Sunday Best – A Tribute to the Zimmerman Family

Meet the Zimmerman Family! Laura and her family are a fixture at the Cathedral Parish at Saint Patricks Church in downtown Madison. She and her older daughters sing in the choir, her son’s are alter boys and her young daughters hang out in the pew with, Chuck,  her ever patient husband. I approached Laura immediately after mentally committing to the project and she happily agreed to take part.

Tell me a little bit about your family, Laura!

We have seven children. Kayla is 21; Nicholas is 19; Eloise is 17; Joshua is 11; Kateri is 8; Virginia is 6; Beatrice is 4. Chuck and I will be celebrating 20 years of marriage in August.

Family of 9 stand together at a church alter

Oh my gosh Congratulations! Has it gone by fast?

Twenty years has in many ways gone by like a flash, but in many ways seems like a lifetime, too. It’s hard to believe we’re almost to the point where we will have been married to each other for more than half of each of our lives. ?

What does a typical Sunday morning look like, how do you get a family of 9 out the door? 

Atypical Sunday morning for us: Kayla lives about 30 minutes away, but she spends every Saturday night with us. She spends time with her teenage siblings and loves to dote on the younger set. Saturday night, the older kids get the table ready for breakfast before they head to bed. On Sunday morning, we’re all up by around 8. Dad gets up before everyone else (he’s just a morning person), and he makes pancakes. The little ones take turns helping flip the pancakes–it’s a big deal to them. After we eat, everyone gets ready for Mass: the older ones help the younger ones get their dresses on and hair brushed.
Because the older two girls and I are in the choir, we usually leave the house by about 9:30, because the choir has to be at church by 10:15 to rehearse. It gives the boys time to get things ready for Mass as well. They serve every week, and they enjoy the quiet time they have to prepare the credence table and the altar breads, etc.
Chuck sits in the pew with the three little girls. Kateri received Our Lord in the Eucharist last year, and Virginia is very eagerly preparing for her First Holy Communion, which will hopefully be next year in the spring.

Do you have any tips on how to keep energetic kids engaged during Mass?

Keeping little ones engaged during Mass can be a real challenge. For several years, we subscribed to Magnifikid!, which is a publication offered by the same publisher as the popular Magnificat. Honestly, it’s great for kids who can read, but we’ve also found it can cause, um, scuffling in the pew. ? So we don’t do that anymore. Sitting close to the front, so they can see the activity in the sanctuary is very helpful. Whispering explanations of what’s happening, and just allowing them to wiggle within reason is usually what helps the most.

And knowing that kids sometimes make a little bit of noise–and that usually we Moms and Dads tend to hear the noises our children make a lot more acutely than those around us!

Oh my gosh that is so very true!

We’re ok with taking them out if they’re being disruptive, too. I firmly expect that sort of behavior to calm down when they’re around 5 or 6, and to stop all together once they’ve received the Eucharist. They are old enough to pay attention. Reading really, really helps, because if they can follow the Order of Mass, they know what’s coming next. And being at Mass every Sunday helps, too, because they learn the rhythm of things.Getting ready for MassAlter Boys with incenseTraditional Catholic Girls at MassCatholic Mass

When we first met you mentioned that there is a bit of an incentive after Mass for the younger girls to be on their best behavior…

Oh definitely! We get pizza almost every week from Little Caesar’s. They love it–we get crazy bread and two 2-liter bottles of soda, and I pop into the dollar store for a half gallon of chocolate milk. And twice a year–once in the spring and once toward the end of summer–we bring plenty of extra change, and we go across the street from the pizza place and let them ride the carousel at Ella’s Deli. That is like the penultimate reward for our little ones!
The little ones also take turns going in to Little Caesars with Dad to help carry the things back out to the van. And if they have a quarter, they can get a bouncy ball from the dispenser thing.
I love this! 

What do think is most important in growing your family’s faith life and do you have any suggestions for young families like mine?

As far as what is most important for faith development in our lives… I would say primarily, ~living~ our Catholic faith. We pray frequently together. St. Paul exhorts us to be unceasing in our prayer, and we try to do just that. We pray when we hear sirens, we pray when we hear good news, we pray when we hear not so good news. We ask for prayer when we know we are struggling. We make Mass a non-negotiable priority every Sunday–All of us. Though Chuck has taken work on Saturdays from time to time, he would never, ever, ever take work on a Sunday. That day is set aside, and all other activities fall in deference. Even if we’re on vacation. Even if we’re camping. Even if there is a family gathering. Mass comes first, because that is our faith.

That is such wise advice. And having such dedication to family time shows in the commitment in your older children.
 Our older children attend St. Ambrose Academy, which is absolutely phenomenal! It’s solidly, authentically Catholic in every way.
Oh, they’re definitely committed to the family. It’s a beautiful thing to see the fruits of having worked as hard as we did building our family foundation.

It’s also notable that Chuck is very devoted to his faith. He keeps his Combat Rosary in his pocket and makes a priority of getting to confession and spiritual direction regularly. Our children see that. For years, he was a scheduled adorer at Holy Redeemer Adoration Chapel, which he would like to return to at some point. And he is cheerful about going to Mass, and does a great job with the girls in the pew. They see their Daddy praying, receiving Our Lord with reverence, and participating fully in every way. That is a HUGE factor in young adults being serious about their faith, too.Alter boys walking with candles at Mass

 After all of these years I’m sure you have had a ‘funny’ moment or two with your little ones during church? Do you have a particular memory  that stands out?

I’m trying to think of funny things that have happened during Mass, and honestly, what stands out the most is the way they behave at Baptisms. We have hilarious pictures of both Joshua and Kateri at the Baptisms of Virginia and Beatrice. They are so at home in the church that they just continued being their adorable selves during those rites. One picture is Joshua resting his chin on the Baptismal font. And the other is Kateri taking the Baptismal candle and dancing it from Monsignor over to us. So. Stinkin’. Funny.
That is such a sweet story! One of my favorite photos of my family is of a Baptism with Mosignor too! He makes everyone feel so at home.
He really does–and the kids absolutely adore him. For years, Joshua referred to his dress shoes as his “Monsie Shoes,” because he related them to what Monsignor Holmes wears. ❤
This is all so wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your family with me and taking part in this project!
Catholic Family Laughing at Mass

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *