A young father turns to drinking and throwing himself into his work to avoid responsibilities at home. He seeks change and turns to a church right behind his workplace.
A college-aged man, led by the example of his father, wants to become a positive Christian role model to other young people as he studies to become a teacher.
And a third man, having moved around the country for work, settles down with his family but seeks a space where he can authentically share his faith with like-minded men.
Secular culture provides challenges to all three men. But they have found solace in the Community of Transcendent Men, a ministry that helps men to transcend and grow deeper in faith and their relationship with Christ.
In 25 years of priesthood, Father Larry Huber has counseled many married couples. He recognizes the importance of building up men in their roles as spiritual leaders within their families, their Church and their communities. Men need a community of like-minded men, where they can openly share their faith and transcend through building a relationship with Christ and following the teachings of Christ and His Church, he said. It was the vision he had when he and several others began the community in 2016.
“In this culture, it takes so much adult and masculine presence to raise Christian children in an anti-Christian world,” Father Huber said. “We’re losing our children from the faith, because we’re trying to do it ourselves.”
Community of the faithful
On a September evening at St. Joseph Church in Imperial, about 50 men met at the parish hall to hear Father James Mason, president-rector of Kenrick Glennon Seminary, talk on the topic of “holy indifference.”
With beers and snacks before them, the men listened intently, some taking notes, as Father Mason told them that they cannot allow the circumstances of their lives to define themselves. We can be at peace no matter what’s going on in our lives, as long as we turn our trust to the Lord.
“We’re pinched when we lose control,” he said. “But that’s a good pinch because it’s a pinch that turns me to Christ.”
To emphasize the point, Father Mason, a runner, shared how an injured Achilles tendon had slowed him down. On top of that, he was planning a 30-day retreat and stressing whether the seminary would be able to have in-person classes because of the pandemic.
“It was a tough summer, but did God teach me something in it? You bet He did. He slowed me down a lot. But He teaches us to be with Him in that. We all have to do difficult things every day. Do you bring that to prayer? That’s a holy indifference because you’re not denying the Lord.”
Afterward, the men discussed what they had heard, with conversations shifting to their own life experiences. It’s this type of fellowship that’s at the heart of the Community of Transcendent Men, said Father Huber.
“We want them to recognize they’re part of a team,” said Father Huber, who with several others got the group off the ground when he was pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Arnold. “One of the traps that married men fall into is that they try to deal with family or other situations by themselves and that is a recipe for disaster. We want them to be a better Christian influence in to our world, and to do so we have to be an army of men — a community of men.”
The group started with a small gathering of men, first at Immaculate Conception in Arnold and then expanding to include guys from Our Lady Parish in Festus. A few years prior, Father Huber approached longtime friend Mark Benson, a member of Our Lady, who also was Father Huber’s football coach at Valle Catholic High School in Ste. Genevieve in the 1980s. The priest planted the idea that he wanted to grow a community of solid, Catholic men that Benson would be proud to have his own daughter marry one of them someday.
Benson was all in.
Several years ago, Benson went to a men’s ACTS retreat at his parish. “That was the first time I was ever around a group of men where it was OK to talk about something important,” he said. “We didn’t have to just talk about sports or other silly stuff.” When Father Huber approached him about starting a men’s group, Benson connected the dots. “What we’re about is asking men to step up and become the spiritual leaders in our homes.”
Some of the fruits of the ministry include hearing the stories of their members’ spiritual growth as well as how they take that beyond their community, becoming more involved in their parishes. It’s a response to a call to action, which is another part of CTM’s mission.
Matt Mayer of Immaculate Conception in Arnold said that the guys are all in different places in their spiritual journeys, and that’s OK. It’s how they respond to that call that is important. “When I was younger, I’d go to a conference that was really good, and my spiritual director would say, ‘Well now what are you going to do?’ You have to have some kind of call to action or there won’t be any fruit.”
CTM currently meets at St. Joseph Parish in Imperial and has grown to include upwards of 275 men from more than 30 parishes, with most of them coming from parishes along the I-55 corridor.
Father Huber, who now serves at St. Gerard Majella in Kirkwood, said he hopes to expand the community’s mission to other parts of the archdiocese. CTM has since been incorporated as a nonprofit organization, with a volunteer leadership team that is hoping to further the fruits of the community.
“We need to sharpen each other and to have a better masculine presence,” Father Huber said. “Our women deserve better than that we are offering them.”
Logan Santschi was raised in a devout Baptist household. But by the time he turned 18 and moved out to go to college, religion was no longer a priority. At 21, he married Brittany, a girl he’d known from his church. Three months into their marriage, Brittany was pregnant with their first child.
It was a lot at a young age, and Logan didn’t know how to handle it. “I became a selfish jerk without knowing it,” he said. A general manager at a fast-food restaurant, Logan threw himself into his work. He also was drinking and going out with his guy friends after work. “I was choosing fraternity with the guys and work over family,” he said. “It didn’t register at the time. It was just life.”
Logan came across an article featuring actor Mark Wahlberg, who described how the disciplines of his Catholic faith and fitness helped him to become a better person. Logan wondered if returning to the faith would help his own situation. Now working two jobs, Logan decided to visit Immaculate Conception Church in Arnold. It was a choice of convenience — he worked at a Walmart Supercenter just a stone’s throw from the church.
