SJV alumni help men walk through unplanned pregnancies

Photos of Tim Rethlake and Luke Spehar
Tim Rethlake and Luke Spehar helped found the Good Father Program for dads facing unexpected pregnancies.

“I’m terrified to hold a baby.”

A gentleman told Saint John Vianney College Seminary alumnus Luke Spehar this as they sat down at Pregnancy Choices pregnancy resource center in Apple Valley, Minnesota. The man’s wife was pregnant, and he was preparing to become a father.

The fragility and preciousness of a small child caused him to panic.

Spehar took his concerns seriously, providing resources and life coaching – not only on how to hold a baby, but how to be a good father in general. After multiple sessions, the client felt equipped and confident. As it turns out, it was necessary.

Following the delivery of his first child, his wife had to receive emergency medical attention for multiple hours.

“I immediately picked up my baby,” he told Spehar. “I knew I was good from then on.”

It’s moments like these that mean the most to Spehar, now married with four kids. In addition to his career as a musician, Spehar is employed as a certified life coach and fatherhood program manager for men facing unexpected pregnancies.

Of course, women facing these types of situations need support and care. But so do men.

It was seven years ago when Spehar held his first child, Jane. That spurred his interest in pro-life causes.

“The issue of abortion became personal to me,” Spehar said.

In a search for the root causes of what leads people to abortion, Spehar visited Pregnancy Choices.

When he asked what he could do to help during the visit, a worker responded, “We really need people to walk with the men who come through our doors.”

Up for the challenge, Spehar started calling other pregnancy resource centers around the country to learn what a men’s support program would look like. He found very little information. In fact, no center he called had any sort of formal support for men involved in an unexpected pregnancy.

“We had to start blazing our own trail,” Spehar said.

But it wasn’t without some help. Ferdinand Uy from All Saints Parish in Lakeville, Minnesota joined the Pregnancy Choices team in 2018 as another certified life coach to serve men. And two years later, Tim Rethlake, a successful businessman and participant in SJV’s Virtuous Business Leaders program, learned about what Spehar was doing and became inspired.

“I wanted to get involved,” Rethlake said. “There are always three people in a pregnancy: the mother, the baby and the father.”

Today, it’s known as “The Good Father Program.” With four coaches across two different centers, the program does what its name says: it supports and equips men to be good fathers.

“It’s about meeting a guy right at the decision point and providing him with a space to be heard,” Spehar said.

Across eight different sessions, a man who opts into the program is free to raise any concerns or questions with his coach. It could be his career, a difficult romantic relationship, fear of bringing a child into the world, or how a child will change his social life.

“We see a need to support men and not just for the hope they choose life, but also simply because they are humans navigating a difficult decision,” Spehar said. “We’re there to walk with him. We’re with you.”

One client’s fear was not having a stable enough career to support his child. Luke asked him, “What type of job are you interested in?”

“Well, I’ve always wanted to be a fireman.”

“What’s holding you back?” Spehar asked.

“I don’t know.”

At his final session, the same client came back with some news: he had officially applied for the Saint Paul (Minnesota) Fire Department.

“The men are often forgotten in the process of an unexpected pregnancy,” Spehar said, “but their support and buy-in to choose life and take on the role of fatherhood is crucial.”

The program first launched at Pregnancy Choices in Apple Valley. It has now expanded to Guiding Star Wakota in West Saint Paul.

SJV’s formation has had a large impact on both Spehar and Rethlake.

“It’s people like Tim Rethlake who would come speak to us at SJV and show me what it looked like to live out fatherhood as a Catholic man,” Spehar said.

Together with his team, Spehar hopes to provide The Good Father Program in more locations across the Twin Cities and Minnesota.

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