After 19 years of faithful service, Bishop Foys to retire; announces Father John Iffert has been appointed next bishop

Laura Keener, Editor.

Bishop-elect John Iffert

The Diocese of Covington Curia was buzzing with excitement, July 13, as Bishop Roger Foys announced that, after 342 days, Pope Francis has accepted his letter of resignation and has appointed as the diocese’s 11th bishop Father John C. Iffert, a priest of the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois. Bishop-elect Iffert currently serves as vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Belleville.

The appointment was publicized in Washington, D.C. on July 13, 2021, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Additionally, Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Foys apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Covington to oversee its operations until the installation of Bishop-elect Iffert. The consecration and installation is scheduled for Sept. 30, 3 p.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington.

Last year, on July 27, 2020, Bishop Foys celebrated his 75th birthday — the retire-

ment age of bishops — and, as required, submitted his letter of resignation to the Holy Father. In his 19 years as Bishop of Covington, Bishop Foys has ordained 42 priests for the Diocese of Covington and has revitalized Covington’s Cathedral Square. He has been a faithful

and resolute proponent of Catholic school education, especially for vulnerable families in the urban core.

“It is with gratitude to Almighty God that I welcome Very Rev. John C. Iffert as my successor as the 11th Bishop of the Diocese of Covington,” said Bishop Foys. “I am grateful also to our Holy Father Pope Francis for providing for the pastoral care of our diocese by this appointment. Bishop-elect Iffert brings a wealth of pastoral and administrative experience to his episcopal ministry. He comes well-prepared to provide for the needs of our diocese as a pastor with the heart of a shepherd.”

Father Iffert was born Nov. 23, 1967. He received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois (1988). He attended Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Il., where he earned a Bachelor of Sacred Theology in 1996 and a Master of Divinity in 1997. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Belleville on June 7, 1997.

Bishop-elect Iffert’s assignments after ordination include: parochial vicar at St. Peter Cathedral in Belleville (1997-2000); administrator and pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Columbia (2000-2003). During that time, he served as a member of the diocesan personnel board, Defender of the Bond for the Tribunal, Spiritual Moderator for both the Belleville deanery CYO and the Diocesan Teens Encounter Christ movement. In August 2003, he entered the novitiate of the Order of Preachers, Province of St. Albert the Great, USA (Dominican, Central Province). He professed simple vows as a Dominican in 2004 which he renewed in 2006. From 2007-2008, he served as parochial vicar of St. Thomas Catholic Center at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Father Iffert left the Dominicans in 2008 and returned to the Diocese of Belleville.

Father Iffert has served as administrator of St. Mary Parish in Mount Vernon (2008-2010); administrator of St. Theresa Parish in Salem and at St. Elizabeth in Kinmundy (2009-2010); pastor of St. Mary Parish (2010-2020); and pastor of St. Barbara Parish in Scheller (2014-2020). He has served as vicar forane of the North Central Vicarate (2013-2020); diocesan co-vicar for priests (2014-2020); member of the Diocesan Finance Council (2010-present); and as a member of the College of Consultors (2016-present). Since 2020, Father Iffert has served as vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Belleville, and since January 2021 he has served as pastor of St. Stephen in Caseyville.

“Bishop-elect Iffert has been an excellent priest and a dedicated pastor, and he is widely respected in our diocese,” said Bishop McGovern, Diocese of Belleville. “With his strong faith and many talents, I believe Bishop-elect Iffert will be an excellent shepherd for the people of Northern Kentucky.”

At a press conference, July 13 at Bishop Howard Memorial Auditorium at the Diocese of Covington Curia building, Bishop Foys introduced Bishop-elect Iffert to the Curia staff and the local community. Also attending the press conference were Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Archdiocese of Louisville; Bishop William Medley, Diocese of Owensboro; and Bishop John Stowe, Diocese of Lexington.

“This is an announcement we have been waiting for a long time,” said Bishop Foys acknowledging that together he and the staff have been waiting almost a year for the Holy Father to accept his retirement.

Reflecting on his thoughts after Archbishop Pierre

called with the news as he was about to call to congratulate Bishop-elect Iffert, Bishop Foys said, “I felt sort of like John the Baptist, when he was waiting, like everyone else, for the Messiah who would set him free. I was reminded of Matthew, chapter 11, verse 3, ‘Are you who is to come or do we have to wait for another?’ Well, he is the one who is to come,” Bishop Foys said to the laughter of the staff.

