EAST AURORA — Since January, a group of about a dozen boys has been meeting every Wednesday evening at Christ the King Seminary. The newly organized group is part of a national discipleship program known as Fraternus.
The Catholic mentorship program is led by captains, preferably fathers of the boys, who focus on the development of the virtues. All boys in grades six through 12 are welcome to attend.
"They're encouraged to come with their fathers, but it's not required," said Tom Nuttle, who organized the local chapter. "It's very important for dad to be part of that mentorship role and for the boy to see his dad taking the time to play kickball, have meal together and share their thoughts."
Boys progress annually through the program becoming mentors themselves to younger boys, eventually graduating to "Fraternus Knighthood" before going off to college.
For the past few years, Nuttle had been considering the idea of an alternative scout group. Then, last year, Nuttle was invited to bring his son to the annual ranch event in Copper Hill, Tenn., where hundreds of fathers and sons from the 23 Fraternus chapters around the country gathered for five nights of prayer, fellowship and high-energy recreational activities. "I met a wonderful number of guys who were on fire for this. I just said, 'I'm going to do this in Buffalo.'"
On Father's Day weekend of this year, Nuttle and his 11-year-old son, Andrew, went back to the annual ranch event. He now looks forward to continuing to spread the word about the Buffalo chapter, which will resume "Frat Night" each week throughout the normal school year.
Recruitment nights will be held again for four continuous weeks beginning Wednesday, Sept. 6 at 6 p.m. at the Christ the King Seminary gymnasium. Father Sam Giangreco, parochial vicar at Our Lady of Victory Basilica, will serve as honorary chaplain for 2017-18.
"It's very structured," said Nuttle. "It's comprised of recreational time, a meal, and a video clip which demonstrates a virtue related to the upcoming week's gospel message. We have what's called a 'King's Message' which re-enforces what was seen in the video clip and then we break into individual squads." During this "Squad Time," the group discusses more of how they felt about the video and how it plays it out with some of the things the boys are challenged with as they grow up.
"We talk about what questions they have, what their experiences are around bullying or something like that, how they deal with it."
"It speaks about the importance of family getting involved with sharing faith with their children," said Father Patrick Melfi, associate director of formation at Christ the King Seminary. "Over the centuries, the families were the ones who passed on the faith, so I'm certainly happy to see fathers being involved in this process. Statistics will show that the more the father is involved in the faith-life of the child, that child is more apt to embrace the faith and grow up with it."
The local chapter currently consists of about a dozen boys from parishes in the area surrounding the seminary, but Nuttle hopes to do some outreach over the summer. He added, "We'll go directly to some of the pastors, principals and youth directors at these parishes."
To find out more about Fraternus, visit www.fraternusbrothers.org/.