Couple explains how stewardship plays a role in their family, parish

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a stewardship lay witness testimony by Crystal Smith. Crystal, her husband Justin, and their three sons are members of St. Cecilia Parish, in Haysville.
By Crystal Smith
Stewardship began for my husband and myself as just our monthly tithing and helping out with a couple of school functions throughout the year. But in three to four short years at Saint Cecilia, our lives have been transformed, at church, at work, at home – our day-to-day lives.
We are so very grateful for our parish as well as the parish’s school. In fact, when we describe the church and school to our friends and family, we tell them you all are really just our extended family.
Justin and I were married in this very church before we were even members. I was Catholic, Justin was not. I remember Father Andy Kuykendall, our pastor at the time, explaining the expectation of raising our future children within the church. We agreed to do so.
Had we not sent our kids to St. Cecilia Catholic School, who’s to say if I’d be standing before you today as a fellow parishioner? It was in our second grader’s First Communion year that my husband’s interest in RCIA peaked, and he entered RCIA shortly afterwards. The same year our son received his First Holy Communion, as did Justin. A truly special year, and for our family, a game changer – all because of everything the church has to offer.
Without fellow parishioners willing to share their gifts, none of this would have been made possible. Now, I’m not saying, by any means, that accepting and sharing God’s gifts is always an easy thing to do.
The bottom line is that stewardship has, and continues, to shape my family and me into a better version of us – a closer version to what God has envisioned for us. Remember, stewardship is not just about donating your time or money. It’s about recognizing and receiving a particular gift from God and sharing that gift through hospitality, prayer, formation and service.

Sr. Therese off to Liberia in the footsteps of martyrs

The West African country of Liberia is still recovering from an Ebola epidemic and two continuous civil wars – one of which claimed the lives of five missionary Adorers of the Blood of Christ in 1992.
Nonetheless, Sister Therese Wetta, an Adorer of the Blood of Christ, Wichita, will be returning to Liberia in about a week because of the country’s great need for assistance and because of a call by the Holy Spirit. Another Adorer, Sr. Zita Resch of Lichtenstein, will serve with her. Sister Therese is hopeful two other ASCs will join them in the next few months.
The bishop of Cape Palmas, Liberia, the Most Rev. Andrew J. Karnley, told Sister Therese that although the country’s most recent civil war has been over for 14 years, “the people are still in trauma.”
Sr. Therese said last week that the Lord has been tugging at her heart since 2001 to minister to the impoverished country and when Bishop Karnley, who was educated by ASC sisters, told her that everyone remembers the martyred sisters and that their return to the country would be a big step in the healing process for the people, “I knew that’s the real reason to be going back.”
Her desire to serve Liberia was sidetracked by a call to ASC general leadership, service in Tanzania, an East African country, and a request to help in Newman University’s fundraising effort for the Bishop Gerber Science Center. After the completion of the science center, Sr. Therese told leadership that she was still feeling the call to Liberia.
“Our God is a faithful God,” she said. “I think if God really wants something – God is persistent. You know God’s patient and God’s timing is everything. And here we are and leadership is very supportive.”
While in Liberia last May with two Newman U. students and four others, Sr. Therese traveled to Harper on the southwest tip of the country to explore the diocese and to visit Bishop Karnley, who is enthusiastic, she said, about the Adorers’ return.
The two ASC sisters will live in Grand Cess, on the coast, about 50 miles west of Harper.
Bishop Karnley went to Grand Cess and told the parish council that Adorers are returning, she said. “The response of the people was enthusiastic and happy, he said. I had no qualms about going to Grand Cess before but this just reinforces that we’re going to be very welcome.”
As for their ministry, that is to be determined.
There is a need for science teachers and for catechists, Sr. Therese said, and because about 60 percent of the women were raped during the civil wars, there is also a need to minister to those victims.
“I really thought we would have been there last year,” she said, “I’m still excited. It seems like it’s been a long time, but you know, things work out.”
Sr. Therese, a member of St. Mary’s Parish, Aleppo, as a child, said she was raised in a household without indoor water and toilet facilities until she was about 12 years old.
She’s about to relive that. The infrastructure of the country has suffered because of the wars and the Ebola crisis. Most roads are not paved. The sisters will depend on solar power and a generator, they’ll have no running water, but they will be able to use cell phones.
Sr. Therese will leave Wichita on Feb. 7 and fly out of Washington, D.C., to meet up with Sr. Zita on one of the legs of her trip to Monrovia, the capitol of Liberia, where they will shop for a vehicle and for supplies.
The three bishops of Liberia are meeting in Monrovia Feb. 8-10, so the sisters hope to meet with Bishop Karnley and perhaps the other bishops on Feb. 11 to do what they can to help Liberia continue to heal.