“Knowing Father Iffert these last several days, I am confident that he will make a wonderful shepherd — he is a pastor with the heart of a shepherd,” Bishop Foys said. “I know that you, along with me, will not only welcome him but also pledge him our support and most importantly our prayers as he begins to take the reins of the diocese.”

At the press conference, Bishop-elect Iffert received a standing ovation as he approached the podium to address the staff and people of the Diocese of Covington.

“I am astounded and deeply grateful that Pope Francis has elected me to serve as the 11th Bishop of Covington, Kentucky, and called me to share in apostolic ministry,” Bishop-elect Iffert said. “I thank the Holy Father with all my heart for this election and call. I am inspired by his vision of a Church so deeply rooted in relationship with Christ that we accompany the outcast, tend the wounded, mourn with the brokenhearted, rejoice and give thanks in every

circumstance, and so carry out Jesus’ mission of evangelization. It is with joy that I dedicate myself anew to this happy labor, now with you in the Diocese of Covington.”

Bishop-elect Iffert praised and thanked Bishop Foys for his 19 years as shepherd of the Diocese of Covington.

“I am also grateful to Bishop Roger Foys. For 19 years he has served the people of the Diocese of Covington faithfully, diligently, and with a pastor’s heart for those who are hurting,” he said. “Since my election, he has been most

welcoming and gracious — a true Christian gentlemen. I look forward to the opportunity to know Bishop Foys, to be his brother bishop and friend in Christ.”

Bishop-elect Iffert gave heartfelt and tender words of gratitude to his parents, John and Mary Iffert, and his two sisters, Kim and Kathy, six nieces and nephews and 14 great nieces and nephews.

“The only lottery in this world that counts is the family that you are born into, and I am a winner in that lottery. I am most grateful,” Bishop-elect Iffert said.

Bishop-elect Iffert indicated that he has only three agenda items as he comes to lead the Diocese of Covington — to get to know its priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful, to invite young men to consider priestly vocations and to beg for prayers.

“To the priests, deacons, lay faithful of the Diocese of Covington, I can’t wait to get to know you and pray with you,” he said. “From the moment that I learned that I would be the bishop-elect, I have been praying for you. Every time I pause and turn toward God you are the people who come to my mind the most. My agenda as I come to the Diocese of Covington is just that, to get to know you. I want to visit with you in our parishes and schools, to celebrate Mass with you, to hear from you why you love our faith and what burdens you carry … You, and being Church with you, are the stuff of my hopes, prayers and dreams these days. Please — once I am consecrated and on the ground here in Covington — invite me. I want to be asked.”

About priestly vocations, Bishop-elect Iffert made a plea to the young men of the diocese.

“I want to take this moment to invite every active, prayerful, Catholic young man to spend some significant time — maybe six months — learning about the life of a priest and discerning whether God might be calling you to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. … Let me witness to you today, this is a joyful and fulfilling life in the midst of loving and dedicated people in community. If God is offering you life as a priest or religious, you do not want to miss this. It is an adventure and it is a joy. So please, please every Catholic young man consider life as a priest and if God is calling you.”

Bishop-elect Iffert said he is begging the people of the diocese to pray for him, as he is praying for them, sharing a prayer he has prayed most every day of his life since his confirmation when he was 12 years old.

“There is a little prayer that I have always attributed to my confirmation patron, St. Isaac Jogues. I have moved into that prayer, stretched it a bit, and made it my own. I offer it this way: ‘Wherever I go from here, Lord, let me be strong in faith and poor in spirit. Make me a man after your own heart.’ I have always prayed it for myself, my parishioners, my coworkers, my bishop, our pope and now I will pray it for the people of the Diocese of Covington.

“The Rite of Ordination and Installation of a Bishop is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, at 3 p.m., in the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington. At that hour, please pray that prayer with me and for me. Pray that I can be strong when strength is needed and weak when I am tempted to be full of myself. Know that I will be carrying you in my heart that day, and asking God to make us all men and women after his own heart.”

