I recently had the opportunity to meet a wonderful Catholic couple, David and Heather Renshaw, in planning for Heather's upcoming Catholic Women Rejoice event (July 2012, Portland OR). In chatting with Heather, I learned about David and his work in support of Catholic media and Catholic families. I'm happy to share the following conversation and want to point our readers to RealCatholicMen.com and the other links David mentions in our chat. With fathers like David Renshaw at the helm of our families, I'm convinced that the future is bright!

Q: Hi David and welcome to CatholicMom.com. Would you kindly introduce yourself and your family to our readers?

Sure. The “Reader’s Digest” version (for those who remember what that means) goes a little something like this…I was born in San Diego, CA and lived most of my life in the central California town of Bakersfield. Johnny Carson once said he spent a week in Bakersfield one night. Not the most ringing endorsement.

I am a cradle Catholic, but my family was not very active when it came to their faith. We participated in the Sacraments as required, but not much more.

I played basketball in high school and had some interest from some colleges but chose not to continue playing. Instead I began to get involved in things like film and creative writing. I ended up going to college at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, where I received my BFA in Film and Television Production. And while not the most “formed” young Catholic, I was not one of those people who ran away from the faith once I was on my own.

I returned to California and worked in television and feature film production. In 1999/2000 I dove into this new thing called “internet dating.” Oddly enough, I ended up meeting and marrying my first “connection,” (Heather) and moved to Portland, Oregon in January of 2001. We were married in November of the same year.

We have four children (Ava Madeleine, Elise Gabrielle, Noah James and Gianna Christine) and are trying to get a new business off the ground while doing a lay ministry on the side. There is never a dull moment in the Renshaw house – except when we’re sleeping (which isn’t nearly as much as we’d like with a new baby in the house).

Q: David, I know that you are the founder of an apostolate called "Real Catholic Men". Could you tell us a bit about what prompted you to begin this ministry and what the apostolate is all about?

Well, growing up I didn’t see a whole lot of men who were exceptionally engaged in their faith, so I didn’t have many role models when it came to what an active Catholic man should look like. But when I moved to Oregon, and began to get more serious about my faith, I started to encounter men who were at the forefront of things like prayer groups and apologetics … and even priests who were talking about this thing called “male spirituality;” there were just so many things pointing to what men are called to do in the Church and within their own families when it comes to faith formation, and it was all new to me.

Around this time, I attended a half-day men’s retreat put on by a priest in Portland, and that sort of began my search. “What was God calling me – as a Catholic MAN – to do for His Church?”

A couple years later I met a man (who I had encountered only casually before) who was becoming a well-know speaker at men’s conferences around the country. His name was Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, and I decided I wanted to meet with him to find out how he had come to answer his calling. Over a great lasagna lunch, we started talking about the possibility of having a men’s conference in the Pacific NW. He told me that if I planned the conference, he would be my first speaker. That was all the encouragement I needed. Real Catholic Men was born on that day.

Q: Why is important for Catholic families that men actively work at their own spiritual development?

Whereas women are the heart of the household, men are called to be the head. Not a dictator, but a servant who puts his family first. If we look at St. Joseph as our role model, we can see two outstanding qualities: his unwavering obedience to God, and his care and concern for his family. The word “obey” means to hear and respond. If we are to be obedient to God, we first have to hear Him … and the only way we can do this is to increase the amount and quality of our prayer time. This is when He speaks to us (and through the reading of Scripture, of course). Then when we hear Him speak to us, we need to respond – whether we like what He’s saying to us or not! Sometime we hear Him speak to us and we say, “Uh, I’m not so sure about that. How about something a little easier?” But that’s not what being a disciple is. Jesus tells us that we are to “deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow” Him. It’s tough being a Catholic man, and the only way we can possibly do it right is through constant spiritual development. And if you think you’re doing just fine, and don’t need to grow anymore – than the Devil’s already gotten to you.

Q: Your motto for the apostolate is "Waging War on Sin" - honestly in today's society we face a lot of sin! What can families do to shield themselves from some of the evil that's out there? Why should parents be leading this charge?

Our youth today are bombarded with sin. They get over 80 hours a week, on average, of media saturation, which means they have their headphones in their ears listening to Lady Gaga as they play video games where the goal is to kill people and have sex … while getting ready to watch the next television program featuring that “harmless” gay couple who are offering up their “expert” opinions on morality. In essence, our kids are compelled by society to multi-task sinfulness! What hope is there, right?

There is hope, because there is nothing - I want to repeat that – NOTHING that says our children have to be exposed to that garbage. We talk about not wanting our children to be “sheltered” or we want them to be “well-rounded,” but if they end up going to Hell because of it – what good is that? We, as parents, are put in charge of the souls of our children, and our only goal is to get them to heaven. Not get them to Harvard or get them “a better life than you had.” These are earthly pursuits. Our pursuits are to be eternal and heavenly.

Practically, we can be vigilant. No unsupervised TV time. No unsupervised Internet time. Limit all screen time. Check out the books they’re reading. Know who their friends are. Know where they’re going and why. Check in on them regularly. Get them involved in positive outlets. Know what they’re learning in school. Be present and active in their lives. Talk to them regularly about the tough topics! If you don’t want to be “bothered” with all this, or you don’t want to “embarrass” them – too bad. You signed up for this job when you chose to be married and have children. No excuses.

