By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator 

A low-key evening of good food, drink and socializing is the key that opens men up to the depths of what is going on in their minds and souls, say organizers of the Ascension Men Evangelizing Now (AMEN) organization. 

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Paul Braud and Keith Beaucoudray are part of a group of friends from Ascension civil parish area churches St. Mark and St. Theresa of Avila, both in Gonzales, St. John the Evangelist Church in Prairieville and Holy Rosary Church in St. Amant. The men visit each other’s parishes and hang out together. 

Braud, a member of Holy Rosary, said the men were aware that each parish has its own men’s Bible study groups and men’s organizations, but they were thinking “wouldn’t it be nice if we could get the men of our parishes together on a quarterly basis for Mass, dinner, fellowship and to let each other know what’s going on in our parishes?” 

The men and their wives were part of a group of people from Ascension parish that traveled together on a Caribbean cruise. Braud, director of maintenance at St. Mark, and Beaucoudray, director of administration at St. Mark, and others pulled together a Bible study while on the ship. 

Relaxed from their time on the water and sand when the group returned they discussed the possibility of men’s quarterly meetings and said, “Let’s do it.” Shortly after a core group for AMEN was formed. 

Ninety men showed up for the first meeting at St. Mark and that number grew to where there were about 150 when they met at St. John. Men from other parishes, including St. Anne Church in Sorrento, have even joined in the get togethers. Bishop Michael G. Duca even attended one gathering. 

COVID-19 has prevented the men from meeting during the spring and summer, but they are eagerly looking forward to the time when they will meet again because they see the value of social time in men’s lives. 

“The idea was to see if some synergy could be applied to the spirituality of the men – the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts,” said core member Joe Henn, who attends St. Theresa. He describes the group as a “work in progress by the Holy Spirit.” 

Henn said the attendees pray for the men in their parishes as well as the civil authorities and people in their area. 

Though their intentions are to have serious growth in their spiritual lives, having a good time is also a priority. 

“This is a joyful group of men,” said Henn. “We get together and have a good time. We talk about our vulnerabilities.” 

St. John core member Fritz Englade Jr. said, “We keep the gatherings social so the men won’t be intimidated. Some people who attend church on a regular basis are not actively involved in their parish outside of Mass so we try to get the men involved socially. There’s no ulterior motive – just a good wholesome time.” 

The gatherings, however, have resulted in men becoming more active in their parishes. 

A self-described social person, Englade said the evenings are also an opportunity to invite men who don’t regularly attend Mass to enter into community. 

“It’s a way for me to say, ‘Hey what are you doing (the meeting night)?’ Do you want get together with some good men, learn a little bit about the faith, have a couple of beers and go home?’ Maybe get them to drop barriers they have about the Catholic faith,” said Englade. 

“When you pull a bunch of men together, we find that we all have the same problems,” he added. “It helps to know that other people are having the same problem … death of a loved one, divorce, the dynamics of a split family.” 

He noted that men are often taught they have to be “tough” and “be the provider” and not be vulnerable. 

“But when you are in the room with the men you find it’s okay to let those walls down and share and know that others have the same issues. It helps to know Jesus is in the room,” he said. 

Beaucoudray agreed, saying “I think it makes men stronger to do the right thing out there.” 

The support received from AMEN, in turn, can help men take on more responsibility in their churches and families. 

“It’s time to bring back that leadership to the family,” said Beaucoudray.