Rick and Susan helped their son answer the call to priesthood
Walking into the Ann Arbor home of Susan and Rick Mangan on a Saturday morning, you can almost hear the echoes of the busy, intergenerational family that once filled the comfortable space. But on this day, with the smell of coffee brewing in the kitchen, the only sound is the easy exchanges of a couple whose familiarity has bred contentment.
Of course, the house isn’t always this quiet. The Mangans’ adult children and 12 grandchildren often gather there for holidays and celebrations – or just to hang out with their parents and each other. Four of their six children settled in or near Ann Arbor, while their youngest daughter, Rebecca, lives with her husband in Texas.
But last year, their son James made a new home for himself – in the priesthood. Ordained by Bishop Earl Boyea in June 2012, Father James’ first assignment was as parochial vicar at St. Patrick’s Church in Brighton. For now, at least, he is nearby.
“I was quietly pleased when Jim expressed that he wanted to become a priest,” Rick says. “But we never talked about the priesthood or introduced it. We just wanted our children to be strong Christians and Catholics with solid virtue. We focused on obedience and respect.”
In fact, though Rick and Susan never did anything to suggest to Father Jim that he might have a vocation, everything they did to establish a loving, faithful family created exactly the environment in which a call to God’s service might be heard.
Of course, hearing God’s call to a vocation – whether to the priesthood, religious life, single life, or marriage – isn’t as simple as, say, turning on the radio. But, for the Mangans, Catholic radio played a significant role in helping them to revitalize their faith and create a home defined by their Catholic identity.
Susan and Rick met when they both lived in Ann Arbor. Susan was a student at the University of Michigan; Rick gravitated to Ann Arbor because he heard there was a charismatic community there and he was interested in joining it. They remained in the community for about 10 years.
“We realized our Catholic faith offered a lot and decided to take greater advantage of that,” Rick says. “We’re both cradle Catholics, but at some point we decided to really believe it.”
“We were always prayerful as a family. We said the rosary and, of course, we went to Mass,” Susan explains. “But we reached the point where we wanted to learn more about the sacraments and really focus on our Catholic faith.”
Catholic radio helped them do that.
Susan began listening to Al Kresta and other Catholic radio personalities and sharing with Rick her enthusiasm for what she heard. “We developed a stronger sense of ourselves as Catholics and realized that the Catholic Church has it all.”
Rick and Susan, members at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Ypsilanti, also are now consecrated catechists with the Marian Catechist Apostolate.
As Rick and Susan “went deeper” into their faith, their parenting decisions reflected their new way of understanding themselves as a Catholic family.
“Our four older children primarily went to public schools, but as we became more immersed in our faith, we chose Catholic schools. The public schools did a good job of educating them, but, for Jim and Rebecca in particular, attending Gabriel Richard High School definitely helped support their Catholic identity.”
In addition to being influenced in their parenting vocation by their faith, the Mangans also gave their children the gift of an intergenerational home by inviting Susan’s parents to live with them. “The kids had other older people that they could relate to besides their parents,” Rick says. “It was an environment that used to be more common, but in our culture is very rare.”
In fact, being a bit “counter-culture” was important to Susan. “I was always suspicious of American culture,” she says. “We were infrequent TV viewers – we didn’t watch any regular programming – and we only had Mario Brothers types of video games. Nothing violent.
“We also put a high value on family meals. I was home full time. I didn’t work outside the home until Rebecca started school, and then only part time. I was careful, when I was raising my children, not to divide my time between my family and other commitments.”
It was this kind of atmosphere – and the leadership provided by his parents – that Father James says allowed him to listen for God’s call to the priesthood.
“Reflecting on growing up with my parents, I would say what they taught me most was faith and simplicity,” he says. “With faith, they had the perspective that God is the most important thing. God was always someone who was close. They gave me that awareness of his presence.
“And by simplicity, I mean that they taught us that God is love, and we didn’t need more than that. They weren’t obsessed with material things.”
When the time came to respond to God’s invitation, Father James says he never had to explain his vocation to his family. “I suppose it was kind of a surprise to them,” he says. “But because of the faith and simplicity they taught me, I knew that God is the purpose in life.”