Deacon Martin Dinan, who has been pondering the question of ‘Where are the men in the church?’ for
some time, has brought the ‘That Man is You!’ ministry to St. Pius X Parish. The highly-successful ministry brings men of all ages to the church to talk about their faith and family. (Robert Roemer photos)
Deacon Martin Dinan, who has been pondering the question of ‘Where are the men in the church?’ for some time, has brought the ‘That Man is You!’ ministry to St. Pius X Parish. The highly-successful ministry brings men of all ages to the church to talk about their faith and family. (Robert Roemer photos)
On this cold and foggy, early Friday morning in October, there were no shortage of cars in the parking lot at St. Pius X Parish in Loudonville. At 6 a.m., SUVs and trucks continued to ­arrive.

One after one, men of varying ages — and most drinking coffee — got out of their cars, breathed out the cold air, and headed into the parish’s auditorium. It was still dark outside, but they were going inside the church to find some warmth and enlightenment.

But just what exactly were all these guys, numbering near 70 in total, doing here and at this hour? They were there for St. Pius’ newest men’s ministry called “That Man is You! (TMIY),” which is geared toward bringing men into communion to talk about their lives as brothers, fathers and husbands guided by the Gospel.

TMIY is the brainchild of an organization out of Texas called “Paradisus Dei,” which was started in 2001 by Steve Bollman “to help families discover the superabundance of God within marriage and family life,” according to their website. According to Bollman, TMIY “honestly addresses the pressures and temptations that men face in our modern culture, especially those relating to their roles as husbands and fathers. The program harmonizes current social and medical science with the teachings of the Church and the wisdom of the saints to develop the vision of man fully alive!”

The program at St. Pius starts every Friday at 6 a.m., with coffee and a light breakfast, then, at 6:30, the group watches a video — this particular morning the topic was “Attaining Clarity of Thought” — and Bollman, who narrates the videos, uses specific verses in the Bible to bring home his point. After the video, the guys break down into smaller groups of between 7-10 and, guided by a team leader, answer questions related to the video. The questions the groups discussed that morning were: “In what ways do you find God dwelling in the midst of your marriage and family life?” and “In what ways do you manifest Christ to your wife and children?”

There was an honesty and openness of discussion that you normally don’t see with a bunch of men — and this is strictly a men’s-only ministry — sitting around talking about their faith, family and feelings. And everything is confidential; whatever is said at St. Pius stays at St. Pius. And by 7:30, the guys are out the door for work or, if they are retired, headed to the golf course or the fishing boat.

And you can thank Deacon Martin Dinan, who has been pondering the question of “Where are the men in the church?” for quite some time, for bringing the program to St. Pius.

“It started when I took a class at St. Bernard’s for my master’s,” Dinan said. “Nancy Volks was teaching at the time and I wrote a paper that was called ‘The New Emangelization,’ — not evangelization but emangelization — and she about fell out of her chair when I did my presentation. One of the things that always intrigued me was, ‘Where’s the men in the church?’ You don’t see a lot of guys.”

During his research, Dinan found out about Paradisus Dei and the TMIY program, which he included in his paper and thought at the time “if I ever get an opportunity to do something once I am ordained a deacon, I will present this.”

That opportunity came at St. Pius.

“When I got with Father (Jim) Walsh a year ago and was assigned here, he talked to me and said, ‘I would love to do a men’s ministry,’ ” Dinan said. “He said if you notice, that’s the one thing lacking even in our big church. So I showed this to him and he said, ‘That might be it.’ ”

Dinan said “there are 93 guys registered and I have been averaging around 67 a week attending.” The program, the only one in the Diocese, is broken down into two semesters — 13 weeks in the fall and 13 weeks in the spring — and it generally follows the Church calendar. There is also an app that entrants can download and watch any missed videos. The program is not free to St. Pius, and they are currently running a modest fall appeal campaign.

The program has impressed Father Walsh.

“TMIY has helped accomplish two things for our men. First, some men can tend to sleepwalk through their faith lives. This program challenges men to go deeper into their faith and to become more authentic disciples of Christ,” Father Walsh said via email.

“Second, men tend not to talk about their faith, especially with other men. And yet, most men are facing similar challenges in life: stress, relationship and employment challenges to name a few. TMIY allows men to gain the insight and support of other men experiencing (or who have experienced) similar challenges.”

Dinan added TMIY fulfills a spiritual need that he could not find with other organizations he has been a part of.

“I am a fourth-degree Knights of Columbus and it just seemed that they are more focused on raising money and doing good things, not so much the spirituality part,” Dinan said. “Then there was a group called The King’s Men, which I was in for a while (and) I got distracted by it more than anything. Then when I found this thing, I was like ‘Whoa!’ The videos are done, everything for me to organize was very simple. The training was simple, it was no more than two hours.”

And there are just two simple rules to follow which Kevin Smith, a master of ceremonies of sort, relays to the guys.

“He always reminds them of two things: everything said in your small groups is confidential. I had guys go home and say my wife asks me what we are doing. And I say no … most women want details,” Dinan adds, “The other thing is, leave politics out and keep an open mind.”

But the ultimate goal is to bring the group into communion with each other to become better men through Christ.

“We have had young guys say they love listening to these older men talk, because (they aren’t) married yet and (the married guys) are telling (us) what they did wrong or right in their marriages in these discussions. And the young guys talk about the temptations of modern media and all the crap they are fed every day. It is really an interesting dynamic,” Dinan said. “You split up the groups so you don’t have a bunch of old grouchy guys or a bunch of young guys. You mix it up. … We are open to people at other parishes. I got some guys that aren’t Catholic. I had a young man in my group who said, ‘I am Baptist but this is phenomenal.’ ”