Photo: Felix Carroll
In this, the Year for Priests, the following is the first in a series of stories in which the mothers of Marian priests give the "inside story" on their sons' vocations. In this first installment, we speak with Kathleen Roesch, mother of Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC.
By Sarah Chichester
"I want to be an actor."
Kathleen Roesch responded to this announcement from her son, Joe, with the gentleness of a mother and the frankness of a New Yorker: "Go ahead."
Her response might sound strange, especially to those of us who know her son as Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC. Father Joe has been a familiar face on the Divine Mercy Sunday broadcast, the Cenacle of Divine Mercy series, the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy, and occasionally on "Sunday Night Live with Fr. Benedict Groeschel" show, all on EWTN. Yet, Mrs. Roesch knew that, while it seemed to her that her son had a vocation to the priesthood, she couldn't make him be a priest.
"If he didn't try out acting, he'd be wondering about it." said Mrs. Roesch. "My husband and I never wanted Fr. Joe to feel like we were pushing him."
So after college, their son, who participated in high school and college drama clubs, traveled around the country with a Shakespearean acting troupe, then acted in theater in Illinois and, later, in New York City.
What does God Want?
Another mother might have gotten anxious. Her son appeared to be veering away from what the Lord was calling him to do. During the intervening years, Mrs. Roesch was careful not to impose her will on her son or to rush him. "I don't know what God wants for each child. So, I pray that they understand and do His will," she said.
For several months after returning home, Fr. Joe worked in the world before ultimately telling his parents that he was going to become a priest. Before his announcement, he hadn't told them he was discerning a vocation to the priesthood. And though Mrs. Roesch could see a change happening in Fr. Joe, and although she had long suspected it, the announcement came as a surprise.
But even surprised, Mrs. Roesch didn't miss a beat upon hearing the future Fr. Joe mention his vocation. She told him, through the hugs and kisses, again as mother/New Yorker, "If you are going to be a priest, you must be a good and holy priest."
My Son the Father
In persona Christi is Latin for, "in the person of Christ." Each time the priest acts by virtue of his ordination he acts "in the person of Christ," and for Mrs. Roesch the privilege of being the mother to a man who has been called and ordained to this vocation is summed up in one word: gratitude.
For her, his ordination on June 27, 1992 at Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Staten Island, N.Y., was very moving and joyful, but "indescribable" was the moment in her son's first Mass when he elevated the Host after reciting the words of the Consecration and calling down from heaven the Almighty God.
"It was an experience like no other," she said. "Yet, with such a great blessing, I also felt the need to pray earnestly for him, that he would be faithful to his call and shepherd the flock that Jesus assigned to him."
As a Mother
Mrs. Roesch's care has continued after Fr. Joe's ordination, her motherhood extending through prayers and intercessions for her son-priest. She has Masses said for him, and she offers her Rosaries and Divine Mercy Chaplets for his priesthood.
She has also grown closer to the saints, especially Bl. Stanislaus Papczynski, founder of the Marians. "I call upon my saint friends, praying that Fr. Joe may be a holy priest," she said.
Mrs. Roesch and her husband William are also actively involved with the Marians. They attend different Marian events, such as the North American Congress on Mercy in Washington, D.C., and the Divine Mercy Sunday celebration on Eden Hill. They're familiar and welcome faces at Marian ordinations, and they take the time to encourage and get to know the young men who have joined the Marians.
To other moms whose sons are discerning a vocation to the priesthood, Mrs. Roesch gives this advice, "Support your son. Make sure that he feels free to make his own decision. Pray that if he has a religious vocation that he hears and answers the call. Advise him to frequent the sacraments, seek spiritual direction, and pray."
She adds, "Much prayer is needed from both mother and son when God stoops down and calls a man to become a priest. May each be faithful to that call."
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