January 21, 2022

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Generations of a family team up to pass on the faith

Sean GallagherOn a recent Saturday morning, my son Victor squared off in a CYO basketball game against a distant cousin of his, Andrew Gallagher, a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. Victor plays for a team sponsored by Lumen Christi Catholic High School, also in Indianapolis.

Having my son together on the floor with a member of his extended family brought my paternal grandfather to my mind, and not just because Victor is named after him.

Grandpa had a love of basketball just like my son. About 100 years ago, Grandpa and four of his brothers made up the “Gallagher Brothers” basketball team that was based in Johnson County.

I was happy recently to receive a photo of them. There they were, all wearing their jerseys with “Gallagher Bros.” on them. A newspaper article that went with the photo told of how they had played “an excellent brand of basketball” for a few seasons, had performed well in a tournament at St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville and were the favorites in an upcoming contest to be held in Morristown.

I remember Grandpa telling me a little about his basketball days, including him playing against the legendary John Wooden, the famed college basketball coach who grew up not far from him in Morgan County.

Having been an assistant coach for some years now for teams that my son Victor has played on, I look back on the time I spent with Grandpa and wish I had asked him more about his exploits on the hardwood.

But I do know much more about how important the Catholic faith was to Grandpa. He was a dedicated Massgoer, who also went to confession weekly. Grandpa led me in praying the rosary as a child when that devotion was unfamiliar to me.

I have a great deal of paternal pride in seeing Victor, who bears Grandpa’s name, following so well in his great-grandfather’s footsteps in living out the Catholic faith.

My Victor was born in 2007, 101 years after Grandpa’s birth. Basketball may be part of the thread that connects 1906 to 2007. That’s understandable for two men born in the Hoosier State where basketball runs in people’s blood.

But the Catholic faith is a much more important and stronger part of that thread binding together four generations.

I’ve heard it said that although the Church is 2,000 years old, it’s always just one generation from ceasing to exist if one generation does not pass it on effectively to the next.

I’m grateful for the great witness of faith that I was given in Grandpa—and my parents after him. If it weren’t for them and the grace of God that has flowed through them to me, my own faith, which always needs to be so much stronger than it is, would not exist.

Now I feel privileged—and challenged—to pass on to my five sons the gift I was given by those who went before me.

This is a great mission given to all Catholic parents. If we step back and consider its enormity, we might easily feel unworthy of it. I know I have at times.

But we Catholic parents can gain confidence in this mission by knowing that we don’t do it alone. Our parents, grandparents and ancestors further back are there to help us with their example and prayers.

One player, as great as he or she might be, cannot win a basketball game alone. It’s only a team that plays well together that can do that. The faith is passed on successfully in the same way. Evangelization is a team sport.

(Sean Gallagher is a reporter and columnist for The Criterion.)

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