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Posted June 20, 2011

Don't forget fathers:
They play such an important role in our lives

Catholic News Service

Responding to editors' requests for a regular sampling of current commentary from around the Catholic press, here is an editorial titled "Don't forget fathers: They play such an important role in our lives," published in the June 9 issue of the Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Madison, Wis. It was written by Mary C. Uhler, the editor.

All of us have special memories of our fathers (at least I hope so). I especially treasure the memories of my own father, who died when I was just 16 years old.

Even though he had a busy job as a teacher, my dad always spent time with me and my sister. I can remember when he got down on the floor and played jacks with us. That was at a time when not many fathers played with their children!

My dad was very reluctant to buy a television, because he and my mother saw the importance of children spending their free time doing such things as reading, getting exercise outside, and playing with other children. We also helped with household chores.

We were probably one of the last families to get a television -- I believe when I was in the fifth grade. I can thank my dad (and my mother) for giving me a love of reading that lasts to this day. I still would much rather read than watch TV!

Another thing my dad emphasized was doing well in school. Education was very important to him. His own father (my grandfather) supported seven children by being a drayman (carrying ice and water, primarily). My grandfather encouraged his children, including my father, to get a college education. Most of them did, with the majority becoming teachers.

My father also had a strong Catholic faith. He always had a rosary in his pocket and I could often see him fingering the beads. He made sure we attended Mass every Sunday and we often went to church during the week for such things as the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Although he was a public school teacher, he wanted us to attend Catholic schools for elementary and high school education. My dad always encouraged prayers before meals and bedtime. It was just part and parcel of our life as a Catholic family.

Although my father died too soon, he did leave a strong legacy behind in our family. I think my husband is very much like my father in how he has played an important role in the lives of our children (and now our grandchildren). My husband was involved in helping rear our children in an active way. Our son is carrying on that tradition in his involvement with his two daughters.

Fathers play a key role in their children's practice of their faith. I found information on Swiss research on church attendance which highlighted the vital role played by fathers in their children's practice of religion. Father Robbie Low, who analyzed this research, is a Church of England clergyman and member of the editorial board of the magazine New Directions.

Father Low explains that the Swiss survey wanted to determine whether a person's religion carried through to the next generation, and if so, why, or if not, why not. There is one critical finding: it is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.

If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only three percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

If the father is nonpracticing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. More than 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church.

This research confirms the important role of the father in passing on the faith to his children. Of course, the mother influences her children, too, but the father can make or break his children's ties to their faith.

As we prepare to observe Father's Day on Sunday, June 19, let us remember to thank the fathers in our lives (dads, grandfathers, husbands, sons, and sons-in-law) for all they've done for us. If they have died, we can remember them in prayer and share our reminiscences with our remaining family members to keep their memories alive.

This year Father's Day falls on the feast of the Most Holy Trinity. This should remind us to give thanks to our heavenly Father for the gift of life and all of creation.