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Peter Stockland: God Squad mission to build role models

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  • March 13, 2021

For a decade of his 31 years with the Calgary Police Service, Sean Lynn worked with at-risk youth.

It let him witness up close how toxic purposelessness can endanger the lives of adolescents, and particularly how vulnerable it makes young men to the allure of gang life and criminal activity.

“There are people out there who prey on young men looking for a connection with, or approval from, somebody, especially an older man. So many of these young men come from fatherless homes. They need to see a loving, serving image of fatherhood,” Lynn says.

Seeing the fallout of fatherlessness on the streets, Lynn and three police service colleagues started the God Squad, a Calgary-based organization built to call men to purpose in the Church. That was in 1998. On March 19-20, the God Squad will stage its 24th annual national conference, starting with a live streamed Mass from St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal on Friday evening and continue with the virtual conference on Saturday.

Mass from Montreal’s Oratoire is fitting for an organization that looks to St. Joseph for guidance, especially since Pope Francis has declared 2021 the Year of St. Joseph. But Lynn says there’s an additional depth of meaning to the emphasis on the husband of Mary.

“The theme is St. Joseph, sanctifier of the hidden life. As men, we want to have accomplishments. We want people to know what we do. We want to be seen and heard in the world. But St. Joseph gives us the example of where the real difference happens: by doing things right in our families, in our homes, by our example for our children.”

If that sounds like the conference and the God Squad exclude the, uhhhh, older demographic, Lynn hastens to reassure it isn’t so.

“I’m a little older myself. I’ve got, uh, some grey hairs. We have 11 grandchildren. Grandfathers can certainly make a difference for their grandchildren.”

But he feels a need for younger men to be drawn to the faith and live lives of active participation.

“This isn’t meant as a criticism, but how many churches do you go into where the only male you see serving at Mass is the priest? What kind of model is that for our young people, especially our young men? In a world where there’s so much confusion about what a man is, we have an opportunity to answer the call and show the courage that’s needed to be a role model, to be part of the world and the Church.”

Lynn makes the point that while outreach to men on a downward spiral is crucial, the Church’s challenge certainly can’t stop there. In his current work as a school resource officer, he constantly sees young people from healthy families and solid circumstances lacking the independence and directedness that they should be cultivating late in high school.

“It drives me nuts when I see parents driving their kids in Grade 11 or 12 to school and dropping them right at the front door. When do you allow your children to start growing as human beings? At what point do you let young men begin to respond to challenges?”

He recounts teaching one young man how to build a backyard deck. The lad called his grandmother to say how much he’d learned, and how much confidence he’d gained. A group of high school rugby players Lynn coached learned, during a trip to Italy, the self-confidence that comes from self-control when he fined them a euro each time he caught one swearing: The money was dropped off at the Vatican. “If you can’t control your tongue, how are you going to control your actions on the field?”

Lynn and his God Squad cohorts see in such small, daily practicalities the heart of St. Joseph as sanctifier. Whether on the Squad’s annual motorcycle evangelization tour, at one of its summer barbecues or at this month’s conference, the emphasis is on God being found in attention to details of daily life.

“I think God is moving in miraculous ways right now, putting things in place to reach as many men as possible and give them the message that they’re loved by God, that they have a role model in St. Joseph, and that they have a mission and purpose within the Church.”

Let us all pray on that.

(Stockland is publisher of Convivum.ca and a senior fellow with Cardus.)

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