Voboril packing his books

Superintendent of Catholic Schools to retire after serving diocese a quarter of a century
Bob Voboril has been a Catholic educator for 46 years and an administrator for 43.
“That’s enough,” he says.
Voboril, who has been superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Wichita for the past 25 years, announced that he will retire in the next few months, depending on how soon his position is filled.
“If it’s somebody that can come sooner, I’m willing to leave for them. If it’s somebody internal, then I’ll be glad to mentor them. If they don’t need to be mentored, I’ll be glad to go. So, I think any time is fine with me,” he said.
“For the better part of a year now, I’ve been really reflecting that I owe my wife and family a lot more of my time,” he said. “Being an administrator has been for me a 70-hour-a-week job for 40 years. That hasn’t left as much time as I’d like for Pam and for the kids.”
His six children live throughout the country, Voboril said, and his wife would like to visit them more often.
“I hate the idea of her always having to go alone because I have to work,” he said, “So, my goal would be to be a lot better husband and father in the next 10 years than I have been in the last 30 or 40.”
Although he has dedicated a quarter of a century to Catholic education in the diocese, Voboril said what’s he’s done for the diocese doesn’t begin to compare to what the diocese has done for him and his family.
“You have to remember I was the first person in my family to go to a Catholic school. I was the first one in my family to graduate from college, to not have to work at manual labor, to not have to live paycheck to paycheck,” he said.
Working in the Diocese of Wichita has been a blessing for him, his wife, and his children.
“When I look at all six of my kids being highly active in the church and their various communities – and tremendously involved in their parishes, a lot of that goes back to the Diocese of Wichita – the quality of the schools that the kids were able to attend and the kind of Catholic culture that surrounds this diocese.
“I know you hear it a lot, Wichita is special. But I can tell you in the world of education there’s Wichita and there’s every place else. It has a remarkable standing and for me to be associated with that in any way has been my good fortune.”
Voboril said he would like to be remembered simply.
He hopes years from now that the principals of the Diocese of Wichita will say of him: “He cared about me. He was always there when I needed him.”

Pope in Chile, Peru; back to Rome Sunday

SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) — Pope Francis arrived in Santiago Jan. 15, the first stop on a seven-day, six-city visit to Peru and Chile, where he will take his message of hope to people on the margins of society.
“Chile won’t be too difficult for me because I studied there for a year and I have many friends there and I know it well, or rather, well enough. Peru, however, I know less. I have gone maybe two, three times for conferences and meetings,” the pope told journalists aboard the papal flight.
In Peru Jan. 18-21, the Holy Father will visit Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo.

Winfield Knights to host 18th Annual Totus Tuus Banquet Saturday, Feb. 3

The 18th annual Totus Tuus banquet will take place Saturday, Feb. 3, at Baden Square in Winfield.
The popular banquet will be preceded with a Mass at Holy Name Church at 4:30 p.m. Valuable items will be available for purchase during live and silent auctions, along with a raffle for various prizes.
Individual tickets as well as "Levels of Giving" sponsorships are available. To purchase tickets, to be a sponsor, or for more information, contact Josh Highland at (620) 218-3784 or, or visit Totus Tuus Banquet on Facebook. Seating for the evening is limited.
Over the past 18 years Knights of Columbus Council 4713 has contributed more than $589,000 to support the Wichita Diocese Totus Tuus program. This past summer 3,370 youth from 40 parishes in the Diocese of Wichita participated in the Totus Tuus program, and 680 youth attended Camp Totus Tuus. Last summer, six dioceses from six different states sent teachers and missionaries to the Diocese of Wichita for Totus Tuus training.
Originating in the Wichita diocese 30 years ago, Totus Tuus is a summer camp and catechetical program that has benefited thousands of youth from elementary to high school age. The program was piloted by Father Bernard X. Gorges as a way to strengthen ties between Catholic youth and the traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church.
Totus Tuus provides a safe, fun, and educational environment for Catholic youth to move forward on their spiritual journey. The camp provides education in many areas of our Catholic faith with emphasis on the Eucharist, Marian devotion, catechetical instruction, vocational discernment, and evangelization.
Adopted from a Marian consecration written by St. Louis de Montfort, Totus Tuus (Latin for “Totally Yours”) was the papal motto of the late St. John Paul II.

