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.”