December 18, 2020

Challenging Exodus 90 program draws men closer to God and vocation

By Sean Gallagher

Exodus 90 logoThe Bible’s Book of Exodus tells the story of how God liberated his chosen people from slavery in Egypt, created an eternal covenant with them and set them on the path to freedom in the promised land.

Although the events of Exodus took place more than 3,000 years ago, it continues to lie at the heart of both the Jewish and Christian faiths.

In recent years, it’s also inspired the creation of a 90-day spiritual program, Exodus 90, designed to liberate men from tendencies and habits in today’s culture that draw them away from God, their families and the broader Church and community.

Father Jonathan Meyer, pastor of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County, has participated in the program twice—in 2018 with 57 of his parishioners, and in 2020 with a group of priests and seminarians.

“I have men [parishioners] who have awakened to their true callings as husbands, fathers and men of the parish in a pretty profound way,” said Father Meyer. “It’s inspiring to see them so alive.”

Father Meyer and many others who have participated in Exodus 90 have experienced such transforming effects through the program’s three pillars of prayer, ascetism and fraternity.

Men who participate in the program commit to a daily holy hour and to read provided Scripture passages and reflections.

Ascetism is the practice of self-denial that has been part of the spirituality of the Church, many other faith traditions and secular philosophies. In Exodus 90, it fosters detachment from the things of this world in order to open men more to God, helping them, according to its website, turn away “from that which will never truly satisfy, to the only one who does.”

Among the ascetic practices that are part of Exodus 90 are short, cold showers, regular intense exercise and abstaining from alcohol, sodas, desserts, sweets, snacking between meals, television, movies, video games and unnecessary Internet and social media usage.

Men who face the challenges of daily prayer and ascetism in Exodus 90 find support in fraternity. Each participant meets for about an hour each week with a group of five to seven men who are also taking part in the program. Each man also pairs up with another man in the program to serve as “anchors” for each other, checking in with each other on a daily basis.

Joe Reitz, a retired offensive lineman for the Indianapolis Colts NFL football team, has participated in Exodus 90 twice. He said the ascetic practices almost kept him from doing it the first time.

“You mean I can’t watch sports on TV and have a cold beer?” recalled Reitz, a member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Carmel, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese. “Honestly, I almost didn’t do it in 2018 because I love watching March Madness so much.”

Looking back on it two years later, Reitz is amazed at his initial concerns.

“It seems silly now to say that, after completing the program and realizing the huge impact it has had on my faith,” he said. “God calls us to be so much more than sometimes we realize. Exodus 90 helped me prioritize my faith as truly the most important thing in my life.”

Matt Faley, director for the archdiocesan secretariat for pastoral ministries, participated in Exodus 90 in 2018 and found the fraternity in it crucial to continuing the program when facing its daily challenges.

“It was a gift to have other men journeying with me chasing after the same things,” Faley said. “That was what helped me push through when it seemed easy to give in. Knowing that there were a group of guys struggling through the same thing and not choosing the easy road helped me grow a heart for the sacrifices associated with Exodus 90.”

Dave Olecki, a member of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis, agrees.

“Honestly, the fraternity of brothers that walk with you on this journey is the best part,” Olecki said. “Thanks to Exodus 90, I met eight of the greatest men that I have ever met that truly inspired and showed me how to become a better Catholic, husband and father.”

Nearly three years after participating in the program, Olecki continues to see its benefits in his daily life.

“All of the … disciplines really exercise and strengthen your will to make it easier in the future to make the tough, unselfish decisions you need to make to be the great husband and father you are called to be,” he said.

Fellow Holy Rosary parishioner Joshua Haywood appreciated Exodus 90’s balance between the spiritual and physical aims of the program when he took part in it earlier this year.

“Reading and reflecting on Bible passages and spending time in daily prayer can provide a focus to life that can be all too easily lost,” Haywood said. “A participant’s vocation and many relationships can benefit from such focus and the lessons learned.

“Likewise, with regular physical activity being a big part of the program, a participant’s physical health improves to the benefit of other aspects of his life.”

More than 30,000 men have participated in Exodus 90 since it was developed in 2013. The ministry that promotes Exodus 90 and provides resources for its participants is seeking men to take part in it beginning on Jan. 4, with the program concluding on Easter Sunday.

“Exodus 90 is hard,” said Nathaniel Binversie, the program’s director of mission. “It’s not for all men at every point in their life.

“However, if you’re ready to experience freedom from things you don’t even know you’re attached to [your ego, your phone, your work] if you’re ready to do the Lord’s will, if you’re ready to be the man your family needs you to be, then grab five to seven brothers and do Exodus 90.”

(For more information on Exodus 90, visit

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