Skip to comments.Keepers by the Dozen (raising large families)
Posted on 07/11/2006 1:16:06 PM PDT by NYer
On Sundays, they typically fill more than one pew. At restaurants, they require multiple tables. They frequently travel in 15-passenger vans and often buy breakfast cereal in bulk.
They are large Catholic families — and they stand as a refreshing witness to the joy of having many children in a culture that takes great pains to discourage the conception of new life.
These families declare courageously, if wordlessly, that life is a priceless gift from God.
Jim and Donna Murphy of Cincinnati exemplify the joy of raising a large family. Married for 18 years, the Murphys have been blessed with 10 children: seven on earth and three in heaven. Donna holds degrees in physical therapy, but her greatest credentials are her children — Jacob, Maria, Vincent, Joseph, Megan, Isabella and Sean.
And don’t forget the three who were lost in miscarriage, Raphael Kelly, Michael Angela and Gabriel Robert.
Every night, as the family kneels in Jim and Donna’s room for prayer, they mention all their children, including the three already in heaven. “My number-one goal is to get our family to heaven,” Donna says. “I tell my children that this is the basis that I try to use to make all my decisions.”
That’s why Donna’s home-school routine includes prayers, Mass readings and studies of apologetics and Scripture.
The daily routine also includes Dad’s return from work. “One of my greatest joys is when I walk in the door,” says Jim. “Three or four kids will run to greet me. It is a daily reminder of why I go to work and why I am needed at home.”
The children, in turn, always offer something back to their parents.
“The wisdom of children helps us keep our perspective,” says Donna. According to Jim, being a parent of a large family “has made me a more giving and selfless person. It has humbled me and helped me realize that I am not in control of everything. I have come to realize that my marriage and family are my path to holiness.”
Fifty miles north, in Dayton, Ohio, Vince and Detsy Sacksteder also testify to the happiness of having many children. They have 11, spanning in age from 35 to 14, as well as two more who died in the first weeks of pregnancy, Isaac and Timothy. According to Detsy, a proud homemaker, “My joy has been the gift of being a co-creator with God, to experience life being knit together in my womb, to be given the gift of letting an immortal soul be enclosed in my body.”
Except for Vincent IV, a professor in India, and Ann who is away at college, all the other Sacksteders — Rachel, Mary, Bernadette, Sarah, Jacob, Joanna, Liz, Jess, and Paul — live at home or nearby.
“The greatest joy of a large family is the relationships,” says Vince. “Pairs of them or groups of three will talk for hours, laughing hysterically every few minutes, and groups of four or more are an instant party.”
While Detsy always loved babies, she now appreciates the rewards of having children who are mostly grown. “Rather than grieving the loss of my childbearing years, I rejoice in the gift of my older children and the life of grace they have chosen,” she says.
Detsy and Vince don’t take all the credit for this happy, flourishing family, however. “Even if we lack some of the tools for the job, God makes things come out right when we are doing the job out of love for him,” Vince says. “Each child is a step of faith, with confidence in God’s love and wisdom, and confidence in his provision.”
“We are like the farmer,” Detsy adds. “We sow the seed, but it is God, through his gifts, his blessing, who gives life and growth. We just reap the harvest.”
Few could understand this equation better than Norman and Rosemary Loehr, who raised their 11 children on a dairy farm in Mount Calvary, Wis. Rosemary gave birth to her sons and daughters over the course of four decades, with her oldest, Pat, being born in 1959 and her youngest, Kris, arriving in 1980. Joan, Marlene, Linda, Tom, Dan, Karen, Bob, Joe and Mark all spanned the intervening years.
For Rosemary, 40 years of pregnancies, childbearing, and/or childrearing were filled with the exuberance of seeing her children interact with and benefit from each other.
She and Norman also enjoyed watching their children’s many sporting events and musical functions, as well as supporting their countless 4H projects over the years.
These activities were only part of the family routine, which also included many different chores. These daily duties on the farm helped the Loehrs in raising their family. “Growing up on a farm offered many opportunities for the kids to have responsibilities at a very young age,” says Rosemary. “Each was given specific jobs to do.”
They had a threefold philosophy of parenting. According to Norman, “Our idea was to work together, pray together and play together.”
Their Children’s Children
Now, as many of their children raise families of their own, Norman and Rosemary love watching their grandchildren grow up. Grandma and Grandpa Loehr are never lacking for company; all the grandchildren live within an hour of the farm, some as close as a five-minute walk through the fields.
The grandchildren love to come over to feed the calves, to help Grandma decorate cookies or to play cards at the dining room table.
The delight and love radiating within the Loehr home is the fruit of years of prayer and trust in God. Norman and Rosemary had a simple approach to raising their family.
“As Catholics, we used the guidelines of our faith,” says Rosemary. “We always tried to set a good example and live our faith.”
Through their openness to conceive, bear and nurture new life many times over, these three couples defend the nobility of the family in the face of cultural opposition.
Of course, heroic families come in other shapes and sizes too: the birth parents who choose adoption for their child, the loving parents whose situation only permits a small family, the adoptive parents who welcome children into their family, the parents who endure the agony of miscarriage, the spiritual mothers and fathers who transform the cross of infertility into the gift of nurturing and supporting those around them.
All of these families are helping to promote authentic respect for human dignity. Their Christ-like love, forged through courageous sacrifices and selfless generosity, is helping to lay the foundation for a culture of life and a civilization of love.
Articles like this remind me of how quiet the house is now that the kids are grown and gone and the Grandkids haven't arrived yet. *SIGH*
But I get over it quickly, LOL!
Being from a family of ten where ten is the norm for my Uncle, I loved this article when I got it in the print form.
A few things that those contemplating having large families should know (from a kids prospective of course):
1. I thought "Hand me down" was a name brand until I was twelve.
2. And don't the young women run the other way when they find out you come from a big family....AND ACTUALLY LIKE IT.
3. No matter how many times you hear it "Oh, your poor mother" will never make sense.
4. And there's no such thing as a kid from a big family who isn't ticklish.
5. Feminine mystique goes out the window when you have 5 sisters.
6. Your kids will actually think it's kind of cool that your still flirting like teenagers when you've been married 40 years.
God bless them! Big families are a blessing.
(I come from a family of 11.)
Thanks for the ping.
My best friend in high school was at that time the oldest of 12. Her mother had 5 more. No multiples. One that I know of is dead now. She was born with a heart defect. I loved going over there to spend the night although I had to sleep in a bed with three other girls and one time her little brother peed on the open gas heater. They lived behind a fish restaurant in a three bedroom house with one bath. Later, they moved to the country and had some land and amazingly enough a barn in which to build things. At the house I used to stay at her dad and two brothers were building rockets and a gyrocopter in the attic. At their fram, they built a small airplane. Their dad worked at Bell Helicopter. I think he had something to do with gold plating some of the parts and he would collect the tiny bits of gold left over and periodically, give it to the church.
an obvious ping. :-)
The only thing that upsets me about large family articles is how organized they always are. I have five children and can't seem to get so organized.
lol Thanks. The first question that folks ask when they find out how many children we have is, "Are you Catholic?" Then they ask, "Are you Mormon?" And then they give up.
It's nice when they are playing happily together. However, when one of our teenage daughters is in a mood, EVERYBODY had better look out. Life would be so boring if we had stopped at two.
Ah, nothing like painting with a broad brush. For your information, I see the same obliviousness in parents with just ONE child.
And calling children "rugrats" bespeaks more of your internal orientation than the "chaotic" appearances of the generic large family of which you sneeringly spoke of.
Often I think too many couples think the Sacrament of Marriage ends at the Altar. I often tell my children that my goal is to get them all to Heaven. All though there are days.... ; )
I come from a family of 10. A few funny stories... As a middle child I was feeling quite neglected and decided to run away. (We lived out in the country, so there were plenty places to go.) I left in the afternoon and was gone for 4 hours. I came back right before dinner, and no one even knew I was gone! ; )
Fortunately I didn't miss dinner.
Another time, after Mass one Sunday, our father took us all downtown into Milwaukee for a brunch. As we were looking over menus a fellow wandered over, looking like he may have had a few too many bloody Marys and commented to my father, "I'll bet your Catholic." in a rather sarcastic tone.
My father completely disarmed him by smiling and saying, "NO... just passionate protestants!"
"My father completely disarmed him by smiling and saying, 'NO... just passionate protestants!'"
Those Good Old Wisconsin Dads. Always with the disarming humor...eventhough they could kick just about anyone's butt when need be, LOL!
BTTT! A family who is following the laws of the church! Bravo!
Have you heard of Theology of the Body? You may want to re-think your statement in light of the holiness of your body and the holiness of your commitment, with your husband, of course, to God.
Oldest of seven here. Families can be loving -- it depends on the couple's commitment to God.
**But it's just not possible for one parent to fill the needs of that many children.There has to be toddlers and infants along with the older ones and no one woman can be feeding a baby, changing a toddler, making lunch for the older ones and teaching the school aged while getting the house in order buying the groceries for supper and on and on with the 101 things that have to be done daily.**
That's how you teach your children LOVE -- by giving. It is possible with God on your side. Check out the link on Sacramental Grace.
An obvious Theology of the Body and Pope John Paul II ping.
Please post any links if you can too.
**Well I'd call it growing farm hands but that's just me.**
Did that as the oldest of seven, but I usually got to take care of the younger ones while the ones in the middle went out to the field or worked in the dairy barn.
Have to laugh at the memories of my sister. My mom would send her out to gather egss during the war. Where would we find her? On top of the chicken coop -- singing to God! LOl!
That is the mark of great faith.
