May 4, 2016
Mother’s Day often reminds us to realize the central role our mothers play in our lives. Besides the obvious role of giving us life, it’s important to comprehend how awesome what they “do all day” is, and show them our gratitude often.
Thankfully, our diocese has been blessed with so many women who embrace the vocation of motherhood with remarkable faith and courage. Three mothers offer their insight into family life and having two sons each ordained to the priesthood.
Mary Richter, who is married to Victor and has 14 children, including Fr. David Richter and Msgr. Tom Richter, as well as 55 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, testifies to just how rewarding motherhood really is.
“There are so many joys about being a mother!” Mary says. “It is truly a blessing to have children. It is plenty of hard work and sacrifice, but when we get married to someone, we promise in our vows to be open to life. Some of my favorite memories of being a mother are from when we were all in church together, when the children received their sacraments, and when they got married or ordained. There is not just one occasion that stands out as special—there are so many. When you are young and the children are all young, it can seem overwhelming at times, but the older you get, the more you realize what a gift it is to have children.”
Mary's son Fr. David Richter reflects on the vocation of motherhood recognizing its importance to the church.
“First and foremost, the vocation of motherhood is one of the great gifts that God has given to us,” Fr. David shares. “In the beginning, He told us to be fruitful and multiply. The Church is considered a mother, and the Virgin Mary was given to us as a mother. Obviously, motherhood is very important to God. It is so magnificent!”
In fact, Fr. Richter claims raising up holy families is, in fact, raising up the future of Mother Church. He observes, “If you don't have holy families, you won't have religious and priestly vocations in the future, or even more holy families.”
Theresa Waltz, mother of Fr. Justin and Fr. Joshua Waltz, agrees that being a mother is an extraordinary grace from God. Now, as mothers of priests, each of the women thank God for the graces He gave them to raise their children to honor God, and in the heart of the Church, be an instrument of his love.
Looking back, Mary feels there were many elements that helped nourish their children with faith and virtue, and ultimately guide them to their vocations in life.
“We made sure we talked about our faith at the dinner table or when we were working inside with the girls or outside with the boys,” Mary says. “It was part of our every day life. We told them we expected them to meet certain standards, and explained to them why. I believe communicating with your children is so important. Also, we prayed the family rosary and kept parish life at the heart of our activities as a family. If there was something going on at church, we were there.”
Even when going to Mass with children wasn't always easy, Theresa and Herb still took them to church with them, and this devotion has born fruit.
“I brought my boys to Mass with me all the time, even when they were little. I was a teacher, and I felt it was so important to stay at home with my boys that I quit my job,” Theresa says. “We had to sell our home and live in a trailer house, but it was worth being there for my children all day. I also think it is helpful for Catholic families to have friends with similar ideas who believe that religion is very important as well.”
As far as “nurturing the seed” of priestly vocations in the family, Theresa says prayer was the driving force.
“Some people ask me how I got to have two sons who are priests, and I don't think I did anything. I just didn't get in God's way. I have always believed that it was God's will and not mine. I encouraged the priesthood all the time. I started 'storming heaven' with prayer, and praying for my sons’ vocations the day they were born. My grandma prayed for 40 years to have a priest in the family, and my mother prayed for it. We also had Masses said to have a priest in our family. We prayed the rosary all the time and we prayed the boys would be priests when they grew up.”
Patricia Shea, mother of Msgr. James Shea and Fr. Robert Shea, has witnessed that prayer, in fact, is the best tool there is. Patricia and her husband Joseph have eight children, including a son, Matthew, who died in childhood, as well as six grandchildren.
“I am a convert to Catholicism, and I became Catholic before we got married because we wanted to raise our children in one faith,” Patricia says. “It was never a question of whether we were going to go to Mass or not. It wasn't even an option! We weren't an extraordinary family whatsoever, but God has blessed us anyhow. As far as our sons’ priestly vocations, we were always supportive and open to talking about it with our children. Prayer is so important. I really believe that mothers should pray all throughout their day, no matter how busy. Families need to pray together, and keep prayer at the center of their family life.”
Let us open our hearts to a more authentic appreciation of our heavenly Mother Mary, as well as our earthly mothers. And most of all, let us lift up the vocation of motherhood, and savor the blessing of children.