As newly converted Catholics, my parents raised seven biological and two adopted children, and did it with the zeal of the faith at their side. Through their example, they laid the foundations of my faith. Their faith continues to inspire me to this day. My four older brothers have each played a significant role in keeping my faith alive. From the eldest brother, Father Nate, who has a great love for the Lord and a deep passion to share the Gospel, he continually exemplifies Christ to me. Then there is Aaron, with his insatiable curiosity and constant pursuit of truth through philosophy and theology. He has shown me the depths of our faith and made me a more knowledgeable Catholic. Our joke is that my brother David is our unwavering conscience. David’s faith is strong and his quest for holiness keeps me in check regularly. Finally, Joseph, husband and father to three wonderful boys, inspires me in his ability to recognize and see the beauty of God from a profoundly new perspective. As brothers, we meet once a month to keep each other accountable and to strengthen our faith. By this, and by my whole family, my faith is strengthened, and I am blessed.
Mark Harburg, Cathedral Of The Most Blessed Sacrament, Detroit
My wife Serena and I have been married for almost 37 years. We have five grown children and six grandchildren. Reflecting upon the blessings and challenges of our life together moves me to recall these words of Jesus, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:12-13) God gave humanity the gift of marriage and family as one path to the fullness of life and abundant joy he so longs for us to experience. Family life requires one to “lay down one’s life,” to let go of our own desires for the good of the family. When we live out our married vocation while abiding in Jesus, we grow in faith and in all the other virtues. In this context I think family life helped prepare us for ministry.
Serena, who also serves the church as a spiritual director, supports, participates and encourages me in my service as a deacon and I encourage her as she responds to God’s unique calling on her life. My children and grandchildren are a constant source of inspiration. Their differing personalities and life experience expand my worldview. My mom and dad, brother, sister and all my in-laws are a source of unfailing encouragement. And my parish families at Our Lady of Victory in Northville and St. Edith in Livonia refresh my soul with words of affirmation and appreciation.
Deacon Fred Billotto, Our Lady Of Victory, Northville
I have a large extended family, but in our home it’s just my husband Andrew and I. We’re going on four years of marriage and have yet to have a baby, so I keep coming back to how my faith has been inspired or changed due to infertility and being a family of two. This struggle has brought my husband and I so much closer than we ever could have imagined. We’ve prayed together since before we were engaged, but infertility has opened so many avenues for vulnerability in our prayer life. Some days, we just pray for our future, that we’re blessed with children. Other days, our prayers are more unspoken and tear-filled, simply begging God for grace and understanding. We’ve both said many times now that we’re not sure how we would carry this cross without our faith. Without knowing that it’s not in our hands and that it’s not our timing. We are aware that we may never become parents, but this journey really has helped us grow closer to God, and I think that’s one of the most beautiful blessings that has come from a very dark time. It’s a constant battle to “let go” and to truly trust God. We often believe in God and his promises but how often are we honestly trusting in him?
Serenity Quesnelle, St Margaret Of Scotland Parish, St. Claire Shores
The daily presence and relationships I have with my parents, my siblings and my grandparents are some of the most powerful ways in which I have been supported and inspired throughout my faith journey. Half the time, they probably don’t even know that one particular instance in their own life impacted me so strongly, as it often is the little things that move mountains. But seeing my family go through times where they are closer and further away from God and seeing their attitude toward life change vividly shows the impact his hand has in people’s lives. He is not an old man living above us, but a spirit that works wonders in every life he is invited into.
I have noticed that whenever I am unhappy or struggling with motivation, it is because I am not close to God. And just as your family is always there for you in any circumstance, so is God. In addition, my grandfather recently went through RCIA and, this Easter Vigil, he received his first Communion and was confirmed. Watching a man I have known my whole life go through such a life change has inspired me to keep growing and developing my relationship with God. And so it truly is through my family that I have not only learned of Jesus, but also experienced his grace and his goodness!
Julia Christiansen, St. Patrick Parish, White Lake
My family has fostered my faith in so many ways: my parents homeschooled us and later sent us to Catholic school; my Grandma said more prayers for me than I can imagine; my brothers and cousins engage with me in lively conversations about the faith; and every one of my family members has been unbelievably supportive of my decision to pursue priesthood!
However, I want to single out one thing. When I was young, my mom taught us to always look for small ways to give God just a little bit extra. Things like paying visits to the chapel, making the sign of the cross when driving by a church, praying for a few minutes after Mass and genuflecting when entering and leaving church. These small acts of devotion taught me to never be minimalistic with God, but to love him, as Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “With all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
That conviction is the core of my spiritual life, it has inspired and sustained my vocation, and God gave me that gift through my family. Thanks, fam!
Jeremy Schupbach, Seminarian At Sacred Heart Major Seminary
My faith was primarily inspired by my parents’ commitment to their faith and dedication to living lives of service. They clearly communicated that both prayer and service were essential to making a difference. These lessons instilled the same values in my life that I passed on to my children. My father deeply connected to the word and accepted the call to join the first class of ministers of service in the Archdiocese of Detroit.
My mother worked as a housekeeper in the rectory and maintained the sanctuary. Today, I enjoy being a lector, a parish council member and a volunteer at our pregnancy Crisis center to support whenever possible.