After Mass, Logan would talk to then-pastor, Father Larry Huber, who told him about the Community of Transcendent Men. He started going to meetings, and was inspired to sign up for RCIA classes. But Logan still wasn’t settled and considered leaving RCIA. At one of the meetings, he heard another sponsor reading from the Gospel of Matthew, in which Christ entrusts His Church to Peter:
”And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19).
Something spoke to his heart: Get on board, or get out. The message had been received in his head, but now he was hearing it in his heart.
He came home and asked Brittany for forgiveness. “There was a long period of healing and growing as a family,” he said. Brittany had mixed feelings about him becoming Catholic, but she liked the turn her husband was taking with his life. At the Easter Vigil in 2018, Logan entered the Church.
The Santschis now have three children — John Wayne, 5; Jesse, 4; and Olivia, 1. Logan can’t imagine life without them. And he’s grateful for a new fraternity of men with whom he can openly share his faith.
“These guys are willing to say harder things in love,” said Santschi, who now attends St. Francis de Sales Oratory with his family.. “I learned that it doesn’t benefit to lie and leave people as they are. CTM has been a big boon to my spiritual life and relationship with Christ.”
Caleb Ten Eyck
Caleb Ten Eyck knew that if he didn’t go to a Catholic university, his faith would be put at risk. Young adulthood is a formative time, when a person’s faith becomes their own, no longer under the guidance of parents.
So he set out for a Catholic college in Texas, further developing a relationship with Christ, his prayer life and understanding of his faith. He considered seminary but had to leave college to go to work. His dad, who was in construction, got him a job, working his way into becoming a pipefitter.
Caleb moved to South Dakota for a teaching job at a vocational tech school. He joined a parish in Watertown, South Dakota, and volunteered to teach catechism to adolescents. It was there that he met another catechist, Sheila, and the two began dating.
After they married, Caleb knew that his income would not be enough to support a new family. So they bought a camper and hit the road, with him taking on pipefitting jobs all over the country. It was an adventure, he said, but there were long hours, and that often meant being away from his new bride.
From the time Caleb and Sheila were dating, they made a point to pray together every night. In person. On the phone. It didn’t matter where. It was a priority. “That continued into our marriage,” Caleb said. “It helped a lot of times where we felt like we were in survival mode. That daily prayer was our lifeline — literally — to Christ.”
Caleb eventually got a job as a pipefitter in St. Louis, and they bought a house in Festus. He searched for a faith community where he could connect with other like-minded men. “In college, being a strong Catholic man was something that was pounded into me,” he said. “It was hard to find at first. I was looking for myself but also my family. If I’m not a strong Catholic man, then there’s no way I can lead our family, and that structure will break down.”
One day while at Mass at Our Lady in Festus, Father Jeffrey Maassen invited the men of the parish to attend an ACTS retreat. It was there that Caleb met several guys who were involved with the Community of Transcendent Men. Being part of the community now, he said, he sees a higher standard that the men set for each other.
“Am I going to confession on a regular basis? Am I praying daily and actively seeking to learn the faith? It holds me to a higher standard than I could hold myself to,” he said. On the flip side, other guys in CTM look up to Caleb — even men who are his senior — for his knowledge of the faith.
Now a father of two children — 5-year-old Cabhan and 3-year-old Brigid — the Ten Eycks drive to St. Louis to attend the Traditional Latin Mass at the Oratory of Sts. Gregory and Augustine. Prayer is a part of the family’s daily routine. After a bedtime story, Caleb tucks in the children, sometimes singing a Catholic hymn to them.
“It’s easy to think my role as a father only affects my family,” he said. “When I am a good father, it has universal implications. It affects the guys I work with, that I go to Mass with. Whether or not they know that, it has an effect.”
Dave and Christian Dugan
“The more you know, the more you love. And the more you love, the more you want to know about Christ,” Dave Dugan said.
An ACTS retreat prompted Dave, a member of Our Lady in Festus, to think about the direction his faith life was headed. A convert to Catholicism more than three decades ago, Sunday Masses and prayer before meals have been part of the Dugan family’s routine, but for Dave, that was about the extent of his involvement as a Catholic.
Being surrounded by other men on that ACTS retreat in 2017, Dave realized the importance of helping his family get to heaven. And as the husband and father of the family, he recognized all the more how important his role was in facilitating that.
“I was not the best at articulating the faith,” he said. “I wanted to be visibly active. I wanted to start doing things that helped my kids see that Dad took his faith seriously.”
Not long after ACTS, Dave learned about the Community of Transcendent Men and started going to the monthly gatherings. About six months into it, his son, Christian, now 20, started tagging along with his dad. The two will often discuss what they learned on the car ride home. Being one of the youngest attendees, Christian said he enjoys hearing the perspectives of the older guys in the group.
Christian Dugan saw how his dad “kicked his butt in gear” after the ACTS retreat. And it made an impression upon him. Years prior, the younger Dugan described an epiphany in his own faith life. While at a friend’s house for a sleepover, he woke up the next morning with an overwhelming feeling that he could not miss Mass.
Christian is studying at college to become an elementary school teacher, and said he wants to be a role model for other young people. He’s acutely aware that CTM is “lifting up men as leaders in their families. It’s a community helping other men transcend to Christ.”
Most people experience ups and downs in their faith life, and Christian is no exception. Having a supportive community helps in holding one another accountable. “The important thing for me is learning to be more Christ-like,” he said. “I want people to see Jesus through me.”
To learn more about the Community of Transcendent Men, visit catholicctm.org.