Bishops discuss how their moms gave practical, spiritual help

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Erik Shanabrough

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Just in time for Mother’s Day, a handful
of bishops shared memories of their moms on a recent podcast by the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops.

bishops, interviewed on the “Made for Love” podcast, which is part of
the USCCB’s Marriage Unique for a Reason website, spoke about what they admired
about their mothers or how their mothers challenged or supported them over the
years. The podcast is available here:

Two bishops
spoke about how hard it was for their mothers to see them leave home. Bishop David
L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, left at age 13 for the seminary and even
though his mom wasn’t ready for him to leave, she told him: “If this is
what God wants for you, you have my support.” Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, said he didn’t want to leave the comfort of home to go to
kindergarten when he was young, but then the tables were turned not too many
years later when his mom didn’t want him to leave for boarding school.

bishops, interviewed by Sara Perla, a USCCB program specialist, spoke about the
practical and spiritual ways their moms helped them.

Auxiliary Bishop George J. Rassas of Chicago said his mom drilled him in Latin so he could
be an altar server. Bishop Michael J. Sis of San Angelo, Texas, remembered the
time he had been hit in mouth by a bat in a neighborhood baseball game and his
mother picked him up and carried him to the dentist office a few blocks away. It was
something he describes as “a wonderful illustration of her care for me as
a mother — that she would drop everything and care for me.”

bishops didn’t sentimentalize motherhood either. Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of
the Maronite Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, New York, who was one of six children, said his
mother told him when he was older about a time she took all the children to
church and was crying in prayer saying: “God, I can’t do this … I need your

The bishop
said that as a kid he experienced so much love that never imagined his mom was struggling
and had no idea what she was going through.

When he
was ordained in Lebanon he said he expressed — in what he describes as the
“poorest Arabic possible” — gratitude to his mother and encouragement
to all mothers emphasizing that every challenge was worth it.

his mom went back to school and graduated in eight years for a two-year degree —
because she was still busy at home — he and his proud siblings cheered,
“Go mom! Go mom!”

that cheering goes both ways. When Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport,
Connecticut, told his mother he was going to be a priest he said she was “so
happy she couldn’t speak,” as if she were 10 St. Monica’s — the mother of
St. Augustine — “rolled up in one.”

He has
high words of praise for his mother too, saying she was saint-like for telling
him the truth, holding him accountable, challenging him, not just cuddling him
and never turning her back on him.

mother is the best living example of any person that I have ever met in my life
for whom I never doubted for a moment that she loved me,” he said.

He said
when he got into a fight with an older bully — as he describes an encounter
when he was about 11 or 12 in his Brooklyn neighborhood — his mom found
out about it within minutes and wanted to know what happened and if he was OK.

Years later, when he was accepted at a different Catholic high school from his
friends — with no tuition — he wasn’t initially happy there and wasn’t doing
well academically. His mom sat him down and told him he had to give the school his
best shot and only if he didn’t like it after that could he attend another

stayed and he loved it, he says in the podcast, but it wasn’t the only tough
conversation he would have with his mother because as he put it: “I did
some stupid things growing up and she was as angry as they come, but she never
stopped loving me.”

proof of her love and pride is that her favorite video, that she would watch
every other day, was of his ordination.

bishop’s mom, Gennarina, died in 2011, but she gave the bishop food for thought
on the relationship that would be been uniquely shared by Mary and Jesus. He
said that after she said: “Do what he tells you” about Jesus, Mary said
nothing else that was recorded.

Caggiano said you can imagine how many people came up to her to ask if they
could talk to Jesus.

course, go!” he said she would say.

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Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

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