New programs help heal families through fathers at Minneapolis parish

| Jennifer Janikula | June 5, 2014 | 1 Comment
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Odilon and Sara Jabana and their daughters Wendy, Francisca and Maria wait for Mass to begin June 1 at St. Stephen in Minneapolis. Jennifer Janikula / For The Catholic Spirit

“Now, there is peace in our family.”

Odilon Jabana used these words to describe the blessings he received from the Year of the Fathers programs at St. Stephen in Minneapolis.

Spearheaded by Sagrada Familia, a family services apostolate at St. Stephen, the Year of the Fathers programs help parishioners reflect on masculinity and fatherhood in the Latino community

Odilon started participating in the programs about seven months ago, when he visited Sagrada Familia with his wife, Sara, in the midst of a marriage crisis. The Jabanas were headed for divorce and had little hope for reconciliation, but decided to try weekly prayer and support meetings with mentor couples.

“Thanks to their witness, we realized that we needed to open our hearts to God and let him do his work on us. And, he did,” Odilon explained.

As the Jabanas worked through their marriage issues with the mentor couples, Odilon also joined Hombres Fuertes, St. Stephen’s “strong men” group. The testimony and support from the men’s group gave Odilon strength and hope.

“So very often we men want to believe that we don’t need God, that dedicating time to him is a waste of time, that Mass and prayers are for women, that we are strong enough to take whatever comes across our life,” Odilon said. “At least I thought in that way, but we shouldn’t struggle alone; our loving God is always sending his assistance to us.”

“These programs helped me identify the changes I needed to make,” Odilon added. “I had many vices, and it is with the grace of God and my efforts that I’m growing in virtue and controlling my poor behaviors. I’m working hard to heal my wounds and to be a better husband and father.”

Healing families through fathers

Viviana Sotro, Sagrada Familia’s executive director, described the Year of the Fathers programs as the fruit of two years of missionary work with Latinos in the community surrounding St. Stephen. Women eagerly participated in Sagrada Familia programs from the start, but Sotro realized the parish needed to make a special effort to connect with husbands and fathers.

“Many men in our community are suffering from a childhood where they were mistreated or abandoned by their parents,” Sotro said. “There are so many wounds and economic and social pressures that require a compassionate response.”

Sagrada Familia and the St. Stephen community hope to heal families through fathers.

“The encounter with Christ helps men reflect on the state of fatherhood,” explained Father Joseph Williams, St. Stephen’s pastor. “Healing the father’s heart will heal the family.”

The Year of the Father programs, launched to help men develop values needed to become good fathers and husbands, will help men encounter a genuine masculinity in Christ.

“When husbands dive into faith and study Scripture, they gain the admiration of their wives.” Father Williams said. “They become spiritual leaders of their family. They renew their minds and renew their family — teaching with true strength.”

Celebrating sacraments

Odilon Jabana remains thankful for the Year of the Fathers and the many programs offered at St. Stephen and Sagrada Familia. His encounter with Christ opened him and his family to the blessings of the sacraments.

“This Easter Vigil, my wife was welcomed in the Catholic faith, two of my children were baptized, and on May 3, we celebrated our sacramental wedding,” Odilon said. “I would like to invite my Latino brothers to join the Year of the Fathers activities at St. Stephen’s and to open your hearts to God to see all the wonders he has for each one of us.”

For more information about Sagrada Familia and the Year of the Fathers programs at St. Stephen, contact Viviana Sotro at (612) 392-2421 or




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