By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
WASHINGTON — When Father Bernie Weir planned a social dinner for the men of St. James Parish, the women were curious to know what he had in mind. They asked what they could do to help plan.
The pastor’s answer? Nothing. “We didn’t know what we were going to do; we didn’t have a program. … The only thing I had planned was food and an opening prayer.”
Despite a relaxed plan for the Dec. 30 event, Fr. Weir had a serious mission: he wanted to give the adult men in the parish a chance to gather and support each other as Catholic men. It is something he feels is important for faith-building. “Catholic men just don’t gather much (on a purely social basis) anymore. It was a way to gather without a commitment to anything. All they had to do was eat and talk!”
It was Fr. Weir’s first time planning such a dinner at St. James. During his time as a priest in various parishes, he has observed that even though Catholic women seem to gather “more easily,” men are eager to participate in parish social events with other men when given the chance.
After 58 men signed up to attend the soup and loaded-baked potato dinner at St. James, it became apparent to Fr. Weir that the parish men were receptive.
Dick Wehr, a member of St. James Parish for 35 years, admitted to being intrigued by the dinner, as a men’s social isn’t a typical parish event. He said people often assume that when men get together, it is either a pompous affair or a “man cave-type thing.”
He was pleasantly surprised by the comfortable atmosphere the dinner provided. The food was simple but good, and there were no formal tablecloths or decorations.
“Everyone felt relaxed and felt they were on the same level with each other. It was a great social event. At church sometimes people go their own way and forget about each other. This meshed the parish men together as well as anything.”
Parishioner Dan Greiner attended the dinner and brought a friend from Ss. Joseph and Cabrini Parish in East Pleasant Plain. At 88 years old, he recalled a time in which Catholic men who lived near each other would get together on a regular basis in the home to socialize and play cards. “Now, it seems like people don’t have the time.”
He said Fr. Weir’s idea to set aside a night for socializing “was a good deal, and the food was pretty good.”
Men of all ages participated, and both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking members of the multicultural parish were present. Fr. Weir noted that many parishioners farm; December was a good time to host the dinner since it is generally a slow time for farmers.
Some men stayed for an hour, others for several. Fr. Weir joked that people were welcome to stay as late as they liked, “as long they had permission from their wife, girlfriend or mom!”
Fr. Weir plans to have more men’s dinners in the future and plans to host a similar event for the women in the parish, too. “It was a wonderful time,” he said.
Wehr said, “I give (Fr. Weir) an A+ for this one.”