There is arguably no greater adventure than parenthood. It takes determination, prayer and grit to ‘make it’ as a parent—providing for your child/ren and then hoping that they grow up to be the best version of themselves. More often than not though, it’s nothing that one does that determines one’s success as a parent.
Reflecting in particular on the role of fathers, Pope Francis once said that every family needs a father ‘who can share in his family‘s joy and pain, hand down wisdom to his children and offer them firm guidance and love’. To mark Father’s Day this year, we spoke with two dads who—albeit at different stages in their fatherhood journey—are striving to do just this.
Trevor D’Souza remembers the exact moment he found out he was going to become a father, almost 30 years ago now. He and his wife, Michelle, had not long been married and hadn’t planned on having children so soon. ‘Michelle was a bit worried with the news and I tried to reassure her,’ he shares. ‘What went through my mind was the thought that my child would not be flattered if he or she ever found out we were anything less than overjoyed with the news, so I made a deliberate point of being upbeat and joyful.’
They are now proud parents to Andrew, 29, and Janine, 25. ‘Fortunately things haven’t been too messy for us as parents,’ Trevor says when reflecting on the challenges they’ve faced over the years and how they’ve overcome them. Perhaps the biggest challenge has been to ‘let go’ and trust that all will be well.
‘It has occasionally been difficult to resist the temptation to tell my children how to live their lives (based on the wisdom I believed I had gained through my own experiences) and instead allowing my children to learn their own life’s lessons “the hard way”.’
Through it all, faith and prayer have remained central to Trevor’s approach to fatherhood, something he says was instilled by the example of his own dad and father-in-law.
My dad and Michelle’s dad both had a deep commitment to their families and their faith. Both worked hard and sacrificed a lot to provide the best they could for their children.’
‘Over the years as a father to my own children, I have tried to measure up to the qualities of these two dads.’
‘I feel my faith has helped me prioritise my hopes and wishes for my children’s future,’ he says. ‘It has motivated me to set a good example on matters that I feel are more important—for example a person’s character, their belief in God and their service to other people, rather than their own personal achievements and successes.
‘We pray for our kids every day. We pray that they may grow in faith and make God a central part of their lives … and that their interactions with the world around them are ultimately guided by a desire to serve God.’
Somewhat newer to the experience of fatherhood is Brendan Elliston, whose son, Elliot, was born in July of this year.
Unsurprisingly, the most challenging aspect of becoming a parent, he says, is ‘the lack of sleep’. That, and ‘how much more I need to grow in love and how much selfishness needs to die away!’
After some initial difficulties, he and his wife Emily entrusted their parenthood journey to God. ‘A few early heartbreaks and losses in our marriage meant surrendering the little life in Emily‘s womb to God’s care and to whatever may come,’ he shares.
Brendan recalls fondly his own childhood and the positive influence that his father had on him and his siblings. ‘I remember the bed time stories, the Bible studies, long discussions exploring the faith, and special days where he would take one of us kids on a one-on-one day out to spend time with him,’ he says.
He, more than anyone, is my inspiration for the kind of father I want to become. Patient, caring, strong, wise, intelligent, invested.’
Brendan credits his dad’s example and that of local priests who have ‘helped me become the man I am today’. He mentions Fr David Cartwright, former director of the diocesan vocations office, for ‘helping me discern my vocation’, Fr Richard Rosse ‘for his guidance’, Fr Anil Mascarenhas ‘for his persistence’, Fr Nicholas Pearce ‘for his friendship and adventure’, Fr Marcus Goulding ‘for forming me and Emily for marriage’, Fr Glen Tattersall ‘for guiding my family to the Catholic faith’ and Fr Shabin Anthony ‘for preparing me for the sacraments … baptising me when I was 12’.
Now a few months into his ‘new role’, Brendan shares that he draws confidence in God’s plan for him and his family. ‘I take comfort in knowing that God will always provide for me and my family … but also that he will make up for all that is lacking in my own fatherhood. And that any father wounds I will unintentionally but inevitably cause in Elliot will be remedied by Him.’
When asked what has surprised him most about becoming a father, he shares ‘how much more exciting newborns are when they‘re yours’.
‘Just watching him and looking at his face is better than any TV show.’
His hope for young Elliot? ‘That he becomes a saint. A man of virtue. A lover of his Catholic faith.’
Proclaim: Office for Mission Renewal29 November 2023
Melbourne Catholic28 November 2023