BIG FAMILIES, BIG FAITH

Large families know that God provides

Avatar

Everyday Jim and Teresa Major do the impossible.

They take their budget fit for two children and stretch it to provide for their brood of 12.

The Majors place their openness to life first and budget second, having faith that God will provide. And he has.

“Here I am everyday living the impossible,” said Teresa, who attends St. Louis King of France Church in Englewood. “So I know God exists.”

They call finances the “boogeyman that the devil holds up” to scare a couple into restricting their family size.

“Being open to having a big family is being open to faith from God,” Teresa said.

Families like the Majors, who are members of the Neocatechumenal Way catechumenate, said they’ve overcome fears and found the joys of a larger-than-life family.

Some are well aware of the secular world’s opinion that it’s financially irresponsible, maybe even negligent, to be open to more than one or two children.

Kali and Lane Reagan, who also attend St. Louis, will get stares over their four children. Reagan is expecting their fifth child in September.

“We get strange looks,” Kali said. “People have asked us if they were accidents or if we had them on purpose. Others have asked ‘Do you know what birth control is?’”

The Reagans have a different view.

Lane and Kali Reagan with their four children. They are expecting a baby in September.

Lane and Kali Reagan with their four children. They are expecting a baby in September.

“I think being open to life can mean so many different things,” Kali said. “For us it means five children. We’re happy to give up some of the things people think they can’t live without to have these kids.”

Budgeting to meet the needs of a growing family requires a more intentional approach to their spending, they said. They look at their budget and determine wants versus needs. They try to pay in cash. They won’t buy a new car until it’s a necessity. Going out to eat and the movies is an infrequent event. When they buy something new, they share it. The important thing is that they’re together, they said.

They love their oldest, 10-year-old Brooklyn, who keeps to herself, and Jersey, 6, and Staten, 3—their two other girls—who are “rambunctious and feisty.” The baby, 8-month-old Bronx, gets all the attention.

“For us the joy we get from our children is way more than you can put a monetary price on,” Kali said.

Lane, 33, added, “With God’s help anything is possible.”

Discovering God’s plan
Eric and Delores Benedict of Immaculate Conception Church in Lafayette are no strangers to the fear of a large family.

After child No. 6 was born, relatives and doctors urged them to choose sterilization. Delores succumbed to pressure and decided to have a tubal ligation.

“My husband and I could just sexually satisfy ourselves. No guilt—no babies,” Delores told the Denver Catholic Register.

But their marital union felt empty and their marriage suffered.

“I didn’t want Eric to touch me. Without the possibility of a child, the act was meaningless. I was so sad.”

Then Delores discovered the Neocatechumenal Way at her parish, and she and her husband had a conversion of heart. They fell in love with Christ, they said.

Eric Benedict, center above, and his wife, Delores, to the right of Eric, and six of their 11 children seated at their dining room table.

Eric Benedict, center above, and his wife, Delores, to the right of Eric, and six of their 11 children seated at their dining room table.

After attending a liturgy with their Way community, Delores asked how she could find peace after choosing to be sterile. Their pastor advised them to consider a reversal.

“We decided it didn’t matter whether we had more kids or not, we were going to get the reversal done,” she said.

In 1995, her fallopian tubes were repaired. They were blessed with five more children.

Eric said being open to God’s plan may be difficult but “God has always, always provided.”

They shared their experiences with life in a letter addressed to the pope in April.

Delores said, “We chose life instead of material things. We put God first and he has provided for everything.”

The Majors had the same experience.

While it may be scary to be open to life, it’s only led to blessing after blessing for their family, Teresa said.

Being open to life has been a true walk of faith.

“The Christian has to know that God will provide. He has to know that. That’s what faith is,” Teresa said.

 

The Reagan Family’s Expenses
Kali and Lane Reagan shared a breakdown of their regular monthly bills in providing for their four children. They trust that God will provide.

Typical month
Groceries: $500
Target and CostCo for bulk items: $275
Diapers: $85
Clothing: $30-40 for miscellaneous needs
Recreation for children: $140
Phones: $150
Cable: $150
Insurance: $150
Gas: $200
The family also pays for medical bills, car repairs, school tuition, parish tithing, birthday parties and entertainment.
Free family activities in Denver
Denver offers free activities and attractions for the whole family that won’t break the bank. Below is a list of ideas for this summer.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Park in Morrison—Visit the museum and Performers Hall of Fame or take a hike through the colorful red rocks of the park. Visit redrocksonline.com or call 720-865-2494.

Denver U.S. Mint downtown—Take an hour-long weekday tour of one of only two mints in the United States. Reservations required. Visit www.usmint.gov or call 303-405-4761.