Men’s conference Feb. 17 at KMC

Men in the Diocese of Wichita are invited to consider the annual Catholic Men’s Conference while getting their ashes this Lent.
Jake Samour said the conference is always held at the beginning of Lent to instill a sense of spirituality to the event. “This helps men engage in who they really are as men and as brothers, husbands, and fathers .”
Samour, the director of the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life, said they have invited a great speakers for this year’s event.
Catholic evangelist Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, known as the “Dynamic Deacon,” will deliver two presentations at the conference.
“One is called “Putting on the Armor of God Preparing for Spiritual Combat,” he said, explaining that the phrase is taken from chapter six of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
“It is no coincidence that chapter 6 comes after chapter 5 where scripture talks about man and woman in marriage mirroring Christ and the church,” he said. “Men need to prepare for this spiritual combat, because we’re not just flesh and blood. Our combat is against Satan.”
The conference will also help men better understand the meaning and necessity of spiritual fatherhood, he said.
“Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted pointed the importance of male spirituality in the home and in the life of the parish in his letter “Into the Breach,” Samour said.
In his exhortation, Bishop Olmsted, who served as bishop of the Diocese of Wichita from 1999 to 2003, charges men to engage in the battle that is wounding couples and families.
“One of the reasons the church is faltering under the attacks of Satan,” the bishop says in the apostolic exhortation, “is that many Catholic men have not been willing to ‘step into the breach’ to fill this gap that lies open and vulnerable to further attack.”
When men are involved in the life of the church, Samour said, when they go to Mass and are good stewards, they have a positive effect on their children – a much higher percentage of their children will stay involved in the Church.
Deacon Harold will talk about that and other topics, he said.
The master of ceremonies will be Jim Beckman, who recently moved to the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City to work with Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, another former priest of the Diocese of Wichita.
In addition to acting as the emcee, Samour said, Beckman will “be connecting the dots for all the talks,” and will talk about some of the “brokenness and weaknesses” men have to deal with.
Adam Minihan and David Niles, the men responsible for will talk about authentic friendship. The day will end with Mass celebrated by Bishop Carl A. Kemme.

Want to ‘Go Forth!’?
This year’s Catholic Men’s Conference of Wichita will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17, at Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School in Wichita. A related talk for all will be given at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, at KMC. To register, visit

Fiat Ministries hosts three discernment events for young women during Advent

By Molly Bogner
Just as Advent prepares the faithful for Christmas, Fiat Ministries seeks to lay a foundation for young women to be open to God’s will and to discern their vocation. Three events were hosted by Fiat Ministries in Advent which allowed people of all generations the opportunity to promote a more authentic culture of discernment for young women.
On Dec. 2, 300 guests attended the annual Feast for Fiat benefit dinner at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Schulte, where they learned more about Fiat Ministries from Father Chris Goodwin and Sr. Clare Matthias, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, both of whom flew in from the East Coast to share their experiences and show their appreciation of Fiat Ministries.
Many of the guests of Feast are already living out their vocations, but through financial and prayerful support, they help create opportunities for young women to discern God’s will for their lives, and spread the word about the work Fiat Ministries is doing.
The next day, 250 women attended the Mother Daughter Luncheon and Tea, where girls of all ages, along with their mothers, learned more about religious life and witnessed the joy and beauty of religious sisters present throughout the day.
The event not only taught the young women and their mothers more about religious life, but it also encouraged topics like vocations and discernment to be present in the home and family, where a true relationship with God should first be cultivated.
On the weekend of Dec. 15-17, thirteen sisters from six different religious orders across the nation came together with 30 young adult women for the seventh Fiat Ministries Discernment Retreat. Three days were spent in laughter, prayer, and discernment as the sisters shared their stories, wisdom, struggles, and joys with the retreatants.
The retreats’ ultimate goal is to equip women with tools for discernment and show them that their relationship with God is ultimately where their unique vocation is found.
Whether you are young or old, single or married, parents or grandparents, discerning religious life or already living it, Fiat Ministries invites you to help cultivate an authentic culture of discernment for young women. This year is already shaping up to be a huge year as Fiat Ministries continues to expand to other dioceses as well as continue its work in Wichita.
Visit for more information.
Bogner is a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Wichita.

