foundation, good marriage, and that I was a good husband and father, but he had so much more in store for me and Leigh and our children,” said Hermann.

“TMIY gave me the chance to grow a relationship with guys who were powerful witnesses, but whom you can also entrust with issues. They hold you accountable for your faith and family life. I was really impacted,” he added.

“We were still involved in Engaged Encounter, which was helping. But the transformation that I was having individually through TMIY was definitely felt with Leigh. She saw a different man coming home in the evening, someone who was more selfless and less individually focused and more family focused.”

That strengthened bond fostered by TMIY allowed the Hermanns to do more witnessing to other couples. They are now involved in The Choice Wine Program, another Ministry of Paradisus Dei for married couples, and the Domestic Church, a lay ministry of couples that pray and read scriptures together as they share struggles and joys and faith journeys of family life. Mark Hermann was happy to see a pope for the third time, this time Pope Francis and with his wife in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. They spoke with others about the ministries of Paradisus Dei. He again absorbed the papal messages about the family. Hermann will see the pope again this summer when he and his family travel to Rome for the Year of Mercy.

Deacon Grant nominated Hermann for the St. Joseph Award, which is presented to the man who best exemplifies the ideals of TMIY. Hermann, who serves on the regional leadership team for TMIY, received the award at the Paradisus Dei annual gala at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston.

“Mark embodies all of the covenants of That Man is You!  We hold these seven covenants dear to us and we do our best to practice them daily, which Mark does,” said Deacon Grant. “Mark is a great husband, a great father … all because he is a great man – a man after God’s own heart.”

Father Todd Lloyd, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Lakeland who met Hermann while parochial Vicar at OLOM, said the values taught by TMIY is not something that Hermann has been doing “all year long” but has been doing “all his life.” He described Hermann as a “man’s man” in living out the Catholic faith and true servant leader.

Hermann said, “It (the award) is something we can be proud of as a faith community, not only at Mercy, but the diocese. We truly are forming men, we’re forming families to follow God, to follow the church to be authentic men, authentic families. It’s a beautiful thing to see the growth of the family.”