Archbishop Kurtz congratulated both Bishop Foys and Bishop-elect Iffert.

“It is with great joy that I welcome the news that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has appointed Father John Iffert as the next bishop of the Diocese of Covington. He is known to have a great pastoral heart as well as excellent pastoral experience in his more than two decades of service in the Diocese of Belleville,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “Bishop-elect

Iffert is succeeding my friend and brother bishop, Bishop Roger Foys. Bishop Foys has served Northern Kentucky with great distinction, and I join with the bishops of the province in thanking him for his leadership and collaboration. The bishops of the Province of Louisville have a great fraternity and together we welcome Bishop-elect Iffert. We promise him and Bishop Foys our prayerful support.”

The 2021–22 school year opens to in-person instruction with protocols and prayer

Laura Keener, Editor.

Kendra McGuire, superintendent of Schools

Before the last school bell rang, closing the 2020–21 school year, teachers, parents and even news reporters were already asking, “What are the COVID-19 protocols going to be for next year?”
It has taken awhile for the necessary information to come forward so that Kendra McGuire, superintendent of Schools and the diocesan COVID Task Force could answer that question. First, in May, nobody could readily predict how, in August, the virus might be moving in communities. Also, information on how effective vaccines would be, especially against variants of the virus, was just beginning to be collected and continues to develop. Most importantly, guidance from the Kentucky Department of Health (KDH) and the Northern Kentucky Health Department (NKHD) had not yet been released for the upcoming school year.
But now August is upon us, schools are about to open and protocols have been developed. In a letter to parents, that was emailed to principals July 27, Mrs. McGuire released the COVID-19 Return to School Requirements 2021–2022. These protocols were developed based on the guidance released July 14 from the KDH and after communication with the NKHD.
“We have put in place safety protocols to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as this virus continues to be present in our local community,” Mrs. McGuire said in the letter. “All our school operations and activities will return to normal with these safety protocols in place.”
The new protocols also incorporate the diocese’s own experience from providing in-person instruction throughout the entire school year last year — when COVID cases were high, vaccines were a hope and the entire world was learning together how to maintain those things in life which are a priority while mitigating the spread of the virus.
“While we are again starting the year with some uncertainties, we remain confident with what we have learned so far in mitigating the spread of the virus,” Mrs. McGuire said.
Highlights from this year’s protocols include:
— Non-traditional instruction or remote learning will only be available to students that are in quarantine. All other students will return to the classroom for in-person instruction.
“What we learned last year is that the best we can do virtually is not really good enough; it’s not the best we could offer,” Mrs. McGuire said in an interview about the 2020–2021 school year. “So the goal had to be getting the students in school; it had to be in person. School is so much more than just studying by yourself and reading a book or completing a paper online — there’s so much more in the interactions in school, which are all part of that big educational piece.”
— Masks will be optional, except on buses where the state of Kentucky requires masks to be worn. Those who choose to wear a mask will be supported and encouraged to do so.
— Families are encouraged to discuss with their doctor if getting the COVID-19 vaccine is best for them and their child(ren); the COVID-19 vaccine will not be required for students, faculty or staff.
It’s important to note that, in collaborating with St. Elizabeth Healthcare in February 2021, it is estimated that over 90 percent of the administration, faculty and staff in diocesan schools are fully vaccinated. Additionally, unlike unvaccinated persons, vaccinated persons are not required to quarantine when exposed to the virus and are determined to be a close contact if they are symptom-free.
— Three-feet spacing between students is recommended in classrooms and the cafeteria.
— High schools and high school athletes must follow the KHSAA guidelines.
— Employees, students and volunteers should complete a daily personal health assessment before leaving for school each day. Anyone exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 should not come to school and should contact their doctor.
“As parents, your support will be one of the most important factors in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses in our schools,” Mrs. McGuire said in the letter to parents. “If your child is exhibiting illness symptoms, you must keep them home and work with your doctor to determine what the illness is and when it will be safe to return to school.”
Mrs. McGuire said that schools will continue to track COVID-19 cases and principals will report cases to the diocese. Right now, the NKHD and KDH are not requiring that schools or the diocese report individual cases. Cases of five or more that are linked by interaction or an event are required to be reported to the NKHD.
“This will help us to determine whether or not additional measures need to be taken to further prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Mrs. McGuire. “In order to do this, parents must report COVID-19 positive cases to the school immediately.”
A large part of last year’s success in keeping children in school while also mitigating the spread of the virus can be attributed to the overwhelming cooperation of parents, even when it meant that their child would miss out on important personal milestones.
“Throughout the 2020–21 school year, we made changes to procedures based on our data,” Mrs. McGuire said. “We will continue to monitor this again and make changes as necessary to maintain inperson learning.”
As the school year begins, “In all things we place our trust in God,” Mrs. McGuire said. “I ask you to pray for another successful school year and ask God’s protection for the health and safety of our students, staff, families and volunteers who will be part of our school communities this year.”
Mrs. McGuire’s letter and the COVID-19 Return to School Requirements 2021–2022 School Year are available online at www.covdio.org.

