Saint John’s University [Collegeville, MN] (USA)
Men’s Spirituality Groups at Saint John’s University
Fall semester of each year, a number of freshmen are invited to join a Men’s Spirituality Group at St. John’s University. Each group includes 8-10 students with two leaders, usually members of the monastic community on campus or another adult male from the faculty or staff. The groups meet regularly throughout the school year, for all four years that the students are enrolled at St. John’s. Each member gets a chance at one meeting to tell his story as it relates to a common question which is posed to the group for that year.
What Do They Talk About?
Each year of the program has a different focus question that the members are asked to talk about in telling their own stories. Some of the questions that have been raised are:
“What has been your experience of God?” or “What do you say you believe in?”
“Given what you believe, how does it affect your relationships with your father, with your mother, with your family, and others?”
“What is an authentic life?”
“What should I do with my life after college?”
How Does a Student Join a Men’s Group?
Students first talk to their Faculty Resident. In the fall semester, Faculty Residents who work on a freshman floor are asked to nominate young men they believe would be interested in being a member of a Men’s Spirituality Group.
Each nominee is then contacted and those who indicate that they want to participate in the program are randomly assigned to a group. There are about three or four new groups each year.
A general invitation is also sent out to all SJU freshmen to let them know about the program and invite their participation in a Men’s Group.
What Have Students Said About Their Experience in a Men’s Spirituality Group?
“For me personally, the greatest thing that I took from the group was learning that I am not the only one. It’s a very cliché statement, but it’s so reassuring to know that other guys around me are thinking and feeling the same way as I do in so many day-to-day situations. To hear the experiences of other men and how they deal with certain issues really helps me reassess what is happening in my life and look at it in a different light. I left each meeting feeling lighter and more clear-minded. No matter which topic we discussed, it felt good to just talk in that atmosphere, men to men.”
“We discussed our own experiences as men and this was a good thing–something that you don’t get to do often. I am a senior but I really wish I could continue participation in a group like this next year.”
“This group is the most amazing thing I have ever been a part of. It has helped me become closer to the man I want to be -simply by being. It doesn’t tell me, it makes me think!”
“I learned so much more about myself. I have become more self-confident and have a higher sense of self-esteem. I never imagined I could learn as much as I did from the experiences of other men.”
“My expectations were met beyond anything I could have imagined. I was subjected to many questions, answers, perspectives, and thoughts from many other respectable Johnnies. I learned an incredible amount about myself and I can say for sure this was the best experience of my SJU years.”
The Program Director Is
Fr. Bill Schipper, OSB