Faith + Wisdom + Love + Responsibility + Integrity + Fortitude = the Core Values of the Fatherhood and Leadership Initiative. Actually they are great values for any Christian initiative.
Fatherhood Leadership Initiative (FLI) is an organization founded in 2008 by Catholic men in the Philadelphia suburbs who believed their most important mission at the parenting time of their life was to develop their children emotionally, spiritually and socially.
“It’s a group of Catholic guys trying to live their lives and talk about their faith journey,” said Tom Cancelmo, a founder of the group and a father of three children ranging in age from 11 to 14.
As their web site explains, “The mission of FLI is to provide value-based education, tools and activities that enable men to become better fathers and leaders in their families.”
That’s really important considering we are living at a time when more children are not living in a two-parent family, perhaps with a father either minimally there for them, or without a father completely.
With that said, “it’s a great way to get men more in touch with their faith and lead Christ-centered lives,” said Cancelmo, a member of St. Norbert Parish in Paoli.
One of the programs sponsored by FLI is bi-monthly Communion Masses at St. Aloysius Academy, which begins with a 7:30 a.m. liturgy followed by coffee and continental breakfast, a talk by a prominent local leader who is also a parent, and discussion. Other events are for both parents and children, including a father-son midnight run, a father-daughter dance, small-group faith sharing sessions, retreats at the IHM Spirituality Center in Malvern, and participation in the annual archdiocesan Men’s Spirituality Conference. Another event that brought busloads of kids into the city was a visit to a senior center and children’s shelter and attending Mass at Old St. Augustine Church.
“Participation in FLI has reminded me of what my true mission is in life,” Cancelmo said. “I don’t always succeed, but hearing guys talk about what they are going through in life reminds us we are not alone.”
Because there is not a great deal of material written on the subject, FLI has prepared material suitable for a multi-session discussion group for those who wish to explore the spiritual aspects of fatherhood. Each of the one-hour sessions includes real-life case studies, discussion time, faith perspectives on key issues and fellowship with other fathers. Presentations have been given or are planned in parishes in Doylestown, Media, Havertown and Paoli.
“It explores responsibilities in a Christ-like way,” said Jim Gabrielle, also of St. Norbert Parish and another founder of FLI who is himself the father of six children who range in age from toddler to 15. Not all men go through the discussion programs or other spiritual exercises, but many participate in the father-children events.
“We meet them where they are,” Gabrielle said.
One of the most successful events so far has been a presentation of the recently released inspirational film “Courageous,” for which they brought out an entire theater screening.