Fr. Kevin Weber to speak and sing at the annual Night of Romance on Feb. 10

This year’s Night of Romance on Saturday, Feb. 10, is especially timely. It will be held during National Marriage Week, is just a few days before Valentine’s Day, and will help prepare anyone planning to attend the World Meeting of Families Aug. 21-26 in Dublin, Ireland.
Father Kevin Weber, pastor of St. Mary Queen of the Universe Parish in Salina, will be the keynote speaker and will sing at the 18th Annual Night of Romance Saturday, Feb. 10, at Church of the Holy Spirit in Goddard.
Father Weber plans to talk about the importance of prayer and sacrificial love in the marriage relationship.
“My music background is fairly simple,” he said via email. “I have been singing since I could talk. My mom said that at 2 I used to walk around the house singing commercial jingles and songs I had heard my older siblings listening to on the radio.”
He used his voice as a cantor at church when he was 15 and majored in music performance at Fort Hays State University, he said, “only because it was the only thing I had any interest in, to see if I could make it in college – I didn’t think I had a chance, as I did not see myself as a very good student before I went to the seminary.”
After his sophomore year at F.H.S.U. he transferred to Conception Seminary in Conception, Missouri.
Father Weber said he uses music when he hears lyrics that can be incorporated into a homily.
“I will explain how the lyrics accentuate a point from the scriptures for that weekend,” he said. “It seems to work pretty well. I have had people tell me about a homily I gave years before and they never forgot the message because when they think about or hear the song, they remember the point.”
He said comments like that give him confidence that his technique works.
“If a person comes out of Mass and says, ‘Father, I loved the song.’ I will always say, “Great, but did you get the message?” I have never had a person who has not been able to tell me what the message was. If that ever happens, then I know that I failed, because I was just entertaining and not giving a homily.”
The theme for the 18th annual Night of Romance is “The Glory of Love.” It will be held from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, at Church of the Holy Spirit in Goddard. Those attending are invited to a vigil Mass at the parish at 5 p.m.
The evening, whose theme is “The Glory of Love,” is part of National Marriage Week Feb. 7-14.
Jake Samour, director of the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life, recalls that St. Pope John Paul II once said the future of the world and the future of society passes by way of the family.
“And so when we see families being torn down, struggling and of course, a lot of children are growing up in broken homes. We have a society that does not value children, it doesn’t value the things that are good for them…to help them thrive.”
One way the Night of Romance will help couples and families is to celebrate the glory of life, Samour said.
“We’re bringing Father Weber who will not only give us a reflection on the beauty of love but also through the beauty of music,” he said. “He will sing a few songs to entertain the couples.”
Marriage and family are meant to be a sign of God’s love, he said. “We can speak of the glory of love because married and family love are an image of the glory of the God, who is love.”
Samour added that the Lord is present in families, even in the midst of their daily struggles, in good times and in bad.
“The glory of family love is made up of thousands of small gestures. God makes his dwelling place in each of these encounters which deepen communion,” he said.
“The triune God is a communion of love and the family is its living reflection. This is why the love shared is glorious since it is filled with the love of God.”

Want to attend?
To register, visit

St. Mary, Newton, parishioners planned their family with NFP – and God’s help

By Kathleen M. Basi
Rob and Charisse Tierney are all too familiar with financial uncertainty. This teaching couple from Newton, Kansas, has experienced both job loss and enormous medical bills. Rob works as a pastoral assistant for their parish, coordinating music and religious ed, and Charisse is a stay-at-home mom. It’s not a big income for a family with six children, but they participate in the WIC program, and the kids – the oldest of whom is 13 – receive free school lunches. The principal at their Catholic school has always encouraged families to apply for the lunch program, and a number of families qualify. “We’re very grateful for financial-assistance programs designed to help families like ours,” said Charisse, 39. “In turn, we are doing our best to raise children who will be morally upright citizens and eager to give back when they are able.”
Meanwhile, the Wichita, Kan., diocese operates on a stewardship system that does not charge tuition for Catholic school, but rather, expects families to tithe and give of their time and talent to the parish and school.
The generosity of their parish, including the Knights of Columbus, who raised funds to help them with medical bills, has underscored the importance of community.
“You have to humble yourself and say, ‘I can’t pay you back, I probably won’t even get a thank-you note written, I just have to accept it,’” Charisse said.
Then, too, there’s the busy factor. In a large family, how do parents meet all the various needs and obligations? How do they get everyone where they need to go?
Managing chaos gets easier as parents gain experience, but for the Tierneys, the key is letting the kids take the lead on activities. “We believe in letting kids be kids,” said Rob, 39. “We try not to overschedule. We don’t have set rules about activities. One son thrives on activity. The next son needs to take it easy—school is enough to handle.”
For Rob, a former band director, keeping the busy-ness under control has meant giving up gigging in jazz bands and orchestras. In his current job, he can visit his kids’ classrooms at any time, and he can usually have lunch at home.
As for getting everybody where they're going, the Tierneys have one word: carpooling.

