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 | By Natalie Burt

Just for Men: Catholic retreats for men are a necessity

Nearly 40 years ago, Just For Men hair color was introduced to the market. This product line was targeted to men who wanted to color not only the hair on the top of their head, but also their beard, mustache or eyebrows.

Now, hair color is hair color. There’s nothing specific in the formulation of men’s hair color that would be different than just plain, standard box dye. However, what made it such a popular product was that it included special brushes and color applicators that made it easy to apply to men’s facial hair and didn’t waste a whole lot of dye. Hair color has been around for much more than 37 years but historically was marketed to women. Just For Men was able to home in on the needs of men and market a product that was specific to those needs.

While this may seem a far-fetched association, the same can be applied to Catholic men’s retreats or conferences. General faith and spiritual growth talks given at any adult retreat or conference will likely focus on prayer, virtue and Catholic living. There probably won’t be anything too specific for men or women.

What is unique to the talks given at a men’s event is that they can address the specific issues that men face and challenge them in their faith in a way that is more applicable to their lives. Talks, social activities, discussion groups and recreation can all be tailored to what men would enjoy and find inviting.

This past March, Heart Ridge Retreat and Cultural Center in Sunset hosted an event specifically designed just for men. Deacon John Breeden, from St. Patrick Church in Charleston, was one of the 30 who attended.

“This Men’s retreat was based on the book, ‘St. Peter, Flawed, Forgiven, Faithful,’ by Stephen J. Binz,” he explained. “The author points out that Peter is a good model for men. Time after time he messes up. He proclaims, ‘You’re the Christ!’ and in the next sentence messes up and Jesus says, ‘Get behind me satan!’

The South Carolina Catholic Men’s Conference: AMEN, will be held Aug. 24 at the Chapel of the Holy Family and St. Finbar Hall in Charleston. Learn more or register at

“One moment he is full of faith and walks on water. The next moment he doubts and falls. If Peter messed up, we will mess up. And if Jesus can take someone like Peter and build his church upon it, think about what he can do with us. That gives me faith. That gives me hope,” he said.

Having events like this retreat isn’t just a good idea, it is necessary.

“Men in the church have a need,” Deacon Breeden continued. “Most events are 90% women, and as a result, men’s spiritual journey is left out. In our culture, men can’t show weakness. It’s not allowed. There’s a shield about us. But at this men’s retreat, from the very first breakout, every man was willing to share on a deeply personal level and the fruit of that sharing was the highlight for me.”

The Men’s Retreat was far from all serious and no fun. Participants socialized around a fire during “Bourbon, Brats and Bonfire” and continued their retreat experience.

“It was an amazing time,” the deacon said. “We all sat around the fire, drinking bourbon and continued to share with our brothers.”

The owners of Heart Ridge, Keith and Tami Kiser, plan to offer a men’s retreat every year in March and hope that more men will carve out this time to be encouraged in their faith and connect with other men.

In addition, the diocese is looking forward to the upcoming South Carolina Catholic Men’s Conference, titled “AMEN,” with nationally known speakers Paul George and Dr. Ian Murphy.

Deacon Breeden encourages men to attend these events specifically designed for them.

“You’re not on this island by yourself. There are other men out there that are strong and serious about their faith and who aren’t afraid to show it,” he concluded. “It’s difficult to find [deeper relationships with other men] even though there is still a desire and need for it. Peel back layers and get deeper. It’s powerful stuff. You’re not alone in wanting those things.”

Natalie Burt is the coordinator of Marriage and Family Ministries for the Office of Family Life. Email her at