Denver Art Museum downtown—See the latest art exhibits during the museum’s free days the first Saturday of the month. Families may play games in the galleries, make art or take a tour in Spanish. Visit www.denverartmuseum.org or call 720-865-5000.

Hammond’s Candy Factory in Denver—Satisfy the family’s sweet tooth with a behind-the-scenes tour of the candy factory. Visit www.hammondscandies.com or call 303-333-5588.

Washington Park in Denver—Enjoy the expansive lawns, gardens and lake at the 165-acre park ideal for picnics, games or relaxing in the sun. Visit www.denvergov.org/parksandrecreation.

Celestial Seasonings in Boulder—See first-hand the workings of a tea production plant at one of the company’s free tours.  Visit www.celestialseasonings.com/tours or call 303-581-1266.

National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder—Learn about tornados, global warming, lightning and other acts of nature at its visitor center. Visit ncar.ucar.edu or call 303-497-1000.

 

COMING UP: A man for strengthening others

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

When the choirs of angels led Father Paul Mankowski, SJ, into the Father’s House on September 3, I hope the seraphic choirmaster chose music appropriate to the occasion.  Had I been asked, I would have suggested the Latin antiphon Ecce sacerdos magnus as arranged by Anton Bruckner. The all-stops-pulled moments in Bruckner’s composition, deploying organ, brass, and full choir, would have been a perfect match for Paul Mankowski’s rock-solid Catholic faith, his heroic ministry, and his robust literary and oratorical style; the a capella sections, softly sung, mirror the gentleness with which he healed souls. Above all, I would have suggested Bruckner’s motet because Father Mankowski truly was what the antiphon celebrates: “a great priest who in his days pleased  God.”

We were friends for some 30 years and I can say without reservation that I have never met anyone like Paul Mankowski. He was off-the-charts brilliant, an extraordinary linguist and scholar; but he wore his learning lightly and was a tremendous wit. He rarely expressed doubts about anything; but he displayed a great sensitivity to the doubts and confusions of those who had the humility to confess that they were at sea. He could be as fierce as Jeremiah in denouncing injustice and dishonesty; but the compassion he displayed to spiritually wounded fellow-priests and laity, who sought healing through the work of grace at his hands, was just as notable a feature of his personality.

His curriculum vitae was singular. The son of working-class parents, he put himself through the University of Chicago working summers in a steel mill. He did advanced degrees at Oxford and Harvard, becoming the sparring partner of a future Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, at the former, and delving deeply into the mysteries of Semitic philology – unfathomable, to most of his friends – at the latter. He taught at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and was pastor of an English-speaking parish in Amman, Jordan. Wherever he was, he lived like a true ascetic; he was also the best company imaginable at a meal or a party.

He was a writer of genius, although his published bibliography is considerably slimmer than it might have been, thanks to the years when he was silenced or censored by his religious superiors. A good example of his ability to combine keen insight and droll humor is his 1992 dissection of the goings-on at the annual convention of the American Academy of Religion (available here). More recently, Father Mankowski drew on his extensive experience as a confessor and spiritual director to pen, with his superiors’ permission, a respectful but sharp critique of his fellow Jesuit James Martin’s book, Building a Bridge (available here). In the decades between those two pieces, and when permitted to do so, he published essays and reviews on a wide range of topics, including literature, politics, Church affairs, biblical translations and the priesthood, while sharing his private musings with friends in a seemingly endless series of pungent parodies, revised song lyrics, and imagined news stories.

Years ago, his friend Father Richard John Neuhaus dubbed Father Mankowski one of the “Papal Bulls:” Jesuits of a certain generation notable for their intellectually sophisticated and unwavering Catholic orthodoxy, which often got them into hot water of various temperatures (including boiling) with their Ignatian brothers and superiors. Paul Mankowski was no bull, papal or otherwise, in a china shop, though. He relished debate and was courteous in it; what he found off-putting was the unwillingness of Catholic progressives to fight their corner with a frank delineation of their position. This struck him as a form of hypocrisy. And while Father Mankowski, the good shepherd, often brought strays back to the Lord’s flock, he was unsparingly candid about what he perceived as intellectual dishonesty, or what he recently deplored as “ignoble timidity” in facing clerical corruption. Paul Mankowski was not a man of the subjunctive, and he paid the price for it.

He is beyond all that now, and I like to imagine St. Ignatius of Loyola welcoming him to the Father’s House with a hearty “Well done, my son.” In this valley of tears, freshly moistened by those who mourn his untimely death at age 66, Father Paul V. Mankowski, SJ, will be remembered by those of us who loved him as a man and a priest who, remaining faithful to his Jesuit and sacerdotal vocations, became a tower of strength for others. This was a man of God. This was a man, whose courageous manliness reflected his godliness.