o o o

My aunt tells a story about my grandmother. They were on a camping trip in Yosemite when a black bear went after my grandpa's steak on the grill. My grandmother wasn't having any of that. No, this woman who was used to wrangling 10 children ran that bear off!
My grandmother is nearly 94 now, and when you ask her how she managed to raise 10 kids, she just says, "Well, I had them one a time!"
As mind-boggling as it seems, parents of big families often say having more kids makes life easier, not harder, forcing adjustments that make for smoother operations. Looking back, they see how being open to life stretches the home and heart to accommodate more than they once thought possible.
“A 7-year-old will repeatedly read the same book to a toddler," said Melanie Jean Juneau, a 62-year-old author and hobby farmer in rural Ontario. "A 10-year-old feels important when he can help his 6-year-old brother who struggles with reading. A teenager delights in rocking an infant to sleep."
Juneau never planned on having a large family, yet her vocation included nine children (now adults), seven grandchildren and raising enough beef, pork, chicken and eggs on their farm to feed their family with just enough left over to sell and cover their expenses.
For little ones, she says, work is as fun as play. She ran her home like a Montessori school, with everyone pitching in. Toddlers picked up the baby’s dropped toys. Teenagers chopped wood, helped fix the car, weed the garden and care for animals. "If teenagers are treated like kids or overindulged, they don’t have a purpose and become really angry,” Juneau said. “When parents appreciate their kids’ contributions, their confidence blossoms and matures.”
These skills made her children prize employees. "Employers love my kids because they know how to work and do not take anything for granted," Juneau said. "Many have said, 'I will give anybody with the last name Juneau a job.'”
Like the Juneaus, teaching couple Alan and Cheryl Hitchings from Rochester, N.Y., never expected to have a big family. But as time went on, the question “Do we want another baby?” gradually morphed into, “Do we have a reason not to?”
Until recently, the answer was always "no." With 12 children at home, ranging from 9 months to age 20, they have lots of helpers on hand. One of their older children, who has a full-sized bed to herself, often lets the little ones sleep with her, taking one or two off her parents' hands at bedtime.
Having older siblings around also helps with behavior. "The older boys keep the other boys in check," said Cheryl, 41, who home schools her children. "They'll say, 'You can’t talk to Mom that way!' To hear that coming from a sibling has more power."
Still, there's no getting around the fact that big families have to consider things that would never even occur to a smaller one.
For instance: vehicle size. A family of four can buy any old car. Not so for larger families.
The limousines were legendary when my grandma was raising a family, she tells me, reminiscing in the recliner at her tidy condo outside St. Louis. First came a funeral home limo with a jump seat in the middle. “Then we bought what they called an airport limousine. It would seat 12. If we made trips, the luggage had to go on top.”
The Hitchings started out with a Toyota Corolla, but when it maxed out they went to a station wagon. “Then we realized we couldn’t take the kids to the grocery store and get the groceries in, said Alan, a 42-year-old IT worker and part-time Air Force communications specialist. “So we jumped to a 12-passenger van. About a year ago we got a 15-passenger van."
"It has a tall roof," added Cheryl. "You can’t park it in parking garages."
Big families look forward with great anticipation to the day when they have a child old enough to babysit. Originally, the Hitchings paid their oldest for date nights but not errands — that was considered part of the child’s responsibility as a member of the family. Over time, they’ve shifted to an “if you want something special we’ll buy it for you” model.
How do they keep kids from getting resentful or whiny about having big responsibilities? “You have to foster it,” Cheryl said. “The whining, the negotiating — the more kids you have, the less you can tolerate it. When my oldest child was 4, he started handling lunches. He thought it was the best thing in the world, making peanut butter sandwiches for him and his brother.”
The Hitchings found out they were expecting the same day they learned Alan had finally been accepted into the Air Force. He was deployed when that baby was born, so Cheryl had to enlist her 7-year-old son’s help.
“When Alan’s gone,” Cheryl said, “it’s all hands on deck.” Single parenting a crowd means naptime is sacrosanct and bedtime, set in stone.
Now that he’s home, things are more relaxed. They’ve learned to accept – and even embrace – those contrasts. They’re part of the family’s rhythm.
During their most recent pregnancy, Alan was again deployed, and Cheryl couldn’t get out of bed. She relied on her second child, Sean, to take care of his youngest sister, who is his goddaughter. “He put her to bed and fed her,” she said. “The two of them have this amazing bond now. He comes in from work, and she runs to him. That is not a relationship that would have developed if he hadn’t been so involved.”
Among the concerns people cite when contemplating a large family is money. How do you feed such a crowd?
My grandmother stretched a blue-collar budget by making lots of noodles-and-ground-beef dinners. Much to the chagrin of her husband and children, she also bought cheap but healthy cuts like liver. “I always marveled at how little it took for the size family I had,” she said. “But we didn't have too many leftovers!”
Finances are a real issue, but the Hitchings take a philosophical view. “Whatever you make, you’re going to spend,” Cheryl said. Everyone worries about money, regardless of family size.
The Hitchings have cultivated relationships with local farmers. “One farmer sees Cheryl coming and he goes for the seconds,” Alan said. “She’ll come home with huge bushel baskets of peppers or peaches, and we’ll spend the next 24 hours canning. We buy an animal from a local beef farmer every year. And we have a son who works at a farm and brings home the extras.”
The Hitchings home school, which adds to the commitments but also gives them the flexibility to stagger outside activities. Mostly, they choose activities everyone can do together, like Boy Scouts and Frontier Girls. A local dojo offers a family deal on karate lessons. Two of their kids teach; seven take lessons.
Occasionally a child does have a passion for something uniquely their own. “You can usually tell when there’s a kid who really needs something,” Cheryl said. But mostly, their kids take pride in their family identity. “Four, sometimes five, are playing on a church kickball league, so they’re half the team. It’s something they all do together and the little ones come along and they have their own cheering squad.”
And if there’s that one kid who’s grumpy no matter what the family does? Well, Alan says, that’s normal too.
One thing both the Hitchings and the Tierneys emphasize is the need for parents to have time away. It doesn't have to be a complete break. Sometimes, Rob says, you remove a particular child or two from the mix and the others will get along, which gives the parent in charge a break. It can also be nice to take one child out for some focused parental attention.
Time together is crucial, even if it’s just a back-room retreat with the kids knowing not to bother them unless there’s a real problem. "It tends to be late at night when the little ones are in bed," said Alan. "Sometimes we talk, sometimes we’ll watch a movie or order something small for ourselves. It’s our time to recharge."
And both couples stress the value of a weekend away. It can be hard to figure out logistically, but the more kids you have, they say, the more important it is.