Q: Another project you're involved with is Ascension Creative. Can you share a bit about your promotional work with Ascension? What prompted you to begin this business?

I’ve worked in film, video and radio production for over 15 years. Many of those were spent in California where I worked on some feature films and with some of Hollywood’s biggest names at the time. But there came a point where it was becoming more evident that I would have to stoop to some unethical practices to continue to move up the industry ladder. So, I ended up moving to Oregon after I met my wife who lived in Portland.

Once here, I worked in cable access, network television, and production management. What I came to discover was that there were a lot of “little guys” – mom and pop shops, and locally owned businesses - who think that advertising on TV or radio is something that only large corporations and chains can afford. Ascension Creative was founded to give small business owners a fighting chance among the large corporations who have a seemingly endless supply of cash when it comes to their advertising budgets. Here in Oregon, literally the land of Nike and Intel, the idea of fighting giants for airtime can be scary. I’m here to give the smaller guy (or gal) an opportunity to be seen and heard.

Q: Real Catholic Ministries also has some exciting news for Catholic moms! Can you share a bit about the project your wife Heather is currently working on? Is this a "team" effort in any way for the two of you?

Well, after four years of women saying, “Why can’t we come to your men’s conference? You have such great speakers!” we (my wife, Heather and I) decided the time was right for an event where women can have a chance to get together, celebrate their Catholic faith, and lift each other up in prayer. So, on July 14 2012, Real Catholic Ministries presents the first Catholic Women Rejoice! Conference. It will feature Sr. Ann Shields, SGL, Sr. Miriam James Heidland, SOLT, and this up-and-coming Author/Blogger Lisa Something-or-other. Oh, yeah! Lisa Hendey! Heather loved your “Handbook for Catholic Moms” and other things you’ve written on the Web. We’ve heard you on Catholic radio here in Portland and love your “voice” for Catholic Moms. We’re so happy to have you be a part of this inaugural event!

As for teamwork – absolutely! The women’s event is Heather’s baby, so she’s the brains behind that operation and I’m more of a consultant, whereas the roles are reversed for the men’s events. Heather has seen me make mistakes (and grow from them) while putting on four men’s conferences and some other events (weekend retreats and the annual March for Purity). She has also (through the ministry) put on two “Women’s Tea For Life” events, which raises money for local pro-life organizations, so she and I are not going into this new event as novices. We certainly have room to grow and learn, but I think we’ve got a good foundation to work with.

Luckily for us , we’re very good at planning and coordinating (me as a production coordinator and Heather in her professional experience in the business world). Without each other to bounce ideas off of, and pitch in for the “grunt work” like stuffing envelopes, we’d be spinning our wheels.

Q: How has your own spirituality grown and developed in the past few years?

Like most people, I suppose, my spiritual growth ebbs and flows. Some days/weeks/months are great. Some – not so much. What I am most grateful for at this point is just knowing the tools are out there. Adoration. Daily Mass. The Rosary. The Divine Office. Conferences. Retreats. Spiritual direction. Faith-sharing groups. These are things that I had no idea existed when I was younger. Now when things are at risk of going off-the-rails, I have tools to use to avoid and/or repair the damage.

One thing that I think I appreciate now, more than ever, is Confession. As a youth and young adult, I couldn’t avoid it enough. Going once or twice a year because my Mom made me was like pulling teeth. Now I know the graces that come from that Sacrament, and it rights my ship when I sail off course.

Having these growth opportunities is a real God-send. I know they are there and waiting for me as I continue my journey of faith.

Q: What advice do you have for parents who feel overwhelmed by life's cares and who are not feeling active enough in their practice of their Catholic faith?

Advice? I thought you were going to give some to me ;-)

Seriously, I have come to discover the joy – and necessity – of being in community with other married couples who are in the same “season” of life as we are. We have four kids (8, 6, 3 and 4 months), and as you can imagine (or know from experience) life can get pretty hectic. Sometimes we feel we’re the only ones who are going through what we’re going through. It is essential to find people of like-faith who can share in your highs and lows. Sometimes, as was the case this past Sunday, Heather and I look at each other and wonder: “Did we just go to Mass?” because they kids were in rare form.

Heather and I belong to a group called Teams of Our Lady. We meet once a month with four other couples to read Scripture, pray and share about our lives. The other couples we meet with are also parents of little ones – so we can really empathize with each other and lift each other up. When our families get together, it’s like a zoo – the kids outnumber the adults – but we’re all there to support and pray for each other.

I cannot say enough about finding a faith community for support. If you don’t have one – find one as soon as you can!

Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you'd like to share with our readers?

For the Catholic women out there, I’d like to ask that you encourage the men in your life (husbands, fathers, sons, etc.) to attend a men’s conference or retreat. They may not be “changed” overnight, but the seeds of truth will be planted. Be patient, but be persistent. Men have a roll to fulfill … one that many of us have done poorly for a very long time. Don’t let your men off the hook. Challenge them with love and support. You can do this by finding other Catholic men/couples who are active and alive in their faith. And never underestimate the power of sacrifice and prayer for your spouse.

For the men – it’s time to do what you’re called to do. If you’re active and alive in your Catholic faith – awesome! Now it’s time to bring others along with you. If you’re not active and alive, get moving! Find a men’s group in your area. Read a good book on men’s spirituality (i.e. Be A Man by Fr. Larry Richards) and make that first step in becoming the man of God that you are being called to be.

It ain’t easy, but it’s the only TRUE option to which we are called.

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