Where can men go to really grow in their spiritual lives? Are we finding the challenges - and the support - we need as men to go deeper in our relationship with God? For some years now several hundred Catholic men from every corner of the country have been attending Weekends Away For Men, organised by the recently-named Harvesters, a national network set up to address the spiritual needs of Catholic men. The weekends run from Friday evening through to mid afternoon on the Sunday and include Eucharist, sport (at a range of levels for those who want to participate), lots of time for relaxation - and of course a bar! They are mostly attended by men who, in the past, have experienced being in small groups or new life in the Holy Spirit. Any man eighteen or over is welcome. This year's weekends are being run from 9 to 11 July at Woldingham Park, Surrey and from 16 to 18 July at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, two of England's top Catholic independent schools set in picturesque country settings. This year's principal theme is 'Challenges Facing Christian Men' and the speakers include Fr Chris Thomas, David Wells and David Matthews. Seminars will be offered on topics such as: being a father, improving your marriage, stress and anger management, handling sexual temptation and developing your prayer life. Bishops Kieran Conry and Terence Brain will celebrate Mass at the weekends in the South and North respectively. James Parker, one of the principal organisers, is particularly enthused about this summer's weekends. He said: "This is the first year we have offered specialised seminars to address some of the many challenges that face men at the beginning of the twenty-first century. More than ever today men need to be supported as fathers, husbands, as heads of homes and members of the workforce. "Apparently no man is an island and yet few men have a good friend with whom they can talk and share when life becomes that bit more challenging. These weekends, and the regional men's groups that meet throughout the year, seek to address this need." So what do men who have attended the weekends say about them? "These weekends make me a better man, a better father, and a better husband - and my wife agrees!" said Stuart, a father of two small children from Birmingham. Jack from Shrewsbury, now retired, has attended two consecutive weekends. "These weekends" he said "have helped me to overcome years of feeling inferior in the company of men. Just come...!" Aidan, who has attended the weekends with his father, said, "I have never felt so close to God as at these weekends. The effects have changed my life." One young man in his early twenties, on attending his first weekend last summer, came away saying "From my early childhood I had a very turbulent relationship with my father. I resented his authority and very often rebelled against it, which led to problems with my seeing God the Father as a kind, caring and loving father rather than an authoritarian dictator. But over this weekend Jesus has helped me to take steps to lead me back to my earthly father and my heavenly Father." "This is my first year at one of these men's weekends" another man related. "I had been thinking of attending for some years but had kept putting it off. I had a huge burden lifted from me at the weekend and can only say thank you to God for what these weekends and men's groups are achieving." Men from all over Scotland, England and Wales attend. Some decide to come alone. Some bring a friend. Others may bring their son, or their father. Whatever the decision, every adult male is welcome. For further information visit: www.harvesters.org.uk e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org - or phone 07946 023127.
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