Facing up to fear
These families seem sanguine about their situations, but that doesn't mean they’ve never been overwhelmed. Melanie Jean Juneau remembers being terrified while pregnant with her fifth child. But in praying, she heard these words about mothering a large family: This is your call. This is your vocation. This is your witness to the world.
"I was astounded because I felt scorned and misunderstood. ‘What sort of witness is that?’ I demanded. The answer was, ‘Trust me. I am with you.’”
The Tierneys point to two very scary times in their family life. Eight years ago, Rob lost his job. But eventually he found the parish position he holds now, which has given them the opportunity to influence the Church in a positive way, including the chance to teach Theology of the Body for teens. “We’re just meant to be here," said Charisse.
Fear took on a whole new meaning, though, when their baby, Zelie, stopped breathing shortly after her birth last December. It turned out she had a pulmonary valve defect. The doctors did a catheter procedure on Christmas Eve. Afterward, Rob drove to the grandparents' house to pick up kids and Christmas presents, then returned to Kansas City, where the family spent the holiday at the Ronald McDonald House. The Tierney kids still say that was the best Christmas they ever had.
A few months later, Zelie had open-heart surgery. Shortly afterward, her lung collapsed unexpectedly. The kids dropped all their activities and came to Kansas City to be together.
"You don't wish those times on people," Rob said, "but they strengthen your faith. You feel beat-up, but looking back, you’re thankful for that time when nothing else matters.”
"It gave us a new appreciation for our children, what a gift they are," added Charisse. “We had to place Zelie in God’s hands and completely trust him with absolutely everything, from the care of our other children to the finances.”

A social good
In spite of everything, these families are a witness to the value of large families. People get too stuck on how much work it is in the short run, says Cheryl Hitchings. She remembers her grandmother, herself a mother of seven, telling her that even in those days, people scolded her for not putting herself first.
Now all those people are alone, with no one to take care of them. In later years, they told Cheryl's grandmother: We wish we had what you have.
In the short term, siblings are of value to each other. The middle kids have older ones to look up to and younger ones to look after. The younger ones benefit from having extra big people as role models. And Cheryl likes seeing how having younger kids around molds older siblings. “It keeps them grounded,” she said. “They'll say, 'We can’t have this on the TV.' They know there are little people looking up. It keeps them out of trouble!"
In fact, the kids' attitude toward adding to the family is so open that one day recently, when Alan said, “I need to talk to you guys,” the kids all shouted: “Mom’s pregnant! Yay!”
Melanie Jean Juneau stresses that large families strengthen the foundations of society. "You learn how to share and barter both skills and things.” Her kids left home prepared for sharing dorms and houses with roommates, capable of dealing with different personalities. “Healthy, large families benefit society,” she said.

Are all those yours?
Frequently, the world doesn’t recognize these benefits. Even in the 50s and 60s, when larger families weren't as scarce as they are today, people would ask my grandmother, "Are all those yours?"
"I never really got tired of that question,” she said. “We had a big car, and people would say, ‘Are all those yours?’ I'd say, "Well, yes, except we have a couple more!"
At times, even the kids in the Hitchings family notice the looks people give them. “Some days it gets really annoying,” Cheryl said. Depending on the tone of voice and who it’s coming from — a relative, for instance — she can be blunt. “Are you trying to repopulate the world?” someone once asked her.
“No,” she replied, “just outnumber the idiots.”
The Tierneys don't catch too much flak for their family size at home in Kansas, but they say the East Coast is a different world. The last time they went to Mass there, they had five kids, and everyone in the church turned around to stare at them.
Even at home, where they feel well-supported by their community, people ask, "Don't you see NFP doesn't work?"
"We say, 'No, actually, we wanted all these kids,’" Rob said. "We spaced them two years apart."
Sometimes people approach and comment, “Your children are so well behaved!”
"It’s like they expect them to be a bunch of hooligans because it’s a big family,” Charisse said. "We just try to own it wherever we go. We look like a big, joyful family…well, some of the time!"
At 5'1" and 108 pounds, Melanie Jean Juneau is not what people expect of a mother of nine. Healthy, articulate and humorous, she is a walking witness of how affirming raising a large family can be. Yet a few years ago, when a Mother’s Day article shared a humorous peek into her life, half the comments had to be deleted because of anger and profanity.
Even now, societal disapproval can make Juneau cringe. Still, she says, “my children saved me by compelling me to dive deeper into my spirit, discovering the power of eternal love at my core. I can honestly say my husband and I are joyful because we answered a call to parent a large family."

