1. How did you two meet and how long have you been married?
We met in 1988 in a Catholic Singles group in Peoria. The Catholic Alumni Club was organized to bring Catholic singles together in a variety of social, intellectual, and spiritual activities. We began dating in March 1992 and were married on February 12, 1994, at Sacred Heart Church. We celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary in February 2020.
2. What impact has the Catholic faith had on your lives and in your marriage?
We were raised in post WW ll large Catholic families in different parts of the country. Eileen was born in Beaver, PA, outside of Pittsburgh, and has five siblings. John was born in Peoria and is the oldest son in a family of eleven children.
Our parents took their Catholic faith seriously and provided the model of faithful Catholic living that continues to influence us. We’ve also been blessed through the ministry and friendship of many priests and religious who helped guide us to become the persons we are today.
Our marriage has flourished as a result of our Catholic faith. The liturgical year with its various seasons and celebrations has enriched our lives and provided a sensible balance with its mix of feasts and fasts. We have made an effort throughout our married life to stay close to one another through prayer and the sacraments. Leading Adult Faith Formation classes in our parish have contributed to our growth in faith as individuals and as a couple.
We have also gained much from Catholic pilgrimages to Ireland, Italy, Canada and Poland. Having “Catholic” experiences in each of these places with fellow pilgrims has given us a greater appreciation for the richness and diversity of our Catholic faith.
3. You both worked as teachers. Can you describe how your faith influenced your approach to education?
Before her retirement in 2013, Eileen served as a Special Education teacher for 34 years in the public school. Most of her career was spent educating emotionally disturbed and behavior disordered children in Grades K-3. Although she was limited in what she could say or pray in the classroom, she witnessed her faith through her professional expertise and compassionate care of her students.
John was fortunate to teach Junior High Language Arts in a Catholic school for 15 years. He was able to practice his faith openly and lead his junior high students in prayer and action. His goal was to enable his students to see how their Catholic faith was connected to their study of reading, writing and speaking.
4. You two don’t have any biological children, but there are many people you have intentionally invested in. Can you tell us about these relationships and their importance to you?
As teachers, we invested in our students and that has reaped much fruit in their lives as well as our own. In our families, we have made a concerted effort to assist our siblings in raising their families. For years we provided a respite for Eileen’s brother and his wife by taking 2-3 of their seven children for two weeks in the summer. The parents called it “Catholic camp” for the many spiritual and fun activities we mixed in during their stay with us.
Since her retirement in 2013, Eileen has responded to God’s call to be available for childcare for our younger friends and their families. Her mothering instinct has calmed many a fussy infant, and her ability to lovingly relate with children of all ages has made her a favorite babysitter for date nights and time away for busy parents.
5. What kinds of things help you live your vocation as laity?
In our vocation as married laity we take advantage of what the Church offers in the sacraments and the teaching authority of the Magisterium. We nourish our prayer life through spiritual reading and meditation. We also pray the rosary together each day and add more spiritual activities during the seasons of Advent and Lent.
The use of Catholic media in our faith life has increased significantly over the last several years. Both of us take advantage of the many resources offered through EWTN radio and television. Eileen tends to use more online resources for her spiritual growth while John relies on the print resources of The Catholic Post and the National Catholic Register among others.
All of these resources are wonderful aids in keeping alive our relationship with the Holy Trinity, Mother Mary and the communion of saints.
6. Any advice you would give to young people in the Church today?
What we have learned in our life together is to draw upon the graces we received in the sacrament of matrimony. That was the advice of Fr. Clair Bourdereaux O.F.M. who married us and it has served us well in all the seasons of our life together.
Now more than ever, we need to listen for the voice of our Good Shepherd, Jesus, who guides us to the narrow path which leads to life eternal in His heavenly kingdom. Our culture has become increasingly hostile to our Catholic faith and it is vital to keep our relationship with Christ alive and to follow the teachings of the Church and her faithful ministers.