Name:Tom & Helen Fahey, parents of Tim Fahey
How many children are in your family? Are all members of your family Catholic?
We have four sons: our seminarian Tim and his twin Mark, Paul, and William. Mark and Paul are college students; William is a junior at Bishop Fenwick High School. We are all Catholics.
Were you raised in a Catholic family? How has that affected your support of your son?
We were both raised in Catholic families; our own family traditions of practicing our beliefs and providing for faith education gave us a solid understanding of our responsibilities as Catholic parents.
When you first learned your son was considering becoming a priest, what were the positive feelings that came from that news? What were the things you were concerned about?
We don’t believe we had any concerns at the time he communicated his intentions, or now he is a seminarian. We were both proud of his decision. His father had also contemplated the priesthood when he was a young man.
Now that your son is a seminarian, how have your feelings about his vocation developed or changed?
As our son became a seminarian, we bphelps to realize how many components can impact a vocational decision. Fifteen years ago, attending Mass with some friends at St. John Neumann in Fairfield, we listened to a homily that clearly outlined what parents there needed to do to provide enough parish priests for future Archdiocesan needs. In fact, the priest stated that one family there that day would have to deliver one son to the seminary. We knew then as young parents, we would provide the best we could in educating our children in the faith, sound practice and prayer and openness to the call. Nevertheless, there was also a niggling sense that we probably were not going to be “good enough” to produce a priest from our family. We have come to realize a vocational path is possible through the efforts of many people – extended family members, educators, religious, fellow parishioners, fellow Catholic students ? offering support and prayer. And much more than anything else, possible through the grace and power of God.
What changes have you seen in your son as he has answered God’s call to the priesthood?
Although Tim appreciated and enjoyed his two years at the Air Force Academy, he seems much more content and purpose-driven since he made the decision to enter the priesthood. It was a blessing to have the support of The Air Force Academy Catholic Ministry, and Father Schnippel and the Archdiocese Vocations Office during the time of Tim’s discernment. The prayers, guidance and learning opportunities they provided had much to do with Tim opening his heart fully to the call of the priesthood.
Your son will soon be able to stand in persona Christi as a priest and perform the sacraments. What do you think about with regard to that? What do you think it will be like to receive Holy Communion that has been consecrated by your son?
OK, we’ll admit at the beginning it might be a little distracting to see Tim in this role! It is a bit humbling to think your kid has been appointed the responsibility of acting in Christ’s stead. It provides another opportunity to consider the wondrous nature of Christ’s sacrifice and the ongoing nature of all God’s gifts to His people. It will be awesome to receive one of the sacraments from our son.
What has been the biggest positive surprise that has come from your son being called to the priesthood? What fears do you have for him?
We don’t have any fears for him.
How has his call affected your family life? How has it impacted your own relationship with Christ and the Church?
Tim’s call has not made a noticeable impact on our family life; his siblings were very accepting of his choice to enter the seminary. As far as our relationship with Christ and the Church, perhaps an effect is trying to educate ourselves more about our faith, and in developing a deeper personal relationship with Christ through prayer. Even though he is a new seminarian, we are learning new things from Tim all the time, and this reminds us that there is always room for personal improvement in learning and being more devout.
How have you and your spouse’s reactions/thoughts compared regarding your son’s vocation?
Our reactions and thoughts on Tim’s vocation have been the same; we both feel blessed that his pathway leads to God and to service to others.
As a priest, your son will never have a wife and children of his own. Likewise, you will not have the joy of loving grandchildren from him. What have been your thoughts regarding this issue?
Any disappointment felt from “missing grandchildren” is tempered in our case: having four children, we’d be pretty surprised if at least one of our other three didn’t raise a family for us to enjoy! Tim’s family will be his assigned parish and we expect to hear stories about his family there, and as his folks, maybe get a good table at the parish Fish Fry or dinners. It may be a blessing that Tim, as a member of a large family, and one of over 25 cousins between our families, has witnessed the joys and struggles of family life, and that may help him be a more understanding pastor for his parish. We also expect to see Tim become everyone’s favorite uncle!
How have your friends and relatives reacted to the news that your son is becoming a priest? What positive reactions were there? Any negative reactions?
We cannot think of any family or friends who had a negative reaction to the news; it has been very positive and absolutely thrilling for most. As we’ve heard comments over the years that Tim would make a good priest, there have been a number of friends or family who responded with the comment: “Well, we are not surprised.” Our fellow parishioners and Tim’s former teachers have been particularly supportive and interested in his seminary experience. This makes us realize once again how blessed we were to have these people involved in our faith life.
As you go through this experience, what would you say to a parent who just found out their son is trying to discern if God’s calling him to the priesthood?
Somewhere along the line of raising kids, they make their own way and parents are for counsel and advice, and then only if solicited! The vocational discernment process seems to us to be the perfect example of letting your kids grow up: this decision really does feel like it is between them and God. It’s a very important personal decision and we essentially stayed out of the process except praying for God’s guidance. We don’t know how much we have to offer in valuable advice; we simply told Tim we would be praying with him during the discernment process, and asked to let us know if there was anything he needed from us.
What things about his home life do you think helped inspire your son to be open to God’s call? What advice would you give to a parent who wants to encourage their son(s) to consider priesthood as a real possibility for their lives? What would you say to those parents who might strongly oppose their son becoming a priest?
Tim’s dad would repeat to his sons the words his mother used with her sons, “It sure would be great if one of you boys would become a priest!” The Knights of Columbus encourage their families to refrain from speaking negatively of a priest; we did our best to follow this good advice. We feel that a Catholic grade school and high school education was one of the most important blessings for our kids. Solid academics provided the freedom to have choices about their futures, the expectations of service helped establish habits of giving to others, the ongoing encouragement of prayer and practice of our faith, and the religious instruction “had our back” in compensating for any parental faith formation deficiencies. As far as a parent encouraging or discouraging their son becoming a priest, maybe it’s helpful to bear in mind that God’s influence is more powerful and much more important than any parental influence. Once your have provided opportunity for religious instruction, and encouraged prayer and practice, it’s between them and God.
What examples of priests have been inspirational to you and to your son?
We’ve been blessed with some truly wonderful priests at Our Lady of Good Hope Parish. Father Ben Bruening was a good teacher for all of us through his homilies. He was always patient with the kids (especially when they were learning to serve Mass!) and demonstrated an inspirational commitment to his duties as priest and pastor. Our current pastor, Father Tom Nevels, provides our parish with thoughtful homilies that educate and inspire. Father Tom’s availability to talk with Tim during his discernment and including him in such things as hospital visits has been a good support for Tim. As parents, we appreciate the reverence both these priests demonstrate in celebration of the sacraments, and that they both have shared their own vocational stories with our parishioners.
Have there been any specific issues regarding the Church that have made you worry about your son’s vocation? How have you dealt with those anxieties?
We don’t believe there have been any specifics Church issues that make us anxious about his vocation.
Just for fun, do you ever plan to go to your son for confession?
Sure, why not? It’s not as if Tim thinks we are perfect, and this could be his big chance to tell us to try harder to do better!