Grounded in faith
Given the pressures, faith is integral to practicing NFP with heroic openness to life. My mother's family prayed the rosary every night, the kids – even the little ones – kneeling on an unforgiving black-and-white tile floor, and Grandma sitting in the rocker. Her kids joke that often she was so tired, her head would fall down in the middle of the rosary and she'd fall right to sleep.
For the Hitchings, finding a parish that is “going in the right direction” has been crucial to keeping their kids centered. A Catholic home schooling group, with other large families, helps the kids feel like their family is normal.
Over time, the Hitchings’ understanding of NFP has matured. "For a long time, we called ourselves NFP dropouts," Alan said. "It’s only in the last five or six years that we’ve really understood that we were doing it right." There's nothing wrong with perfectly spacing children to have a moderate-sized family, they say — but there's also nothing wrong with being completely open.
The Tierneys use weekly adoration hours to bond with individual children. They spend the time saying the rosary or reading and talking about Bible stories. "It’s a wonderful place to teach them silence in this crazy, technology-ridden world," Charisse said. “They understand it’s one-on-one time with Mom or Dad, and they understand they’re there with Jesus." And going out for a treat afterward is an added incentive!

One day at a time
My 28 cousins and I are a living witness to our grandparents’ openness to life. We've grown up knowing our uncles, aunts and cousins and looking forward to family gatherings.
Recently I asked my grandmother what might have been different if she'd had fewer children. She stared at me for a minute, then chuckled. "I can't imagine having two or three," she said. "I wouldn't know what to do with myself!"
Raising a big family is chaotic, no doubt about it. Rob and Charisse Tierney often joke, "We’re a big family of introverts —everyone’s like 'Leave me alone!' and there’s nowhere to be alone!” Conflict is inevitable; it reveals the vices that each family member struggles with. Still, the Tierneys can see their family growing in virtue.
Big families present unique challenges but also unique blessings. To be successful requires flexibility as well as a commitment to certain standards — like family dinner and bedtime prayers — that are vital to family health.
As for everything else? "We take things one day at a time, one decision at a time," Charisse said. "If it's God’s will, it’s going to work out."

Family circle
By Melanie Jean Juneau
As the mother of a large family, I had to learn how to relate to more than one child at a time. It is not as difficult as one might imagine, especially if you maintain a healthy sense of humor and a flexible attitude.
One of our family jokes concerns the day I related to five people at once. I was laying down, back to back with my husband as he read and I nursed a newborn. A toddler lay curled around my head, playing with my hair while I fixed a knitting mistake for a 7-year old over the head of my baby and listened to a 10-year-old's problems.
I am pretty proud of that statistic, but this sort of flexibility took years to perfect. I had to ask myself many times, "What can I do to make sure each child feels included in our family circle?"
Since we had nine children in 15 years, the obvious tactic was to include all the children in caring for each newborn. It was one of the best decisions I ever made to encourage mutual respect and love to flourish in our family.
Everyone was so enchanted by each new baby, I was forced to watch the clock to ensure even the toddlers had the same amount of time to hold the baby. With excitement twinkling in their eyes, barely containing their joy long enough to sit still, I propped up one of their little arms with a pillow and made sure the baby was secure.
Bedtime became something to look forward to because I wrapped the newborn tightly in a blanket and let each child cuddle up to a living teddy baby in their own beds. This quiet time fostered nurturing love and eliminated jealousy because the focus was not just on the new baby but on each child with the baby.
As I nursed, it was easy to give the older children my mental and emotional attention by listening, reading books, helping with homework and even playing with Play-Doh with one hand. I can honestly say no one resented the babies because we were a team. Little ones ran for diapers, and older kids would choose pushing a fussy baby in the buggy over washing dishes any day. The children’s involvement really did help me survive and even thrive as a mum of a large family.
Melanie Jean Juneau blogs at She is also the editor-in-chief of the Catholic Stand (

Total fertility rates
1.6 - Average number of children born to a woman in Canada
1.6 - Average number of children born to a woman in China
1.9 - Average number of children born to a woman in the U.S.
2.1 - Average number of children born to a woman in France
2.2 - Average number of children born to a woman in Mexico
5.7 - Average number of children born to a woman in Uganda
Source: The World Factbook, 2017 estimates

Diocesan news, January 19, 2018

Two changes in priest assignments made
Bishop Carl A. Kemme has announced a change in ministerial assignments for two priests.
The Rev. John F. Jirak, Pastor, Church of the Magdalen, Wichita, Kansas, effective, Feb. 13.
The Rev. Stuart M. Smeltzer, Pastor, St. Joseph, Conway Springs, Kansas, effective, Feb. 13.
+ Most Reverend Carl A. Kemme, D.D., Bishop of Wichita

Ordination to be streamed, broadcast
The ordination of Bishop-elect W. Shawn McKnight as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri, is scheduled to be broadcast online and via cable by EWTN, between 2 and 4 p.m. CST Tuesday, Feb. 6.
Father Michael Nolan, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita will provide commentary for viewers during the Mass, which will be held in St. Joseph Cathedral in Jeff City.
Pope Francis appointed Bishop-elect McKnight, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, in November to succeed Bishop John R. Gaydos, who is retiring after leading the Jefferson City diocese for 20 years.