Mental Health & Pregnancy/Adoption Counselor – Catholic Charities

The Diocese of Covington’s Catholic Charities ministry is seeking to hire a Counselor for our Mental Health and Pregnancy/Adoption Programs. The position is 40 hours per week, including some evening hours. This staff person performs all the duties of a licensed counselor for our general counseling practice serving individuals and families, with a partial emphasis on pregnancy and adoption. Major areas of responsibility include providing assessment, case management, diagnoses, and therapy to children, families, and adults within the outpatient program; and facilitating groups, and providing services to pregnant clients, their partners, and/or their families, including counseling, case management, parenting support, and foster care coordination and supervision. The successful candidate will be an actively-practicing Roman Catholic individual with a Master’s degree in Social Work or a related field, and experience with diverse populations of families, couples, children, and adults. We prefer LCSW or LPCC licensure, or eligibility within two years. Qualified individuals should submit a letter of interest along with a detailed resume or C-V, including compensation history and at least 3 references with contact email addresses, by email or by fax to Stephen Koplyay, SPHR at [email protected], fax 859-392-1589.

 

Bishop Foys encourages families to evangelize by living a holy life inspired and modeled after the Holy Family

(from left) Father Ryan Maher, vicar general and Cathedral rector and Father Daniel Schomaker, vicar general, during the recessional at the Mass for the Year of the Family.

Laura Keener, Editor.

The recognition of the Year of the Family — a year pronounced by Pope Francis for the Church to focus on the family and conjugal love — was initiated in the Diocese of Covington July 10 as Bishop Roger Foys celebrated a special Year of the Family Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington. The diocesan Office of Catechesis and Evangelization is spearheading the efforts for the faithful of the diocese to pray, learn and serve as a family, drawing families closer to each other and to Christ.

Bishop Foys began his homily by inviting those present to think about their childhood and the types of memories their childhood brings.

“I always encourage parents to make good memories for and with your children,” Bishop Foys said, “because when our parents are gone, that’s all we have left.”

“I have happy memories and I hope that your children will have happy memories of their childhood and their growing up and that they will learn from you what really and truly matters,” he said.

Bishop Foys encouraged parents, saying that when he was a pastor it was not uncommon for newly engaged couples to come to him seeking to be married in the Church, even though they had not been practicing the faith for some time. Often, these couples would return to the practice of their faith.

“Even if you might not think that you’re making any difference, trust me, you will make a difference,” he said.

Drawing extensively from Pope Francis’ Angelus address on the Feast of the Holy Family, Dec. 27, 2020, Bishop Foys highlighted the importance of family and how the Holy Family — Jesus, Mary and Joseph — are both a model and inspiration for family life.

“It is good to reflect on the fact that the Son of God wanted to be in need of the warmth of a family, like all children. Precisely for this reason, because it is Jesus’ family, the family of Nazareth is the model family, in which all families of the world can find their sure point of reference and sure inspiration.” Bishop Foys said quoting Pope Francis.

“Children want to belong, they want to be part of something,” Bishop Foys said.

Quoting Pope Francis again, Bishop Foys said, “In imitation of the Holy Family, we are called to rediscover the educational value of the family unit: it requires being founded on the love that always regenerates relationships, opening up horizons of hope.”

“Founded on love — there’s the secret,” Bishop Foys said. “Love can endure anything. It can endure any hardship, any struggle, any difficulty, any injury — within the family, love can conquer any of that.”

