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Men’s group at Ave Maria University aims to form selfless husbands and loving fathers

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A men’s group on the campus of Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Florida, is equipping young men with the tools necessary to become selfless husbands and loving fathers. The St. Joseph’s Men’s Group is made up of roughly 190 men striving to emulate the group’s namesake.

Through fellowship, presentations, and small-group discussions, these young men help one another grow and support one another in their vocations. The group is made up of two kinds of members — regular members who actively participate in the group’s community life and “fraternity” members who lead smaller, more intentional gatherings on specific topics. There are currently 12 fraternity members.

Young men at Ave Maria University take part in an event hosted by the St. Joseph's Men's Group, which strives to form selfless husbands, loving fathers, and emulate the group's namesake. Credit: Ave Maria University

Joseph Cox, a recent Ave Maria graduate, founded the group in 2022. He spoke with CNA about his inspiration for creating the group and how it helped him find his own vocation — the priesthood. 

Cox shared that he knew he wanted to create a group on campus the summer before his sophomore year; however, he initially wanted the group to help young men struggling with pornography. After thinking more about it, he decided to make the group more broad so that even those who may not be Catholic could join.

“I thought of the idea of just simply starting a men’s group on campus — the St. Joseph’s Men’s Group — really with the idea of creating an environment where guys can come together with no sort of commitment but could come together and just grow in fraternity, grow in masculinity, a greater set of holiness,” Cox said.

He added: “The idea was also to bring together, to create a common ground, those at Ave that are bought into the mission and bought into the spiritual life, and those that are not bought into the mission and those that may not be Catholic or who may not practice the faith anymore.”

The 21-year-old explained that the group’s events begin with food and socializing, followed by a speaker who talks about a topic tailored to men. The attendees then break out into small groups for the last part of the event, which are led by the 12 fraternity members. Cox pointed out that most of the fraternity members are actually athletes on campus.

“These athletes are guys that are very respected by their teammates because they’re athletically gifted — they may be a captain on a team for whatever sport they play — but as well as them being athletically gifted, they also have a relationship with Christ,” he shared.

In addition to hosting events on the campus of Ave Maria, Cox partnered with the University of Miami’s men’s group that is a part of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) to have combined events a couple of times each semester on their campus. 

This past Lent, the members of the St. Joseph Men’s Group took part in the “Consecration to St. Joseph” by Father Donald Calloway, MIC, which is a 33-day consecration to the beloved saint. 

“We had a little over 200 guys that went through with the consecration,” Cox recalled. “So in addition to all the guys doing the 33-day consecration on their own, we would have a weekly meeting [with] smaller groups … and then on the 33rd day, when they would actually make their consecration to St. Joseph, we had a big event. It was a big Mass, with adoration and confession, and all the guys who had done the consecration consecrated themselves collectively as a group of guys together.”

He encourages both men and women alike to “look to the virtues of St. Joseph — his purity, his silence, his obedience.”

Young men at Ave Maria University take part in an event hosted by the St. Joseph's Men's Group, which strives to form selfless husbands, loving fathers, and emulate the group's namesake. Credit: Ave Maria University

Now Cox will be heading to the seminary in three weeks and credits, in part, his involvement with the men’s group in finding his vocation. 

“I would say that what inspired me more for the priesthood was seeing guys with options,” he shared. “Meaning that guys that could be the best fathers, the best husbands, in the best jobs, and they were willing to sacrifice all of that for something that they believe is greater.”

He added that being a part of the group has given him the “desire to live out mission especially on the college campus.”

Cox explained that he originally wanted to become a FOCUS missionary after college, but when he came across the Legionaries of Christ he noticed that they were now focusing more on serving as campus chaplains for different colleges around the country. 

“So when I came to kind of this crossroad it was really could I see myself doing college ministry as an occupation with something like FOCUS or potentially as a vocation for the rest of my life with the priesthood,” Cox explained. “If anything, this group, what it’s done is given me that desire to continue the college route.”

“At the end of the day, I’ve always said if the Lord calls me out of the seminary and I don’t become a priest I go right in FOCUS. College ministry is where I want to spend my life — whether that’s with FOCUS or the priesthood, the Lord will make it known but it will be through that mission.”