Father’s Day is Sunday, June 15. Below three men at different phases of parenthood—a new dad, a father of five and a grandfather of 10—share their perspective on the vocation of fatherhood, and what it means to them.
Love on the spot
When his son Casey arrived in the world last August, James Murphy, 38, was introduced to a new kind of love: instant.
“You have other relationships in your life but none as instantaneous or concrete as with a child,” he said. “It happens instantly, the first time you see them.”
He and wife Tracy were overjoyed to meet Casey after more than three years of trying to get pregnant and grieving the loss of a child to miscarriage.
“The first couple of days were amazing,” he recalled. Then after they had been home from the hospital for just three days, Murphy noticed that the skin covering Casey’s feet seemed “really tight,” swollen. Not wanting to take any chances, they called the pediatrician. Ultimately doctors diagnosed a serious problem: a congenital heart defect.
“‘Someone Upstairs’ was really telling us (to pay attention),” Murphy said.
Days later, Casey had a five-hour open heart surgery to repair coarctation, or narrowing, of his aorta.
“I’d just met him 10 days earlier, but couldn’t imagine not having him in my life,” Murphy said. “You’re 100 percent attached, it’s an amazing experience.”
Casey’s heart was repaired and he made a complete recovery. Murphy, who works as a sales engineer, is grateful every day.
“No matter how bad a day I’ve had,” he said, “I come home and he’s smiling and reaching for me.”
Murphy, a parishioner of St. Catherine of Siena Parish, takes the obligation to raise Casey in the faith seriously.
“The best way I can do that is to lead by example,” he said. “It’s very important and it’s what we ‘signed up for’ when we became parents.”
When asked about advice for new fathers, Murphy responded without hesitation: “Marry the right woman.”
“It’s amazing what mothers do,” he continued. “It doesn’t always come as naturally for fathers. Dads don’t always do everything right. Take the lead from your wife.”
Before Jorge Paredes, 45, became a father he imagined what it might look like: changing diapers, taking his children to school or to Mass, doing homework together. With the birth of each of his five children—now ages 14, 12, 8, 5 and 3—with his wife, Viviana, another picture became clear.
“Fatherhood has definitely changed the way I appreciate life … but most importantly, my capability to grow and love,” Paredes said. “With each new child I feel that it is not possible to divide my heart in more pieces to share my love, but instead I feel that my heart expands and is capable to love more and more.”
To be a father, he said, means to love and shape children in a way that they can become the men and women the Lord wants them to be.
“My children are a great blessing, however sooner or later they will leave the house and we as parents won’t be present all the time to give them advice, a word of encouragement or support,” he said. “For that reason it is very important for them to develop a personal relationship with God and teach them that God has a special plan for them.
“That provides better chances for them to make wise decisions in the future.”
To help pass on the faith, Paredes, who heads up a visual communications firm, leads his family in spiritual reading, such as a children’s Bible or lives of the saints; and in prayer before meals, in the car, and at night in “the prayer room.”
“There we give thanks to the Lord, we sing, we ask for our needs, for forgiveness and finally we share a big hug of peace, as a symbol of unity and forgiveness,” he said. “I hope they treasure these special moments and understand how important it is to invite God into our home and our lives.”
When it comes to the roles of husband and father, he feels comfortable and proud, and at the same time it’s demanding and calls for great responsibility.
“The Lord provides his grace, peace and guidance to become a good father,” he said.
Love that elevates
Deacon Brian Kerby’s grandchildren don’t call him “Grandpa,” they call him “Papa.”
“There’s an intimacy with ‘Papa,'” said Deacon Kerby, 60, a deacon at Christ the King Church in Evergreen who celebrated his 25th anniversary in the diaconate last week. “I call God the Father ‘Papa.’ To me it’s a very intimate relationship … everything the Church does and teaches is about relationship.”
As father of four grown children with his wife of 39 years, Dee—and now grandfather of 10 and one on the way—he has worked to reinforce that lesson in his family.
“I teach them how to have a personal relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” he said. “And when you do that, amazing things come out of your life. I teach that to the grandkids all the time.”
The family prays together and he explains what’s going on during Mass to them, particularly to his two grandchildren that are now altar servers.
And since he is a papa, he also spends his fair share of time playing.
“My favorite thing is the look in the kids’ eyes when they drive up to the house,” he said. “They’re jumping up and down, so excited to see us—then they say: ‘Papa, can we wrestle now?'”
He’s happy to oblige.
Deacon Kerby feels fortunate to be a father and grandfather, in particular in his role as the family’s spiritual leader.
“Let kids live it, and be alive with their faith,” he said. “I am a very lucky man that all my kids practice their faith.”
When asked about advice to help fathers as spiritual leaders, he said: “Don’t preach (the faith), just live it. Be it. Everything comes out of your relationship with God. When you live it, you will leak it.”
“The single most important thing I can give my kids and my grandkids—and back to the Church, the laity and the faithful,” he said, “is doing whatever I can do to get them into the kingdom.”