At the Angelus address Pope Francis said, “Within the family one can experience sincere communion when it is a house of prayer, when affections are serious, profound, pure, when forgiveness prevails over discord, when the daily harshness of life is softened by mutual tenderness and serene adherence to God’s will. In this way, the family opens itself up to the joy that God gives to all those who know how to give joyfully.”

Bishop Foys said that it breaks his heart to see families divided; to see families at a loved one’s funeral sitting on separate sides of the church because they are not speaking.

“Forgiveness over discord,” Bishop Foys said. “Home should be the place where a son or daughter can come no matter what. The Lord is the one to whom we can come no matter what. The same should be said of the home where the mother and father reflect God’s love, God’s joy, God’s forgiveness.”

Pope Francis acknowledged that it is true that all families quarrel, “but,” he cautioned, “before the end of the day, make peace. And do you know why? Because a cold war, day after day, is extremely dangerous. It does not help.”

Bishop Foys said that the Holy Father offers three very important phrases that all families should hold dear and say to each other often – excuse me, thank you and sorry.

“Excuse me, so as not be intrusive in the life someone,” Bishop Foys said. “Thank you — so much service that we do for one another within the family — always say thank you. Gratitude is the life blood of the noble soul. How much do we take for granted from our families, especially our parents?”

And the hardest one to say, Bishop Foys said, is “I am sorry.” Bishop Foys depicted a dramatic scene from the popular 1970s movie “Love Story” where, after a bitter quarrel, as the leading actor is about to apologize, his girlfriend places her finger on his lips and says the often quoted phrase, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

“Give me a break,” Bishop Foys said. “That’s boloney. Love means being able to say, ‘I am sorry,’ and knowing the beloved will be able to say, ‘I forgive you.’ That’s true love. Being able to say I am sorry, to humble oneself enough — to trust the other enough — to say, ‘I am sorry;’ with the knowledge that the love is so deep from the other — that it is from God — that we will be forgiven.”

Bishop Foys acknowledged that the family and family life is being threatened in the world and in our country — but Christians are not to be discouraged, instead they should have hope and to evangelize the world by living a holy, Christian family life.

“Destroy the family and you destroy a civilization,” Bishop Foys said. “Build up a family in faith and in love and in joy and in trust and you have a strong family, a strong community, a strong city, a strong country, a strong world.

“Today we ask God’s blessings on all families, especially those that are having difficulty — those that are struggling — we ask that they turn to the Lord and find their peace, find their solace, find their joy in the Lord. Families are precious to the Lord, or the Lord God would not have sent his Son to be born into a family. Jesus came to save us from our sins and was born in a family so that he, in his humanity, could experience the love of a mother and a father in a family.”

The Office of Catechesis and Evangelization invites families to visit frequently a newly created webpage www.covdio.org/family. There they will find helpful resources to learn, pray and serve during this Year of the Family.

Grandparents proclaim the Gospel and hand down traditions through their love

In anticipation of the first celebration of Grandparents Day, which the Church will celebrate July 26 this year and on the fourth Sunday of July on the liturgical calendar, Pope Francis, in his May 31 message to grandparents said, “It makes no difference how old you are, whether you still work or not, whether you are alone or have a family, whether you became a grandmother or grandfather at a young age or later, whether you are still independent or need assistance. Because there is no retirement age from the work of proclaiming the Gospel and handing down traditions to your grandchildren. You just need to set out and undertake something new.” (See Pope Francis entire message on page #.)

Up a long and winding gravel driveway, past a still and tranquil pond in southern Campbell County is the home of Jim and Terry Roessler. It’s a welcoming, white country home with a wrap-around porch, an expansive yard with a Mary grotto, all set beneath a canopy of trees. The home exudes peace and love — a concrete expression of the Roessler’s themselves.

The Roessler’s are youthful grandparents and for them proclaiming the Gospel and handing down traditions to their 15 and growing grandchildren, especially passing on the Catholic faith, is essential. Mrs. Roessler notes that she has 18 grandchildren — 15, ages 13 on down, two in heaven and one on the way. For them sharing the faith is experiencing new adventures and is continuing traditions that have been handed down to them. Mrs. Roessler remembers her grandmother wearing a blue ribbon signifying her membership in a Marian group.

