By Brooke Graham, Volunteer Coordinator

Photo courtesy of The Compass, Diocese of Green Bay.

The Kairos Men, a group of young men who feel called to serve Jesus Christ as a priest in the Catholic Church, are participating in a yearlong formation opportunity. The word kairos is Greek for “an appointed time.” Assistant Vocation Director for the Diocese, Fr. Adam Bradley, further explains, “This year is meant to be a period of time for these men to grow in discipleship, to begin a more intentional discernment towards the priesthood.”

Ministry to homeless is an important part of the Kairos Year because it helps the men understand not only poverty in the area where they will one day serve as priests, but it also gives them the experience to minister to all people effectively.  The Kairos Men are trying to form their lives after Jesus Christ, who had a deep love for the poor. The group consists of Michael, Jacob, Joseph, Nick V. and Nick H, and they have been volunteering at The Micah Center since September of 2020.

The Kairos Men served at The Micah Center in our “Hospitality” role: providing a warm, friendly and welcoming environment to our guests, people experiencing or at risk for homelessness in the greater Green Bay area. The group would play games or cards, serve lunch and most importantly- have conversations with our guests.

Group member Michael says the reason what they do is so important, is that our guests often “have several issues that they come with. They [are] carrying different baggage” and they “just want an ear, to be able to listen to them, to let them know that they’re heard in a world that oftentimes shuns their voice, and to know that they’re cared for, not just as a project but as a person.”

The Kairos men have served more than 300 collective volunteer hours since they started in September of 2020. When many of our volunteers have stepped back from volunteering during the current global pandemic, this group has faithfully volunteered one to two times a week during the past two semesters.

Group member Nick V. comments on the impact of serving regularly. He says, “You get to know [the guests], not just on a surface level but you get to enter into those deeper conversations. You get to learn about their family you get to learn about where they’re from, and [volunteering] has not only opened myself up, but just been just a really awesome reminder of the importance of being present and being available to people in the community.” Group member Joseph agrees. He says it “has been a real joy to me…to realize that all of these people are brilliant, they’re smart, they are more effective in their work drives and where they want to go to them.” He adds a piece of advice to others: “never accept a label in place of a story.”

Being present is a key component of their service. With their physical presence week after week, as well as their desire to listen and support, they demonstrate their care and compassion. Several of the Kairos group members are motivated to build rapport and form relationships with our guests from a realization that this could easily be their reality, or yours, or mine. Group member Nick H. agrees that any of us could be “a couple mistakes [or hard times] away from being in [our guests’] shoes.” Group member Jacob adds that as an infant, his parents were recent college graduates unable to find work. Thankfully, his grandparents assisted the family until they were able to get back on their feet. Many of our guests don’t have a network of support or access to resources to prevent them from experiencing homelessness like Jacob’s family did. Because of his family’s personal experience, Jacob is passionate about intentional connection—not putting a divide between himself and people in less fortunate circumstances.

The perspective they’ve each gained as a direct result of their volunteering will go on to benefit the communities they will serve in their future ministry. Each group member will one day have ministry in the Catholic Church, often working with community members experiencing hardships, poverty and homelessness. They will bring with them- and already do bring with them- a knowledge and understanding of the worth and dignity that each human being on earth inherently possesses. They will remember their time at St. John’s and others will be inspired to make a difference, to listen closely to others, to reevaluate a stereotype they may carry, and to love their brothers and sisters. And while each group member certainly experienced personal growth as a result of their volunteering, they absolutely caused growth in our guests with their care, compassion and friendship. The impact in evident now, and I’m confident the impact of these young men will continue for years to come as they go out into the community and beyond.

To see the Kairos Men being recognized by St. John’s with an award nomination, Tune in to the Volunteer Center of Green Bay’s ‘2021 Virtual WPS Volunteer Awards,’ a celebration of some of our community’s best and most devoted volunteers. It will be held virtually on Thursday, April 21 via Zoom. [Note: All individuals, including nominees, must register to ensure they receive the virtual event information. See more here: 2021 WPS Volunteer Awards Event Registration (constantcontact.com) ]

To read more about the Kairos Year: Kairos Year helps men discern and grow in discipleship | The Compass (thecompassnews.org)