This is a guest post from my cousin Pat Connery Koko as delivered in a homily at the Masses on Father's Day at St Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Chicago, Illinois. Published with her permission.
|Photo courtesy of Paul Koko|
Happy Father’s Day to all Fathers – Biological or related such as uncles, grandfathers, elder brothers, family friends, teachers, priests and others.
Today I would like to reflect on some special folks.
Michael Joseph Connery was born in Ireland on June 5, 1861, the 5th son in an Irish Catholic family of 7 boys and 3girls. In 1893 he married an Irish lass whom he met and courted on a return trip to the old sod. She followed him to the States and they began a family on the West Side of Chicago.
Thomas Joseph Connery was born in Chicago, August 21, 1903. He was a middle child in this strong and loving Catholic family of 11 children. He grew up in St. Mel Parish, just east of here, served as an altar boy, completed his sacraments and finished 8th grade there before trying Quigley He soon found being a priest was not his vocation. He completed High School at Campion Jesuit HS in Prarie du Chien WI (bording schools were a family tradition) and eventually went to work in his Father’s business also just east of here.
Paul Gregory Koko was also born in Chicago on August 8 1940. He was the oldest child of three born to a family on the South East Side of the City.
What do these three men have in common besides playing a critical role in my life? --- being great Fathers.
When I was asked to do the Father’s Day reflection, I planned to share about my Father who was such a strong influence in my life, and because of circumstances in the lives of many cousins.
After reading the scriptures for today I realized that my Grandfather and husband, like my own Father shared similar traits. Their patience, ethical standards and willingness to allow their children to grow, make mistakes and to help them to learn from these to move on are all shared characteristics: Characteristics of a good Father.
In other words, and mirroring the readings, they seemed to know how to plant the seeds and watch them sprout. Helping when/if necessary but allowing their children to flourish.
My Grandfather affectionately known by many as “Papa Dear” imparted his Faith and ethics to his children – 2 daughters became Adrian Dominican nuns while 5 other children gave him and my Grandmother 23 Grandchildren. He died when I was only 9 so most of my cousins did not get to know him but were raised by a parent whom he influenced (as Ezekiel wrote…making trees bloom). I retain a lasting impression of a loving, caring man.
When my parents married, my Father was 39 years old and Mom was a younger 29. For the pre-WWII Era, that was late to become parents but I was born in 1942. Although Dad had come from a large family and Mom was one of 8 girls, neither had much experience being parents. One of the “experts” in those days was a medical doctor, Dr. Spock. So Dad bought his book and started to learn intellectually how to be a Father.
At one point, early on, I must have done something naughty and he seemed at a loss. He said, “Patricia what am I going to do with you”? Being a somewhat precocious child, I replied, “what does Dr. Spock say?” He started to laugh and we sat together, read the chapter, he sent me to my room for a few minutes and he put the book away and never consulted it again. He had the instinct to be a good Father and with his strong Faith and gentle nature (and a great wife to help) I grew up in a loving home.
They made sure I went to a Catholic Grammar School (the same one Dad had attended), received all the sacraments and grew up knowing right from wrong. I attended a Catholic High School, Mt. St. Mary Academy (another family tradition) and Rosary College. Through all this, my Father was the calm anchor to whom I could turn.
I met Paul and though we became engaged after a week and scheduled our wedding here at St. Catherine’s less than 10 months later, my Dad (perhaps typical of a Father for whose only daughter no man was good enough) came to accept this new person in my life and I feel his gentle ways and deep Faith nurtured what was already in Paul to become the wonderful Father he is today. My Dad adored his only Grandchild, our daughter, Marie.
Again, seeds sprout and grow and flourish.
We only had my Father in our lives for a short time. There is a story to that which can be shared at another time but God blessed me with a person who set me on the right path, welcomed and appreciated my choice of husband and was a fine Grandfather to our daughter who got to know and learn from him until she, too, was 9 years old.
This special man made such an impression on all of us so that now, 40 years after his death, we all remember him fondly. He shared his firm Faith and trust in God which resonates within me and so many other cousins. And will, I hope, continue in stories and memories to influence future generations of our expanding family clan.