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Forging Young Men

At St. Francis Retreat Center in DeWitt, there’s something remarkable happening. Boys aged 13-16 are learning to become strong Catholic men who can take loving care of themselves and be respectful of the women in their lives, thanks to a special three-day event June 12-14.

It’s the second year of FORGED, as it’s known, and it’s already filling up with local youth who want to grow into capable adults. There’s no coddling, no sidestepping tough issues and no running water.

And the guys love it.

“Our unofficial motto comes from a John Wayne quote, ‘To be a gentleman, you first have to be a man,’” says Mike Kutas, who founded the event last year. “I am a big believer that guys like to be guys, but guys these days aren't learning how to be guys. Guys don't learn how to change car tires or start a tractor or run a chainsaw. They don’t know how to build a shelter or find food or use a pocket knife. So we are bringing them together to teach them these things.”

Mike says these basic life skills are only the tip of the iceberg. 

“Interspersed in with all of that are talks on our faith,” he says. “We kind of hit them hard with some theology, the reality of our faith. You know, our faith is not an easy faith, but you've got to understand it. And we talk about why women are so important and why they should be cherished and respected.

“And If guys grow up respecting women, look at all the things that we could change. Single parenthood, abortion and other important social issues  down the line.”

So Mike and his team run through all of the basics, both indoors and out. “We show these guys how to sit down at a properly set table and what fork you use and where the napkin goes and how to open doors for ladies and stand at the table when a lady comes to the table.”

And, as if that’s not enough, FORGED participants have Mass every day and adoration every night. 

“Last year, we had about 15 participants,” Mike says. “But we’re eager to keep growing. We’re introducing new talks and activities this year, and we’re hoping to be able to see this program take off.”

The FORGED team has already been meeting and planning, devising a system of assigning three or four campers per team member. Each youth will receive a knife, compass and whistle, along with critical safety and orienteering skills, to take home and keep.

The team also is eager to introduce other tools and strategies via online content and links.

“The more we can be a resource for these guys as they mature and instill in them a very healthy respect for women and a deep appreciation for our faith, that's the goal,” Mike says. “We think that would be beautiful.”