As Catholic men's ministry groups continue to gain traction, Catholic entrepreneurs Chris Stefanick and Bill Donaghy have created a program called RISE, an online course exclusively for men, which they hope will be a positive influence in society.
"We have a video, we have a reflection, and then we have daily challenges so they can put all their learning into practice in their daily life," Stefanick told Catholic News Service. "The daily challenges are aimed at everyone: from a single guy, to someone who's divorced, to priests. Most of these things are applicable across the board."
The program follows the lead of many Catholic men's initiatives gaining popularity in recent years, such as "Fathers for Good," an educational outreach program by the Knights of Columbus, South Florida's popular "Faith & Ale" seminars and "That Man Is You!" a program created by Paradisus Dei, which is currently featured by 600 parishes and invites men to a weekly breakfast to reflect on their vocations and encourage them to strengthen relationships.
Unlike many men's ministry programs, the RISE course is entirely online. It is a monthlong course consisting of inspirational daily videos. The program costs $32 and can be reused after completion.
Stefanick and Donaghy, working together for the first time, completed and launched the program in January this year. Stefanick wrote and created the videos, while Donaghy wrote daily challenges and compiled inspirational quotes from a variety of sources.
The goal of the program, Stefanick said, is to encourage "authentic masculine spirituality" in modern society.
"There's such a profound need for guys to reclaim their identity," Stefanick said. "We just want to make sure it meets people where they're at and makes their life better."
Alabama resident Richard Schellhammer, 57, discovered the program through an advertisement from the Men of St. Joseph group at his parish and participated in it last month.
"I found a lot of things helpful about it," said Schellhammer, a history professor, former CCD instructor and past president of his parish's Society of St. Vincent de Paul affiliate. "I have a much more spiritual and prayerful life."
Schellhammer said the daily meditations provided relationship tips that strengthened his bond with his wife and encouraged him to be more prayerful.
"It's geared toward Catholic men, but I think any man would benefit from it who wants a better relationship with God and those around him," said Schellhammer.
Donaghy also stated that the program is suitable for all men. "RISE casts a wide net that's approachable by any man and that takes every man deep into an examined life; an authentic experience of encounter with God and others and the call to start living out what we believe in the ordinary day to day activities in which they live and move and breathe," he told CNS.
Stefanick says the program has created an online forum where participants who have never met in person are interacting.
"I'm seeing guys form an authentic Christian community online," he said.
Participants are encouraged to take the RISE course with a partner and share their knowledge in social interactions.
Stefanick said the program, currently being advertised on radio and by local parishes, is being well received. "We've heard a lot of praise," he said.
The RISE program was being promoted through special offers in September and in October as well, with meditation content recently being added for priests. The program also can be given to others as a gift.
"A lot of parishes are really loving this program," said Stefanick. "We expect it to really explode in the year-end."