May 27, 2022

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Pass on lessons of faith and generosity from generation to generation

Sean GallagherMy dad wasn’t the best of teachers. Or maybe I wasn’t the best of students. It was probably a combination of the two.

Dad was extremely handy around the house. He could fix or install just about anything. But when he tried to pass those skills on to me by having me do one task or another, he’d soon take over if I didn’t catch on quickly.

But while I didn’t learn well from Dad how to use the scores of tools that filled our garage, he did instill deeply in me the importance of generosity.

I’m still trying to live out this virtue as well as he did, but I know well from him its importance and I’m not afraid to keep on trying if I don’t succeed at it.

Dad learned this lesson well when he was about 10 from his dad, my beloved Grandpa Victor Gallagher.

One day shortly before Christmas in the late 1940s, Grandpa took Dad on a trip to town from their family farm near Shelbyville. There, he bought a Christmas tree and all the fixings for a splendid Christmas dinner.

Then, with Dad next to him in the family truck, Grandpa took his purchases to the home of a family that he knew was in need and at a time when he knew they wouldn’t be in the house. He then simply laid the food and the tree on their front porch and drove away.

What Grandpa did on that day some

75 years ago flowed from his deep Catholic faith. It was a faith that he passed on to Dad as they checked for weeds while walking up and down the rows of the fields on the family farm, praying a rosary going up one row, chatting going back the next.

The story of Grandpa secretly making Christmas special for a family in need made an impression on my dad. He would tell it to his grandchildren like it had happened yesterday.

It was so important to my dad because he truly made it his own during the course of his life, which came to an end on April 27 when he died at 84 after a battle with cancer.

I love to remember Dad selflessly helping so many people over the years. Many of them were people close to him. The tireless care he gave to Mom as her health declined before her death in 2015 flowed from the deep love he had for her for more than 50 years.

I can’t even begin to describe the countless ways that he helped my sister Kelly and me, both when we were growing up at home and in our lives as adults.

But Dad also showed charity to complete strangers. In recent years, he often would secretly pay for the meal of people in restaurants he frequented, many of them young families.

All of this and more were an expression of the deep Catholic faith that Dad had received from his parents.

That’s been the mission of my wife Cindy and me for the past 20 years of our life together as parents of our five sons.

We try to do that first through our own actions. Thankfully, our efforts are reinforced though the stories of their great-grandparents, like my Grandpa Victor, that we share with them. Then they have their own memories of my parents and the parents of Cindy who continue to give of themselves so selflessly.

We parents aren’t alone in the often arduous task of forming our children to be virtuous Catholic adults. We have the generations who came before us, a great cloud of witnesses, who lend a helping hand, especially now through their prayers.

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

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