“I remember they would go and lead the rosary and attend Mass,” said Mrs. Roessler. She, too, has a devotion to Mary and, her children say, can be regularly found praying the rosary and inviting the family to pray the rosary together.

“I just know they were diligent about praying the rosary, going to Mass, and receiving the sacraments,” said Mr. Roessler about his grandparents.

“Holidays were wonderful,” Mrs. Roessler said about being with her grandparents. “That’s what you did, you had an Easter celebration and you went out and collected Easter eggs and you had a meal together. It’s always about having a meal together and sharing that day. I remember my grandmother always made me and my sister matching Easter outfits.”

Living the faith — living the Gospel of Life — being a witness to Christ’s love with an openness to life, Mr. and Mrs. Roessler said, is the primary role of grandparents. That role, Mrs. Roessler said, has not changed since she was a child, but she believes that role has become more urgent and grandparents have become more focused on that role as the culture becomes more and more secular and values and morals more distorted.

“I feel more of a need to be hands on, to be active in their prayer lives given the culture and passing the faith and the strength to live that faith along to them,” Mrs. Roessler said. “It is just living the faith, but now it’s done with more purpose or more intentionally.”

Like their parents and grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Roessler continue the traditions of holiday celebrations — albeit less the matching outfits — and Sundays are always a celebration.

“Sunday dinners are a big aspect of our lives, we make that a priority no matter what has happened during the week,” said Joanna Roessler, the youngest of the siblings. “We have discussions around the dinner table and the nieces and nephews pick up on that.”

“Grandma and grandpa are living out the faith and they see that — their witness,” said Laura Rousseau, the oldest sibling and mother of five. “Their door has always been open to anyone and everyone who needs help.”

Mrs. Rousseau said that her parents didn’t have a lot when they were growing up, however they were always a friend to others in need — providing groceries and clothing to a neighbor who had even less, opening their home to a neighbor whose house had burned down, welcoming their children’s college friends during the holidays when they couldn’t afford to make the trip home. That attentiveness to others in need continues and is influencing the next generation of Roesslers.

“They are thoughtful and do hard work without being asked and they are always looking to help others especially our family,” said Mrs. Rousseau’s oldest child, Eva, about her grandparents.

Family and faith are paramount for Mr. and Mrs. Roessler and they willingly and joyfully accept the necessary sacrifices to ensure the best for their children and grandchildren. All five of their children have attended a Catholic college — the Franciscan University of Steubenville — and Mrs. Roessler decided to home school the children to ensure their formation in the Catholic faith.

“I guess they could have gone to a secular college, but I hear of so many people that come from good Catholic families that are taught right out of the faith,” she said.

The sacrifice has not gone unappreciated, “My family sacrificed a lot to make sure we went to a good Catholic university. That was a really hard time when we all went to college because financially it took a lot,” said Mrs. Rousseau. “We all married spouses that also believe the faith is important — my mom and dad sacrificed so much for this,” acknowledging the discord she has seen families experience when one or more family member is alienated from the faith.

“Living as an example and my parents just encouraging our lifestyles and their always there to support us in having children and help us to live out the faith, recognizing that all children are a gift from God,” is what Ms. Roessler believes her parents have instilled in her and her siblings and are passing on to the grandchildren. “They are willing to drop whatever they are doing to come and help us and love us where we are needing to be loved,” she said.

“No matter how hard it was they always strived to make sure our family was a unit and together and that the faith was the center of everything that we did,” said Mrs. Rousseau.

Mrs. Roessler teaches CCD at her parish and takes seriously the ministry of teaching students the sacraments. Each year she attends the St. John Bosco conference at Franciscan University so that she can continually learn and grow in the faith. As a couple, the Roessler’s have enjoyed traveling as a way to deepen their faith life — attending World Youth Day in Canada to see St. Pope John Paul II, traveling to Rome and Assisi. Mr. Roessler said that two of their children live out of town — one in Wisconsin and another in Georgia — and they make a point of attending the baptisms and first Communions of their grandchildren, that can also involve some travel.

Mr. Roessler is a man of few words but his support and dedication to his wife, children and grandchildren speaks for him by the way he provides for his family. He said that he nurtures his faith “by going to church and being with family — being with our daughters and son and the grandchildren.”

