It’s not long after dawn on a Saturday morning and the parking lot of Most Holy Trinity Church in Saco is already filling up. One after another, men emerge from cars and pickups. There to greet them is Ken Greenleaf.
“Good morning! How’s it going?” he says to each of them.
The men are there to participate in “That Man is You” (TMIY), a program that aims to help Catholic men develop as leaders in their families, parishes, and communities by strengthening their relationship with God. The program was developed by Paradisus Dei, an independent Catholic lay ministry based in Houston, Texas.
TMIY has been offered at Good Shepherd Parish for the past four years. Ken says he was moved to the start the group after attending the diocese’s Catholic Men’s Conference and hearing Deacon Ralph Poyo speak about Catholic male leadership.
“When he started talking about male leadership and the Catholic faith, I realized that there was a void there. So, when I left that conference, I knew that I wanted to do something in our parish,” he says.
He learned of TMIY while watching EWTN.
“I said that I think this is something I can do because the program is all put together for you. It tells you best practices, how to run it, so I got a hold of Father Dan Baillargeon, who was our parochial vicar at the time, and it got rolling.”
Dave Dube, who is from Arundel, stepped forward to help.
“I was always involved in whatever Bible studies were being offered, but I had a yearning to even bring that further. A need to get together as Catholic men was always, kind of, pulling at me. So, when this came about, it was almost like an answer to a prayer,” he says.
Each TMIY gathering has three elements: social time with breakfast; a DVD presentation by Steve Bollman, the program’s founder; and small group discussion. At the conclusion of the program in Saco, some of the men also gather in the chapel to recite the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The program starts on time and is strictly kept to under 90 minutes.
TMIY is divided into 13-week semesters, each focused on authentic male leadership but with a specific theme. The current session at Most Holy Trinity is on the journey from sinner to saint.
“‘That Man is You’ is about a personal encounter with Jesus Christ so that Jesus Christ can transform your life,” Bollman tells the men in the DVD presentation. “What is inherent in that is the ability to hear His voice and to follow it.”
“In this program, there is something for everyone,” says Ken. “Wherever you are in your relationship with Christ, this program pulls you forward, closer to Christ.”
“The program does an awesome job at bringing together Scripture, teaching us about the saints. It brings together the sciences, the social sciences, and it puts everything together so anybody who attends comes away with something,” says Dave. “Maybe someone’s not in tune with Scripture all that much or doesn’t get much out of the data and the social sciences, but the way they wrap everything together really makes it effective.”
“It’s about living your faith in today’s world, which is very difficult,” adds Ken. “If you’re trying to lead, and you don’t necessarily have all the tools to lead, you’re going to have some hard times there. What this does is give you those tools so you can become that natural leader.”
While Ken says he wondered at first whether men would give up a Saturday morning to participate, he followed the program’s advice and put his trust in the Holy Spirit.
“Put the program on, and whatever comes, comes,” he says.
On this day, approximately forty men came, some for the first time, others who have been attending since the beginning.
“It’s something that every guy in the parish and in the community really should be involved in,” says Stephen St. Cyr of Biddeford. “It’s a good place to reinforce the values that we learned as we grew up and that we need to continue to practice today.”
“I had one parishioner who said, ‘You have to come. You have to come.’ And I said, ‘Oh, it’s so early in the morning,’” says Deacon Kevin Jacques. “Finally, my wife said, ‘Go. Go to the thing. You’ll enjoy it.’ So, I went, and I’m hooked. It’s the most incredible program and group of men. The material that they’ve chosen – it’s almost like it can’t get better, and yet, it gets better.”
While the men say the DVD presentations offer valuable guidance, most say the greatest benefit comes from the discussion groups. They say it’s a chance to share in a way that men often don’t.
“I get inspiration from that, and I try to also give feedback to others and, hopefully, inspire them,” says John Hebert of Dayton. “It’s very strengthening because they have the same difficulties in life that I do, so I recognize that it’s not just me.”
“I like the camaraderie. It’s a group where you can talk and people support you,” says Deacon Kevin. “They talk about their faith, and they talk about how they can be examples to their families and to the community and how they can lead by example. Just looking at men of different ages talking about that, it’s cool.”
The men say their participation in the group has given them a new circle of friends.
“You see some of these guys, whether it’s at church or downtown, and it’s like, ‘Hey buddy, how’s it going?’ They’re your friend. You can talk with them differently than your coworkers,” says Dave.
They say TMIY has changed the way they approach their daily lives and the way they deal with some of the everyday challenges they face.
“I’m a mechanic, and it’s a tough environment, but it helps me to understand the other side,” says Gerry Doyon of Lyman. “When I come here, I have the strength to deal with people. It strengthens me through the Spirit, so that I can go there and be compassionate.”
“I’ve sunk into my head the fact that there is forgiveness. There is mercy, so whatever guilt I was carrying before is no longer there. There is a peace of mind. There is a solace. I feel a better connection with my Savior. There has always been a purpose in life, but the focus seems to be different now. It’s not so much about me. It’s more about what I can do to help other people, help the parish,” says Rene Fecteau of Biddeford.
“It’s helped me to be a better father, a better husband, a better son and, hopefully, a better friend and parishioner,” says Dave.
The men say TMIY has led to greater parish and community involvement, including participation in perpetual adoration, in the parish’s monthly hour of power, in catechesis and youth ministry, and in the Knights of Columbus.
“The men are there to support whatever needs to be supported,” says Deacon Kevin. “If this group was in every cluster, I think there would be a totally different attitude in the parishes.”
The men would like nothing better than to see TMIY spread throughout the diocese. There is also a group at the Parish of the Holy Eucharist in Falmouth and one started this fall at Saint Paul the Apostle Parish in Bangor. There is also an active men’s group, which has used TMIY in the past, at Prince of Peace Parish in Lewiston.
“My goal is to have it happen throughout the whole state because if men become Catholic leaders, it will change our diocese,” says Ken. “For me, the bottom line question is, ‘What is Christ calling us to do as men? What is our role?’ And this group helps to answer that.”