When Father Chris Martin invited a group of 12 men from St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Ellisville to hang out at the rectory several years ago, none of them quite knew what to expect.
For the first hour or so, the guys — definitely not close friends, but familiar to one another through the parish — socialized over glasses of whiskey by a fire pit on the rectory patio. Toward the end of the gathering, Father Martin called all of them into the kitchen to pray together. He posed this question:
What do you desire of your parish or me as your pastor?
There was an ice-breaker response before the men started to open up. One asked God to increase his vulnerability and accountability toward the faith, especially among other men. That opened the floodgates.
What was meant to be a simple gathering turned into a four-hour discussion among the men on a variety of topics, including their careers, marriages, families and even the so-called “impostor syndrome” that some experience.
“I don’t know that any of us would say we were a super comfortable group when we first got together,” said J.C. Rudden. “We all had our own relationships with each other, and with Father Martin, but he brought us together.”
October 2019 was the first meeting of what came to be known as “Whiskey Wednesdays.” Every month, the group meets — including some virtual meetings during the height of the pandemic — at someone’s house to share a few adult beverages, but more importantly, their faith in an intentional way.
Father Martin, who has since left St. Clare to become the archdiocese’s vicar for strategic planning, had an end goal in mind: to create disciples out of the men, so that they can be sent forth to share their faith with others.
“One of the themes is, what can we do to challenge ourselves to be better and live (our faith) deeper and share that” with others, said Jason Rubel.
The men have slightly adjusted their schedule, meeting now on Monday evenings. So even though the name Whiskey Wednesdays doesn’t really apply anymore (Perhaps they could call it Martini Mondays?), the intention is still the same. The men talk about their experiences of sharing the faith, especially with people outside of the parish community. For many of them, that happens most often in the workplace.
At one of their first meetings, Rudden, who works in IT, talked to the guys about disclosing faith in the workplace. It was something he had been struggling with. One of them asked, “Do you stop and say prayers at a business lunch, for example?”
“We’re all very intentional about doing it with our families, but at work, God is a different thing?” Rudden asked himself and the group.
At work several years ago, Rudden was preparing his self-evaluation. As part of the process, he typically shares what he wrote with one of his direct reports for review and to hold him accountable.
“His feedback was, there’s a lot of ‘blessed,’ and there’s a lot of ‘thankful.’ Are you sure you want to submit this?”
Rudden realized that up until that moment, he was intentionally removing God from his work — and his own self-evaluation. “I don’t know where it came from, but it hurt that this was something I was doing intentionally.” As a result, several of his co-workers began putting faith into the context of their own self-evaluations.
Rudden also did another thing: He placed a crucifix in his office for the first time. That has sparked some positive conversations with co-workers. “I realized it was just a place where I owe everything to my faith, so I should be more open about sharing it. I don’t walk around the office Bible thumping, but I also don’t hide it anymore.”
As the men are finding themselves more engaged in the faith, they’re beginning to sense God calling them to something more. They’ve already begun discussing the possibility of spreading out to create more disciples of the men of the parish.
“There’s a need for more. When guys hear there’s a group like this, they’re interested,” said Greg Guntli.
“People make the excuse that they can’t be an ‘uber Catholic,’ but this group is a perfect example of a normal group of guys who understand our roles as husbands and fathers,” said Darrell Jacobs. “We’re just trying to get our families to heaven, encourage one another and hold each other accountable.”
"We’re just trying to get our families to heaven, encourage one another and hold each other accountable.”
>> Evangelization toolbox
Preparing for Mission evangelization guidebook from the Archdiocese of St. Louis: https://stlreview.com/3wPOoXE
Evangelization 101 video series, produced by the Archdiocese of St. Louis: https://vimeo.com/669461713
Go and Make Disciples: A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States, from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: https://stlreview.com/35oJ9CJ
Revive Parishes Evangelization Training: https://reviveparishes.com/stl
Archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Discipleship: https://stlreview.com/3IUfxL4