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.
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?
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.
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…
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.
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.
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?