Mrs. Roessler said that it is her greatest hope that by living the Gospel of life that others will see the joy and gift that children are and choose to open their hearts and homes to the children God would entrust to them — no matter the timing, no matter the ability or disability.

“I wish more people would be open to life and accepting of children they don’t realize how much their missing, how many blessings they are missing,” she said. “I never imagined having five children, certainly not 18 grandchildren, but it’s a joy.”

A reflection on Fatherhood – Year of St. Joseph and Year of the Family

By David Cooley.

This Sunday is Father’s Day. What a wonderful time to lift men up and reflect on what fatherhood really means, especially during this Year of St. Joseph and Year of the Family.

We live in a culture that often ridicules men and tries to make fathers irrelevant, whether through movies and shows, government programs, or the ability to conceive babies outside of a sexual relationship. Moreover, society’s view of men is often shaped by historical patriarchies, individuals who have made terrible mistakes and buzz terms such as “toxic masculinity.” There are many examples we can find to throw fuel on these fires, but it might be more beneficial for us to ask: Is masculinity really the problem or is it a lack of true masculinity? After all, the understanding of what it means to be a man truly culminates in fatherhood (especially spiritual fatherhood), lived out chivalrously as priest, prophet and king.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18.3 million children, more than 1 in 4, go to bed each night without a father in the home (Source: U.S. Census Bureau. 2020). This has been a growing problem for a long time and leads to a greater risk of abuse and neglect, poverty, teen pregnancy, behavioral and drug problems and prison time, just to name a few. Children need their dads! Wives need good husbands as partners! It seems to me that if we are going to get through this difficult situation we need to do two main things: hold men accountable and return to them some of the dignity and respect that has been lost in the last 60 years.

In his book, “The God of Jesus Christ: Meditations on the Triune God,” then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope emeritus Benedict XVI), wrote: “The crisis of fatherhood that we are experiencing today is a basic aspect of the crisis that threatens mankind as a whole. Where fatherhood is perceived only as a biological accident on which no genuinely human claims may be based, or the father is seen as a tyrant whose yoke must be thrown off, something in the basic structure of human existence has been damaged.” (p. 29)

Fatherhood, and by extension motherhood and the whole family structure, are under attack. If we constantly tear young boys down with unhealthy messages, feelings of inadequacy and fear will drive out any confidence they might have had. Our culture, in supporting the worship of the self, encourages men to flee from the gift and responsibility of fatherhood in pursuit of their own desires. Fatherless homes have a large impact on children’s understanding of the world, love and of the heavenly Father.

For a man, any man, to live out the fullness of his meaning in life he must discover his vocation to fatherhood. Living out one’s vocation to fatherhood can be bound up in Holy Matrimony, spiritual marriage in the priesthood or religious life, and even single life. After all, we have Church Fathers, Desert Fathers, a Holy Father and even godfathers. We address our priests as spiritual fathers. And, of course, we have our biological fathers and our grandfathers.

Pope Francis has said that fatherhood is about giving life to others. In an address June 15, 2015, he said, “Becoming mothers and fathers really means to be fully realized, because it is to become similar to God.”

This is the cover of the book “St. Joseph, Tender Father: His Life and His Care for Us Today” by Louise Perrotta. (CNS photo/courtesy The Word Among Us Press)

St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and earthly father of Jesus, is the model of fatherhood. A good family man is a provider, protector, nurturer and sponsor. He is happy to play his part off to the side, out of the spotlight, increasingly overshadowed by others, often unheralded and unrecognized. He is not perfect, but he is irreplaceable. He works and fights out of love. He always puts others before himself.

Men are spiritual sons, brothers and husbands first, but the summit of being a man is being a spiritual father. The source of fatherhood is God the Father. Therefore, men, we must hold each other accountable. We should always strive to live holy lives and bring people to Christ, the true face of the Father in Heaven.

The fight to save the family, the building block of human society, is a worthy cause. It’s going to take men and women of courage, integrity and faith. Abraham in Genesis is our father in faith, let’s strive to put our faith in God and “go forth” to the unknown future the same way he did.

Happy Father’s Day!

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization.