Dear Parish Family, Last month, I extolled the paramount importance of our mothers. Now it’s time to do the same for our fathers. There is something about the authority and influence of fathers that has a varying effect than the correspondingly important authority and influence of mothers. They complement one another, and both are needed.

The significance of both is even more obvious when we look at the effects of the absence of one or the other and how those effects can differ, depending on which relationship, that with the father or the mother, is strained or wounded. President Obama said in a statement during Father’s Day in 2009: “In many ways, I came to understand the importance of fatherhood through its absence — both in my life and in the lives of others. I came to understand that the hole a man leaves when he abandons his responsibility to his children is one that no government can fill. We can do everything possible to provide good jobs and good schools and safe streets for our kids, but it will never be enough to fully make up the difference.”

In the area of religious practice, according to a number of studies, fathers and the practice of their faith are the single greatest indicator of whether or not our children will likewise grow up practicing their faith. For example, one of these studies was published by the Swiss government in 2000, which revealed that:

1. When the father did not practice any faith, even though the mother would attend regularly, only 2 percent of the children became regular worshippers and 37 percent of them attended church erratically.

2. When the father attended church erratically with the practicing mother, only 3 percent became regular worshippers and 59 percent would attend erratically.

3. When both father and mother attended regularly, the percentage of children who ended up becoming regular churchgoers shot up to 33 percent! Only about 25 percent did not practice at all with about 40 percent attending erratically.

4. Even when the mother did not practice, but the father did worship regularly, still 38 percent of the children became regular worshippers! Only about 20 percent did not practice at all with 44 percent attending erratically.

When there is an absentee father as it pertains to the spiritual life of family, the children’s practice of the faith is shaken and often fades away. They are more likely to lose their spiritual bearings. When the father exercises spiritual leadership and models for them a living relationship with God, however, the effectiveness of his witness to the children is undeniable.

So if you’re reading this Sunday bulletin, Dad, it is likely that you are one of those who regularly practice your Catholic faith. THANK YOU! Your witness is more important than you may realize! Our youth is desperately seeking for who they are, but with the societal rejection of God and huge decline in church attendance, our children do not know where to turn in order to discover the most fundamental aspect of their identity, that they are beloved sons and daughters of an almighty and loving God who delights in them. You, however, have stood in the breach for your family, revealing to them by your living faith in Jesus Christ the dignity that they have as God’s children. We are grateful for your fatherly protection and provision, partnering with your wife to prepare our children to meet the challenges of life with virtue, joy, and confidence in who they are.

For those whose fathers did not practice the faith or whose actions and lives may have been quite contrary to their calling as fathers who are to image God the Father, they are NOT left spiritually orphaned. Many of the greatest saints overcame such a challenge! Thanks to the Holy Spirit and the sacramental life of the Church, each of us can know the love of the Father directly from God himself. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, has made us one with him as a part of his own mystical body, and through this mystery, we recognize our identity as royal sons and daughters of God. Yours in Christ,