Catholic Faith and Big Happy Family

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Shannon (Neen) is Child of God, Catholic, wife, mother to 11 blessings on earth (including twins) and 2 in Heaven, home-school administrator, teacher, writer and blogger.  In a brief interview shannon had given will motivate every catholic mom.

As a Catholic mother did you always want to have a big family?

I always wanted to have at least 7 children. When I met my husband he only wanted one. I pushed for number two but then he was addicted. We both have adored each and every child. We are always amazed at how God can take the same mom and the same dad and mix it all up into these unique people. We have 11 different personalities that are all wonderful and complement each other. After number 5 it was my husband pushing for another one each time.

How has the Catholic Faith changed your life?

We have always been Catholic, so I don’t know any different. I do know that during the baptism of our second child I “REALLY” heard what I was promising as the parent. I was moved to learn more about the faith and try to live it out in all ways. Our family motto is “Heaven is the goal, everything else is gravy!” We remind ourselves of that whenever we have decisions to make or situations to deal with. Being a Catholic isn’t always easy but I can’t imagine living my life without the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I could never walk away from that.

Raising eleven kids has not been easy, How have you managed to teach Catholic values to each and everyone of your kids at different ages?

On this question I actually think numbers help. It becomes second nature to live your faith when everyone around you is doing the same. Our faith is a part of our life in every thing we do. I really feel that the faith is learned in the everyday action more than in the formal teaching. We do plenty of the formal teaching but that is just in addition to seeing us life our faith. We are active in the pro-life movement. Praying for the unborn and getting active in prayerful protests teach so many about life issues and our political system. We try to start our studies (we homeschool) each morning in prayer and end each day in family prayer. We end the day just offering intentions (everyone gets to list only 3) and together we recite the Hail Mary, Our Father, Glory Be, St. Michael and the Act of Contrition. We keep it simple and that works best for little ones. We go to Mass each week as a complete family. We don’t leave the babies behind even when they are tiny, this is the important family event of the week. One of the most profound and life teaching moments come in driving around town. We always say, “Hi” to Jesus in the tabernacle and make the Sign of the Cross as we pass any Catholic church as we drive, this has created so many teachable moments. Also at every cemetery dad always prays for deceased. We pause each time we hear or see and ambulance. BUT you can’t stop there, we must also teach why. That is the trick. We have not pushed the faith on the kids but tried to inspire them to make it their own. While teaching them all the rules by living them we have always had an open communication about why we do the things we do. My kids don’t turn 18 and then make a different decision. They have been living the faith on their own from the beginning. We “make” the kids go to Mass each week but as I have said before we discuss why this is the highlight of our week. When they reach adulthood they understand why they are required to go and appreciate it for themselves.

Seeing you and your family so happy , Do you think Catholic Priests should be allowed to get married? why?/why not?

In my opinion Catholic Priests should NOT marry. I watch my husband carry the burden of our financial needs on his shoulders. It isn’t easy. Our children all need his love and time. It would not be fair to add those same needs and worries of an entire parish on any man. The family can build us up at every turn, that is true; but it takes a lot of effort and work to create that kind of family. I feel the family or the parish would suffer if the man was divided between he two. Here in Houston our priests are running mega parishes with close to 5000 families in them. That is a great task to be the spiritual father of all those souls. I don’t see how the same individual could give a wife or a child adequate attention. I do understand the sacrifice the priest makes and I appreciate it so much. Our oldest son is discerning the priesthood. His choice isn’t being a dad or not. He is trying to decide how God is calling him to serve. Will it be as part of the noble priesthood or will it be as a husband and father. Both are beautiful calls but are very different. Combining two beautiful calls will not allow the beauty of either one the time to develop.

As a Catholic what are your greatest challenges?

I think our greatest challenge as Catholics if living our faith authentically and consistently. We are called to be Christ like but life gets in the way a lot of the time. The real world is hard. For instance you have been driving for only a few minutes when you are cut off several times and then you get pulled over for a light being out. Your frustrations are high already and now the added cost of a ticket is coming your way. We are called to be polite and kind even to the officer that is doing his job but you are already frazzled. It is in those moments that I find it the hardest to be consistent. It is in the little everyday things that the challenge is most prevalent.

When are first communions done in your church?

First communions are done in second grade at our parish. In our diocese this requires that the year previously the child be enrolled in faith formation as well as the year of the sacrament. This can be home through home instruction. it is then set for second grade unless you were not enrolled in first grade.