Holy Smokes Brotherhood Igniting Faith and Fellowship

St. Mary Parish in Kutztown played host April 20 to the monthly gathering of Holy Smokes, a Catholic fraternity that originated around 2017. Holy Smokes brings together men for discussions on faith accompanied by a shared cigar. Approximately 75 men from across the Diocese of Allentown took a break from their bustling lives to attend this event.

“About six years ago, a few of us gathered at church and called these meetings Holy Smokes,” said one of the founders, Ed Burns. “Our aim is to foster conversations among men about masculinity and faith. This is about men supporting each other’s journey toward holiness.”

Rubiel Estevez recounted, “I used to attend St. Stephen Church in Allentown, where I met Ed, who was already part of this group. I joined, loved it, and in February of 2023, with my pastor at St. Ignatius [Loyola, Sinking Spring], we initiated a men’s group. Thanks to our Lord, we have flourished. We’re grateful for St. Mary’s for providing a larger venue to accommodate as many men as possible.”

Guest speaker for the event was Bishop Alfred Schlert, who spoke about the masculine attributes of the Apostles, providing insights into their personalities and challenges.

“It's great to be with you all,” said Bishop Schlert. “Either you don’t need to cut the grass yet or you have to cut the grass, but you are here. Your presence is appreciated. This turnout is remarkable, and it’s a good way for us to come together as men.”

Reflecting on the Apostles’ diverse characteristics, Bishop Schlert highlighted their strengths and weaknesses, noting how each one, at different times, displayed courage and fear.

For instance, the Apostle Peter has been described as impulsive, outspoken, assertive, determined, and courageous. Andrew was enthusiastic, willing to help, generous, passionate, and accepting. James was unwavering, faithful, impetuous, ambitious, fiery, and loyal.

Philip had the most well-rounded set of attributes. He was practical, humble, obedient, sincere, service-minded, and faithful.

Bishop Schlert emphasized the relatability of the Apostles, suggesting that there’s likely an attribute of theirs that we could identify with.

Bishop Schlert underscored the role of the Church in providing the necessary means for spiritual balance, including the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of Penance, and supportive faith communities like Holy Smokes.

“The core of trying to have the good gifts of the Apostles revolves around our devotion and our interaction with the Holy Eucharist, Jesus truly present in His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. He’s the Source of it all. Let’s stay as close as we can to Our Lord, especially in the Blessed Sacrament. Hopefully, we will have more of the positive qualities,” he said.

Father John Maria, pastor of St. Mary, Kutztown, expressed his gratitude for hosting the event and welcomed the impressive turnout of men. Deacon Howard Schultz said that this is a great movement that is really on a fast track for the men within the Diocese. He echoed Father Maria's sentiments, emphasizing the significance of the movement and the camaraderie it fosters among men of faith.

Mark Marino, attending his first Holy Smoke gathering, shared his profound experience, expressing gratitude for the inspiration it brought him as a long-serving police officer. His heartfelt words resonated with the attendees. “This gathering inspires me. This is a wonderful thing to see. The number of guys here is incredible. Thanks, everybody, for coming. I’m not even a part of this at all.”

In unison, the participants shouted, “But you are now!” Everybody echoed Marino's sentiment, recognizing that by being present, they are now an integral part of this fraternity of faith.

Article and photos by Waldo Alvarado, principal of St. Margaret School, Reading.


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