Wayne Mattola spends some fun time with his children (left to right) Andrew, Noah, Luke, Isabella and Jackson. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Witness, prayer are keys to vocation of fathering

PORT ST. LUCIE | Fathers will be recognized and presented with gifts, hugs and kisses June 17, Father’s Day, and some dads will attend Mass with their children as they have continued to do over the years, sharing faith with their kids as faithful parents are called to do.

As Father’s Day approaches we spoke to several fathers here in the Diocese of Palm Beach about the vocation of marriage and parenting, and the significant challenges of raising children in the secular, materialistic world today.

Tim Dube, a parishioner of St. Bernadette in Port St. Lucie, is a local business owner and dad of three children: Timmy, 6, Grace, 4, and Lydia, 1. We asked him for advice he would share with new dads.

“Be an example of the Catholic you want your kids to grow up to be,” he said. “I feel that when it comes to religious life, too often many men are do as I say instead of do as I do. Our children learn by watching us.”

He added dads should always pray with the children.

“Teaching them to speak to God now will create a comfort and assurance in them that they can carry for the rest of their lives,” he said.

Dube is a convert to the Catholic faith, and it was his wife’s witness of great faith and commitment that apparently won him over to the Church. Growing up, his family members were not active in a congregation. He did not have a faith role model until he met Laura, now his beloved wife.

Six months after they were engaged, he signed up for the parish Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and began formation classes. They celebrated a Catholic wedding in the church with family and friends at their side, and are now living happily ever after and celebrating nearly 10 years of marriage.

The Dubes are active in the Church and keep the family Church-centered. They teach the children, who are home-schooled, about service and get them involved in outreach. In May, the children delivered flowers to women at a local nursing home in honor of Mother’s Day.

“The parent in the home who is setting the religious tone doesn’t have to be the mom,” he said. “It’s important for dads to take some of that responsibility.”

Tom Siter, a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Port St. Lucie, moved to Florida 35 years ago. He has been actively involved at his parish for more than 25 years, teaching both children and adult religion classes, serving as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, working in youth ministry and helping out with any building repairs and maintenance.

Siter was not always active in the parish, and he spent little time at home with his wife, Lauretta, and their three children. During a normal week, he put in 80 hours at work and had little time to do anything else, until a wakeup call that opened his mind and touched his heart. His family unexpectedly showed up one night at his workplace to intervene. His wife pointed out how much she and the children loved and needed him with them at home.

“I went home that night and prayed,” said Siter, who realized at that point that he was not living up to his vocations of marriage and parenting, to which he was called by God. His journey had taken a wrong turn, and now he turned to the Lord for guidance to get back on the right track, which he did.

“I have a beautiful family, with three wonderful kids, all of whom are now grown,” Siter said. “Briana is 31, Taylor is 28 and Nicholas is 24. The main reason I feel my children turned out so well-rounded is that I tried to model my life after Christ. The key word there is ‘try.’”

“I found through my struggles that there is just no way to do it without Christ in your life. I am so thankful for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish,” he continued. “It helped strengthen me to be the best possible version of myself. It is only by the grace of God I could be who I was and am called to be. Saying yes to God starts with the family and wanting the absolute best for them.”

His tip for new dads is one that he wishes someone had given to him when he was a young man trying to be the strong breadwinner of the family, turning to work instead of to God for advice and help. “Spend time with the Lord,” he said. “That’s where your strength comes from. Be still and let God know you’re listening.”

Wayne Mattola said that teamwork and a lot of prayer are key when it comes to raising five children. “In our home, we bring Jesus into the decision-making, particularly when dealing with things like mistakes and right and wrong.”

A native of Massachusetts, Mattola moved to South Florida 17 years ago, married his wife, Amy, 15 years ago and their household has continued to grow. Isabella is now 11, Andrew is 9, twins Noah and Luke are 7, and Jackson is 5.

Mattola, a parishioner of St. Lucie in Port St. Lucie, explained that his Catholic faith is important to him and always has been. His mother, a religion teacher, had a big influence on him, passing the faith along to him through her witness, and to others by teaching religion classes in the family’s home.

Amy Mattola, a former schoolteacher, home-schools all the children, and they attended religion classes at St. Lucie. Wayne Mattola, a financial and retirement planning adviser, said, “Our children get their religion from formal schooling, attending church and the examples Amy and I set by how we live our own lives. It’s really a case of ‘that’s how it is, kids.’”

He’s also quick to add that as hard as he and Amy work at keeping all the balls in the air, his children are incredibly fortunate to have four grandparents, all of whom live close by and are role models and examples for the children.

Mattola will be the first to tell new dads that the vocation of parenting is challenging and requires a great deal of dedication, “lots of coffee, lots of patience, lots of prayers,” he said, adding, “Enjoy the ride. It’s a miracle every day and you need to step back and enjoy it.”

All are asked to keep fathers in prayers this month as people everywhere celebrate them and all they do.

Linda Reeves contributed to this story.