Just how important is fatherhood? Its destiny defining, says Robert Falzon

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Home > Media > News > Just how important is fatherhood? Its destiny defining, says Robert Falzon
Just how important is fatherhood? Its destiny defining, says Robert Falzon

Life defining. Destiny defining. This is how Robert Falzon, founder of the Australia-wide ministry menALIVE describes the importance of the relationship between a father and his children.

Inspired by the lived experience of having a wounded relationship with his own father, and then realising that he was repeating many of the same patterns with his own wife and children, Mr Falzon began speaking with male friends.

“I started to talk with my mates. I discovered that everybody was feeling the same kind of thing I was … everyone was feeling unequipped.”

A practising Catholic, he began to take note of the absence of men in the pews.

“Not only have families got absent fathers, but the Church has absent men. Where are all the men? Where are all the young men? Where are the men in the 35-50 high-impact, high-energy, chasing-the-world type guys? And I thought: this is a disgrace.”

After raising the issue with his local bishop, he embarked on running his first parish mission for men.

There was a huge response.

“50-something guys turned up,” Mr Falzon said.

“What that said to us in the very first event is that there is a massive need here.”

His phone rang every day for months.

“We tapped into something which was a deep need, and a deep need in the Church and society.”

Since the founding of menALIVE in 2003, the ministry has reached 25,000 men.

A recent series of events drew nearly 500 men, 70 per cent of them not regular church-goers.

“We work on the harvest of the home. If a man can go home and find a way to love his wife properly and raise his sons and daughters properly, he will have significantly contributed to the discipleship program of the Catholic Church. And in fact, he will become a missionary disciple by reaching out into society.”

The need for the ministry is significant, and the statistics large, particularly when it comes to fatherlessness – a category encompassing one in three families in Australia.

The Father Factor, a book Mr Falzon co-authored with Peter O’Shea in 2014, cites staggering statistics surrounding the impact of an absent father on a family, including higher risk of prison, suicide, and dropping out early from school.

“All of those have a massive social impact on a flourishing society,” he said.

“Children with involved fathers are more confident, do better at school, are better able to deal with frustration, are more independent … have a higher chance of staying married to one partner. They are less likely to be obese, less likely to go bankrupt, less likely to go to gaol.”

In his late 30s, Mr Falzon experienced healing in his own relationship with his father, John, who he describes as a ‘good’ person, but as a consequence of working two jobs, had been exhausted and emotionally absent when at home.

After intentionally seeking each other out, they were reconciled and built a relationship that was warm, meaningful and healing.

He now believes that the ‘father factor’ is destiny defining, not just of the individual person but of the Church, and of society.

“It’s got nothing to do with making men more important than women. Together the man and woman become greater than the sum of their parts. They co-create, not just human beings, but a whole society.”