The vocation of parenthood rests in the task of leading our children - all those that God will bless us with - to enternal life!
Two things. One, a lot of those "needs" aren't really needs, just wants. Two, part of the value of a large family is that the older children have to learn to help out. That's often a better thing for kids than having a parent all to themselves, to fawn over them full-time.
One of the cool things about my Tridentine parish is that we have several very large families (7+ kids). The kids are very well behaved.
Somebody computes decades differently than I do. It's a stretch to call it 4 decades when 1959 is the very end of one, and 1980 is barely the beginning of one. The kids were born over a 21 year time span, and that isn't so eye catching, is it?
They're not the main ones doing the raising. But they are learning to handle little ones. Pre-teens and teens can handle more than you can think.
How old were you when you first held a baby? I'm happy to say that I was 7 and helped take care of a younger sister. I considered it an honor and a privilege [to help].
You haven't seen our boys interact with their youngest siblings. It is the most amazing thing to see our testosterone-filled 5th and 6th grade boys interact with their baby sister. They are able to be boys when they're with their friends and when they're playing sports. They are able to keep their sweet innocence when they play with their youngest siblings, particularly their youngest sister. I can tell you that their friends do not have that opportunity. And if attendance at sporting events and school events is any indication, our children are not missing out on attention from Mom and Dad. As a matter of fact, they may get more attention than their friends. They happen to get attention from their brothers and sisters as well. And that is not always welcome!
I was the youngest of four. I would have loved to have younger siblings. Instead, I found other families to fulfill that need. I went to the neighbors to help feed and diaper babies, make lunch for the older ones, and teach the older ones. I couldn't go do the grocery shopping, but I would gladly babysit (for free) so Moms could go do that grocery shopping. But I grew up with a serve others mentality.
I will admit that when one of our children became extremely ill earlier this year, her siblings suffered as a result. We did not give them the attention they would have received, and the oldest two had to do a lot of helping out. However, I don't think they would trade the life of their sister for the sacrifices they made over a few months. On the contrary, the reality of how fragile life is was a very important lesson for all of us.
I loved the books " I Should Have Seen It Coming When The Rabbit Died" and " Up A Family Tree". They were written by a mom of 10. I can not remember her last name but her first name is Theresa.
My mom always says she doesn't remember the 50's much because she was so busy giving birth to most of us.
Actually... they become responsible for their younger sibblings.
Even though I was in the middle of a family of ten, we were expected to help out in taking care of the younger ones. I don't think I missed out on anything different, and understood the meaning of family.
Shafted because they have to grow up early while their peers expect to behave like children until they are 25?
Excellent point, RobbyS. I'm 27, married, and now have two children (18 months and 3 weeks old, respectively). Most of my "peers" have not reached adulthood mentally, and it's sad, especially now since society assumes that men in their 20's are not responsible.
I didn't come from a large family, but somehow (perhaps being part of the TLM environment) I managed to develop a strong sense of responsibility at a young age. 50 years ago that may have been normal; today it's considered "growing up too fast."
Interesting. I came from (what was for that area) a small family of five (two sisters). When my Dad hurt his back, I had to take charge of the family farm at the age of 13. After that year, I no longer could interact with my peers at school like I had before. In short, because I had to grow up, and they didn't. I no longer cared what type of jeans I wore, because there were about twenty sows getting ready to farrow at home and they had to be moved either before or after school. When you have to deal with reality, all the popularity games seem very stupid.
Contrast that with my little sister, who is still a child at 26. This culture is so odd in that it glorifies having no responsibilities and yet every one wants to be treated with total respect. We as a nation have reared up three generations of barbarian children who think mainly of themselves, and now we wonder why western society is committing mass suicide.
There are many large families at the parish I attend, which is just a regular, suburban parish. We also have 3 young men in the seminary. (I'll see your large families and raise it with 3 seminarians!)
What a wonderful article. Thanks for posting it!
You're contemptuous of offering children to the service of the Lord, i.e., religious life? Wow, what a selfish attitude. I reiterate, the language you use, e.g., "popping out babies", "rugrats", reveals your interior disorientation. Children are not to be "popped out". Nor are they "rugrats". Are you familiar with the concept of a "domestic church"? Because if you aren't, I suggest that you look it up and maybe incorporate it into your scheme of things. Then perhaps you will stop looking at large families with such disapproval.
I know the books you're talking about; the author is Theresa Bloomingdale, proud Catholic and unrepentant mother of ten. One of my favorite chapters is "The Marine Him", referring to one of her son's becoming one of the Few, the Proud. There's also a section on using a nun as a babysitter; Vatican II didn't change them that much.
Just considering the number of HUGE houses that are being built around here (and everywhere) I would have thought that families with 10 to 12 kids was the norm. I recently discovered that many of these monster houses aren't even finished off up stairs and are inhabited by 2 people.
Prayers for Regina and her family.
Pyro, that is heartbreaking.