Catholic Watchmen Movement Launches!

Catholic Watchmen Movement Launches!

About 1,700 men gathered for a morning of training on Feb. 27 at the University of St. Thomas’ Anderson Fieldhouse in St. Paul. Leading them were some of the best coaches in the Twin Cities.

But these men wouldn’t be competing for a medal. They were attending the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ Catholic Men’s Conference, and their goal was simple: learn how to lead themselves and their families to the ultimate victory — salvation.

“We really believe that it is time to call Catholic men to be who God created you to be,” said Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens at the beginning of the event.

“We’re here not to be entertained, we’re here not to watch some kind of sporting event,” Jeff Cavins told attendees later in the morning. “We’re here because we have a desire for God in our own lives.”


New Initiative

Unlike previous archdiocesan men’s conference, this year’s event didn’t bring a nationally known speaker from outside the archdiocese.

That was intentional. Bishop Cozzens and Cavins wanted the conference to be the launching pad for an archdiocesan-wide initiative — the Catholic Watchmen — whose goal is to train men to protect, provide for and lead their families in the faith.

The Catholic Watchmen is a parish-based movement that is meant to enhance — not replace — existing men’s groups, Cavins said. It draws its name from the Book of Ezekiel, where the prophet laments at finding no one to “stand in the breach” and protect God’s people from the enemy.

A breach was a hole or opening in a wall that surrounded an ancient city, explained Cavins, director of the archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, which oversees the event. To make sure the enemy didn’t enter the city through those breaches, he said, watchmen were assigned to stand guard and sound the alarm if needed.

“When God calls men to stand in the breach, he’s saying, ‘I need somebody to protect my people here and somebody to stand in the breach,’” Cavins said.

Put another way, a man who stands in the breach is one who sacrifices his life for the good of others.

“We know that in the heart of every person — and especially every man — is a much deeper desire, and it’s a desire to make a gift of my life,” Bishop Cozzens said during his keynote presentation. “In fact, I’ll only truly be happy when I discover how to make a gift of my life.”


Needing the Lord for Success

One of the movement’s most important components is establishing groups of men who will implement it at their parishes. These groups — called “vanguards” — should consist of 10 to 12 men, Cavins said. Bishop Cozzens has met twice with a vanguard of 30 men — priests, deacons and laymen — to pray for and brainstorm ways to reach men of the archdiocese.

At the heart of the vanguards’ work will be inviting men to adopt seven spiritual disciplines. These are basic practices of the spiritual life, Cavins said, and include praying daily, going to confession monthly and fraternizing with other Catholic men.

As Bishop Cozzens explained, though, if these practices are to bear fruit, they have to be coupled with a fundamental humility: Men have to realize how much they need God.

“If I try even to follow God without depending on his strength, I’ll never be able to do it,” Bishop Cozzens said. “I need him. And I need to find ways to allow myself to depend on him.”

Men can’t do it on their own because of original sin, Bishop Cozzens said. “We live in a world that is painfully wounded by sin,” he said. “And it’s God’s mercy that changes us — it heals us, it strengthens us, and it allows us to be the person that we’re called to be.”


Catholic Watchmen’s Seven Spiritual Disciplines


1. Pray with persistence and devotion to Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
2. Encounter Jesus in sacred Scripture.
3. Strive to be a spiritual father like St. Joseph.


4. Engage fully in Sunday Mass.
5. Serve and be a witness to family and community.


6. Go to confession.
7. Build fraternity and evangelize men in monthly parish gatherings.


Looking Ahead

By conference’s end, the men had gone through an intense spiritual workout in preparation to become Catholic Watchmen. When Bishop Cozzens invited them to make the commitment, all 1,600 of them stood up.

Among them was 30-year-old Mitch Milless of Holy Family in St. Louis Park. While the father of two knows he won’t live out the seven practices perfectly, that didn’t deter him from giving his yes.

“It’s a nice way to remind myself to be committed to something specific and know that other people are going to be committed to it as well,” he said.

The induction ceremony was simple: The men prayed together with the bishop and then received a pin.

In his closing remarks, Cavins outlined the steps the archdiocese wants to see take place over the next seven months.

From March through August, men should establish vanguards at their parishes and begin to plan with their pastors. Starting in September, they should hold monthly meetings for all men. These meetings should include adoration, confession, a meal, a discussion on one of the seven disciplines, and a personal invitation to become Catholic Watchmen.

For its part, Cavins’ office will provide parishes with planning materials, as well as host a number of archdiocesan events.

Bishop Cozzens and Cavins hope all men of the archdiocese commit to be Catholic Watchmen. When that happens, however, they won’t be able to train in the Anderson Fieldhouse; it will be too small.

“I see a day, and I think many of you would say the same thing,” Cavins said, “when that new football stadium [that] was built for the Vikings — I see a day when it’s filled with Catholic men.”

For more information about the Catholic Watchmen movement, visit

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