Golf, manners, and a firm handshake: This Catholic school is teaching boys how to be gentlemen


A group of third- to eighth-grade boys at St. Michael’s School in Fall River, Massachusetts, takes part in a putting competition in their after-school Young Men’s Club in 2023. / Courtesy of Father Jay Mello

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 11, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

The putting green is typically encountered on bright sunny days at local golf courses. But for a group of third to eighth grade boys at St. Michael’s School in the inner city of Fall River, Massachusetts, the golf clubs are swinging inside the classroom at 209 Essex Street.

“Golf has always been considered a gentleman’s sport,” Father Jay Mello, the pastor of St. Michael’s parish and school — and an avid golfer himself — told CNA.

Golfing is just one activity the boys at St. Michael’s School participate in as part of an after school program called The Young Men’s Club.

The goal of the club is “to learn how to be gentlemen” amid a “societal masculinity crisis,” in which many young men are lacking the appropriate guidance on what it means to be a man, Mello said.

Cole Michael Souza, a 13-year-old eighth grader, told CNA that the purpose of playing golf in the club is to practice the virtues.

“So before you start a game, and after, you’re supposed to give a very formal handshake, and you always have to be respectful, patient, and kind – and don’t flip out if you lose,” he said.

Mello explained that golf allows boys of all types of athletic abilities to participate, while working on their focus, self-control, and discipline.

“Golf is very much a mind game, and it’s very much like the Christian life. We all get bad shots on the golf course, but it’s how you recover from that bad shot that will determine your score,” he said.

The after-school club, which is run by the school’s principal Ryan Klein and its custodian Michael Lubold, aims to teach the boys “traditional masculine roles” by forming in them basic skills like using tools, learning how to change tires, and making household repairs.

“This is an opportunity for us to make a positive impact on these developing young men to embody what a Catholic gentleman is,” Klein told CNA.

For Klein, being a gentleman is directly tied to the Catholic faith.

“If we instill the virtues now, these students will have a foundation to continue throughout their life,” he said.

Michael Lubold (left), the custodian at St. Michael's School in Fall River, Massachusetts, and principal Ryan Klein (center) are teaching boys the virtues of being a gentleman in an after-school program call the Young Men's Club. Courtesy of Father Jay Mello
Michael Lubold (left), the custodian at St. Michael’s School in Fall River, Massachusetts, and principal Ryan Klein (center) are teaching boys the virtues of being a gentleman in an after-school program call the Young Men’s Club. Courtesy of Father Jay Mello

In addition to golf, the boys are learning how to set goals for themselves, make a good first impression by offering a firm handshake, look presentable in a dress coat, and make eye contact when meeting someone.

The group gathered for the first time in late March and will meet until the end of the academic year.

“I think one of the challenges young men often face is a lack of a support system that provides them the structure to grow,” Mello said.

“Another challenge would be the very confusing expectations of what it means to be a young man, or to be a man. I think we live in a culture that presents and glorifies that sort of confusion,” he added.

Mello went on to say that there are many men in society who don’t take responsibility for raising their children, and don’t pass down values to their children. The club is part of an attempt to “recapture manhood,” he said.

That mission is already being embraced by its young participants. Souza has been working on some of the virtues he’s learned such as “kindness, honesty, and circumspection.”

“In order to be a gentleman, you have to be respectful and you can’t be rude, and you can’t be a Christian and be a bad person,” Souza said. “A Christian has to be as good as they possibly can be. So it’s the same with being a gentleman, too.”

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