Men in the Breach: Sammy Bryant counsels through a Catholic lens

Catholic convert Sammy Bryant is a licensed counselor who says his approach to advising clients is grounded in a Catholic understanding of the human person. Along with his wife, he’s also the founder of Totally Catholic Tees. (Tony Gutiérrez/CATHOLIC SUN)
Catholic convert Sammy Bryant is a licensed counselor who says his approach to advising clients is grounded in a Catholic understanding of the human person. Along with his wife, he’s also the founder of Totally Catholic Tees. (Tony Gutiérrez/CATHOLIC SUN)
In response to Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s Apostolic Exhortation, “Into the Breach,” every month The Catholic Sun will feature one of these “Men in the Breach” who’ve answered the bishop’s call to authentic Catholic masculinity.
In response to Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s Apostolic Exhortation, “Into the Breach,” every month The Catholic Sun will feature one of these “Men in the Breach” who’ve answered the bishop’s call to authentic Catholic masculinity.

Sammy Bryant has always felt a call to evangelize and has allowed his faith to guide his work. Having grown up without a father, he’s been motivated even more so to live out his vocation as a husband and father and share that with others.

He graduated with a master’s degree in counseling from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff last year, received his license in March and then began working for faith-based Peacemakers Counseling, LLC.

“We take the best of what the science of counseling has to offer that is consistent with the Catholic understanding of the human person,” Bryant said. “Every time I evaluate a methodology or an approach to counseling, I want to see if that approach is consistent with Catholic teaching and the Catholic understanding of the human person. If it’s not I don’t use it.”

According to its website, Peacemakers was established in response to Pope Francis’ call in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia for the Church to “draw upon contributions of psychology, marital therapy and counseling professionals. Counseling professionals will help keep pastoral initiatives grounded within real situations and concrete concerns of families” (204).

Bryant, who converted to Catholicism at 15, remembers always having a vocation to fatherhood even though he lacked an example.

“Growing up I remember in the eighth grade knowing that I wanted to get married and knowing that I wanted to have a large family,” he said. “The concept of fatherhood drove me. … Not having a dad, I wanted to give my children that experience and I hope that that would help me understand myself growing up. So growing up fatherless motivated me to be a father.”

It was that experience that also drew him to the Catholic Church. Bryant, who grew up on the California-Arizona border, was surrounded by Catholic friends who not only played together but went to church together. “I was always looking for guidance because I felt like I needed discipline,” he said. “Most of my friends were Catholic, and they did stuff together … and I wanted to belong to something.”

As a high school freshman his football coach invited him to attend Mass and he fell in love with the Eucharist.

After he moved to the Valley for college and met and married his wife, Tracy, Bryant found ways to evangelize. Together they founded Totally Catholic Tees in 1993. Their first T-shirt had an image of Divine Mercy and Bryant sold the shirts to parishes throughout the Valley.

“The mission has always been evangelization,” he said. “Getting everyday Catholics wearing shirts to the mall, to the gym, wherever they go during the day where it’s appropriate to wear T-shirt, we’re asking people to wear a T-shirt that would bring about evangelization.”

He recalled wearing his shirt while having lunch with a non-Catholic friend. His friend brought a co-worker with him who immediately saw Bryant’s shirt and began talking about their faith.

After his friend’s co-worker left, Bryant recalled his friend saying, “I’ve been working with that guy for 15 years, and I never knew he was Catholic or Christian.”

“So just wearing the shirt brought everything to the table where people could now be open to express their faith,” he recalled.

PeaceMakers Counseling, LLC

PeaceMakers CounselingPeaceMakers Counseling, LLC, is a counseling support service for couples, marriages, relationship health and family life that was developed as a counseling resource for the Catholic Church as inspired by Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love).”
Sammy Bryant is currently works out of three parishes in the Valley:

Click here or call (480) 445-9185 for more information.

Before beginning his counseling work, Bryant worked in marriage ministry as a regional coordinator for the Alexander House, a Texas-based marriage ministry run by Greg and Julie Alexander, establishing marriage nights at parishes throughout the Valley. It was his work with the Alexanders and some prompting from his friend Mike Phelan, director of the diocesan Office of Marriage and Respect Life, about the need for “solid Catholic counselors” that inspired him to pursue counseling.

Bryant, who currently attends All Saints Newman Center in Tempe, offices out of several parishes throughout the Valley: Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, St. Mary Magdalene in Gilbert and Corpus Christi in Ahwatukee. In addition to counseling married couples, he hopes to go into the breach by establishing men’s therapeutic groups of eight to 12 men to meet weekly for two to three months at the parishes.

In addition to running his company, Bryant focuses on counseling married couples through several parish offices in the diocese. He hopes to go into the breach by establishing men’s therapeutic groups.

“My primary focus in counseling is working with married couples and restoring relationships, and as a part of that, because of my own upbringing growing up fatherless and the questions I’ve had about masculinity my whole life, I feel called to work with men and masculinity issues,” he said.

Men would have to pay to participate in the groups, Bryant said, but because it is professional counseling insurance could be accepted.

“We would talk about a wide range of men’s issues: spirituality, sexuality, work, fatherhood, being a husband and so we would cover all those topics as that particular group found a need,” he said. “One man may say, ‘This week XYZ happened to me,’ and the group would take up that conversation, and my job will be to facilitate those meetings and teach people how to express themselves.”

Bryant said he’s found inspiration and affirmation from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s apostolic exhortation, “Into the Breach.”

“One particular thing that he talked about in there that really touched me, and I’ve used working with men, is this concept of pornography and masturbation,” he said. “He’s saying we should fast. If we want to get ourselves subject to our will, we don’t just need to focus on pornography and masturbation, but there’s these other things that we need to take charge of also, in particular the realm of fasting. If you don’t have that internal disposition it’s going to be very hard to go into the breach in public, but if I can take care of my internal self, that’s going to empower me, that’s going to give me the weapons I need to go out into the breach.”

Bryant said he was also inspired by how the bishop contrasted what society holds up as the symbol of masculinity — James Bond, a man with no commitments, with the Church’s symbol of true masculinity — Jesus Christ.

“[Jesus] knew who He was in relation to the Father. When we know who we are, Jesus’ brother, what he’s won for us, sonship with the father, that should fill us with the right confidence to live our lives boldly, … boldly living your faith at work, boldly living your faith in your home with your wife and your children,” Bryant said. “Jesus Christ is calling us to be confident.”