Bishop Kemme’s calendar
Here is Bishop Carl A. Kemme’s calendar for the next several weeks.
Jan. 17-21: March for Life in Washington, D.C.
Jan 21: Mass at St. Isidore’s Catholic Student Center at Kansas State University in Manhattan at 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 22: Topeka March for Life Rally and Mass
Jan. 26-27: Diocesan Pastoral Council visioning session
Jan. 29-Feb. 4: South American Shrine Pilgrimage for Guadalupe Clinic
Feb. 5-6: Installation and ordination Mass of Bishop-Elect Shawn McKnight in Jefferson City, Missouri
Feb. 11: Vietnamese New Year’s Mass and celebration at Church of the Magdalen at 3 p.m.
Feb. 14: Ash Wednesday Mass at noon at the Cathedral; Ash Wednesday Mass at 5:30 p.m. at Benedictine College in Atchison
Feb. 15-16: Jesus Caritas at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison
Feb. 17: Rite of Election at Cathedral at 10 a.m.; Catholic Men’s Conference Mass at Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School
Feb. 18: Rite of Election at Cathedral at 2:30 p.m.; Rite of Election at Cathedral at 4:30 p.m.

Prairie Troubadour Symposium to be held Feb. 9-10 in Fort Scott
The third annual Prairie Troubadour Symposium will be held Friday and Saturday, Feb. 9-10, in The Liberty Theater, located at 113 S. Main St. in Fort Scott.
This year’s topic is “Field and Family: Reflections on a Healthy Human Ecology.” Talks will range from faith and family, to economics and agrarianism.
The Most Rev. James Conley, Bishop of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, and a former priest of the Diocese of Wichita, will be speaking along with Father Paul Check, rector of St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford, Connecticut.
Other speakers include Joseph Pearce, professor of Humanities, at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut; Christopher Check, president of Catholic Answers; William Fahey, president of Thomas More College in Merrimack New Hampshire; Kevin O’Brien, founder and artistic director of the Theater of the Word Incorporated; and John Cuddeback, professor of philosophy at Christendom College In Front Royal, Virginia.
The cost is $75 for the conference, or $150 for the conference and a soiree, plus a ticket fee.
Tickets may be purchased at

30th Annual Knights vs. priests Basketball Classic Jan. 28
The priests of the Diocese of Wichita will return to the basketball court against the Blue Knights of council 4118, Sunday, Jan. 28, at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Wichita.
The 30th Annual Basketball Classic for Vocations will open at 6 p.m. The tip-off is scheduled for 7 o’clock. The Padres lead the series 16-13.
Donations will be taken at the door. Proceeds support the council’s religious vocations programs – primarily as direct financial support to seminarians.
This year’s business sponsors include Catholic Family Federal Credit Union, Damm Music Center, Damm Pharmacies, Eck & Eck, Leon Keiter-Attorney at Law and Prichard Animal Hospital.
The event has raised over $55,000 to support religious vocations programs.

Kroger foundation donates $1,400 to The Lord’s Diner
The Kroger Company Foundation donated $1,400 to The Lord’s Diner on Jan. 8.
Sunny Parr, manager of the Kroger Foundation in Cincinnati, Ohio, said in a letter that the donation was made “to support ending hunger and providing food security to those in need.”
To do so, she said, “the Kroger Foundation is strategically focusing on supporting organizations that work to end hunger, improve food security, and bring more balanced meals to families in need.”
Parr also thanked the Diner for its service to the community.
The gift was made possible by the Kwik Shop operating unit of the Kroger Family of Stores.

Immigration information forum Jan. 21 at Newman U.
A community forum sponsored by the Immigrant Family Support Network will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 21, in the Dugan Gorges Conference Center at Newman University in Wichita.
Information about legislative initiatives in Kansas, process in obtaining citizenship, the struggles individuals and families have in the process, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and TPS, the Temporary Protective Status, will be discussed.
For more information contact Forrest Ehmke at

Catholic seniors invited to Bible study at Reflection Ridge
Catholic adults are invited to a video-based Catholic Bible study for seniors on the second and fourth Fridays of the month at Reflection Ridge, 2300 N. Tyler Road in Wichita.
For more information, call 316-721-0500.

Fr. Max Biltz leading pilgrimage June 1-10
Father Maximilian Biltz is planning to lead a pilgrimage to Spain June 1-10.
Those interested in accompanying him to the many holy sites and shrines from Lisbon to Barcelona may call 855-842-8001 or visit