Pursuing Holiness: Playing, Praying and Staying Together
Rachel and Tony Ullmann
January 7, 2020
How did you two meet and what drew you to each other?
Rachel: We met coaching a Catholic school softball team! Tony was a graduate of the school and had been coaching for seven years with his grandfather. Once his grandfather retired, the school advertised to all of the faculty and staff the open position, and I jumped on board. The beauty of our story was that we were friends first before beginning a romantic relationship, and all because of the love of softball and our deep roots in Catholic education!
What is your favorite family tradition that incorporates your faith?
Rachel: Holy Week holds a myriad of traditions for us. We have a wooden Easter egg in the style of a Russian nesting doll that tells the story of Holy Week one day and one egg at a time. Each day, we open the egg and read a story of what took place from Palm Sunday up until the Resurrection. During that week, our local parish hosts a “Crosswalk” with the other surrounding Christian communities. We walk with other families in our neighborhood carrying a cross and praying the Stations of the Cross together as an ecumenical community. Hearing our toddler and preschool-aged children sing “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Were You There?” are powerful moments.
How do you surround yourself with other Catholic families who share your morals and values?
Rachel: We have taken this very seriously as a family. Our community has been built upon the foundation of Mass attendance and Catholic-sponsored social gatherings, such as a parish carnival or a church softball team. We have purposely encouraged other Catholic families to purchase homes in our neighborhood so we can raise our children surrounded by like-minded peers. Once a month, we host a prayer-and-praise potluck with Catholic families in the area that includes a babysitter, a playground and intentional intercession for one another.
Tony: Since Rachel was raised in a covenant Christian community called New Life, we knew how essential this lifestyle and commitment was for the support of our family of faith.
How do you help your children participate at Mass?
Rachel: Hands down, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is the best investment we have ever made. Our daughter has attended Atrium since she was 2.5 years old, and our son will be starting later this year. We traveled to another parish because we believed in the impact of the Montessori-style approach to teaching the parts of the Mass and inviting the children into the mystery and beauty of the liturgy. Thankfully, we successfully have brought CGS to our own parish now, and other families are experiencing the fruits of this style of religious education. Not to mention, colorful religious books, including a children’s missal, are a great investment!
What are some tips on taking time to focus on your marriage?
Rachel: We strive to keep our marriage as fun as our time dating. In fact, it’s often even more fun because telling stories to each other about our kids is sometimes the best stand-up comedy routine! Budgeting a babysitter for date nights out is important to us so we can have time to get dressed up and take a step away from the routine. We recommend escape rooms, trivia nights and double dates with other couples — keeps the conversation flowing and creates teamwork!
How do you share leadership and responsibility in the household?
Rachel: We both work very hard in our careers but leave Saturday and Sunday to our family alone. We try to carry out household chores and yard work during nap time so the other hours of the day are spent as a family. We never override the other parent in front of our children when making a decision, even if we disagree with what is taking place in the moment. We have a conversation later on without our children present so we can come to an agreement and display a unified household, free from bickering and power struggles.
Do you have a favorite devotion as a family?
Tony: We have a deep devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes and the Divine Mercy. Rachel was born after 11 years of infertility and a pilgrimage her grandmother took to Lourdes asking the Blessed Mother for the gift of a child. As a result, Rachel went on a service trip to Lourdes as a college student, caring for the sick and hospitalized. Just recently, we traveled to Lourdes with her parents on a pilgrimage with the Knights of Malta. Also, we were married on Divine Mercy weekend and have had both children baptized on the feast of the Divine Mercy. We like to keep traditions strong in our family!
How do you live out the call to being the primary educators of your children?
Rachel: While we have enrolled our children in Catholic school and invest in extracurricular activities such as vacation bible school, dance and music, we love to explore our God-given potential in the home! Through the beauty of wonder, we try to be outdoors in our local state park regularly. We live steps away from Little Gunpowder Falls and an old stone mill that has been preserved for tourists. If you stop by our house, you might find Tony reviewing flash cards of sight words and equations with Eva, and me reading works from our “great books” list to Cooper. In fact, our favorite activity is to play games together, especially saint cards! We get to learn about new saints all the time, and the kids are fascinated at all the different types of patronages. Teaching our own children is a great gift and a wonderful way to grow together as a family!