God has plans for all children, St. Paul parents hear during speaker series

July 29, 2019 at 12:37 p.m.
God has plans for all children, St. Paul parents hear during speaker series
God has plans for all children, St. Paul parents hear during speaker series


By EmmaLee Italia | Correspondent

Sometimes parents’ dreams for their children don’t turn out the way they anticipated – and that might actually be a good thing.

Such was the message of a talk by Franciscan Father Gabriel Zeis, diocesan vicar for Catholic education, who spoke Feb. 1 to parents of students in St. Paul School, Princeton. Coming at the tail end of Catholic Schools Week, the talk was the first of a speaker series initiated by the school’s Catholic Identity Committee.

“We wanted to do something a little different, a little outside of the box,” said Dr. Ryan Killeen, principal, addressing the 50-some parents who filled a private room at Triumph Brewery Company, Princeton, for the parents’ night out presentation. Father Zeis approached the theme, “Untapped Potential: Raising Faith-Filled Children,” from the perspective of God’s plan for each child perhaps differing from what parents imagine.

Father Zeis recalled how his mother saw him as a famous cellist, his father, a great baseball player.

“They believed in me and imagined what I could be, and thankful for my potential, prayed diligently that I would succeed,” he said. “Little did they know that I did not recognize any of these as my ‘untapped potential.’ Jesus also sees potential in those who listen to his words ... but that potential is the kingdom of God waiting to explode in us.”

Ultimately, Father Zeis felt that God was calling him to the priesthood, in spite of the plans and dreams his parents held for his future.

“It’s not the anticipation of what parents think, it’s not the anticipation of what society thinks, not what any sort of testing can tell us about our children – it’s about what God believes our sons and daughters will inevitably become,” he explained.

Father Zeis referenced the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23), in which Jesus illustrates the seed falling on fertile ground as the one that takes root.

“There is that fertile place where God’s grace is at work ... and blossoms and gives fruit. Jesus knows we have the ability to think. He was speaking to ordinary people, not men and women with advanced degrees. In fact, those with advanced degrees could not hear him, could not think of Jesus as anything but a carpenter. They did not see Jesus’ ‘untapped potential.’”

A Proactive Schools Vision

Following Father Zeis’ talk, parents were given the opportunity to ask questions. For example, one parent wanted to know about the state of Catholic schools and education throughout the Diocese of Trenton.

“We have outstanding faculty ... but we are up against some difficult challenges,” Father Zeis conceded. “[Because of] demographic shifts ... and where our schools are located, they are not facilitating the needs of the Diocese at this point and time. We understand that tuition is a big hurdle for many of those who wish to have a Catholic education ... and parents of children with special needs are not able to find them met within the Catholic school system.”

“Right now we’re at a place and time in which we have to rethink where we want to be,” Father Zeis said. “That’s my job as vicar for Catholic education, to help Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., come up with a plan for diocesan Catholic schools and determine what will Catholic education look like in the future of this Diocese? I am of a firm belief that we cannot allow the disintegration of this program to take place – we need to have a proactive vision.”

Another parent was curious about the faith challenges Father Zeis witnessed in the students to whom he ministers at Princeton University, as university chaplain. He had some encouraging news: students take their Catholic upbringing with them, despite the tendency to weigh their parents’ teaching against what the college environment provides – even if they ask questions their parents might not want them to ask.

“We in the chaplaincy at universities have that opportunity to be there when those questions are asked,” Father Zeis said. “And inevitably, you’ll find that they do go to someone – a chaplain or a Catholic professor or a Catholic coach. So what seeds you plant in your sons and daughters before college are great seeds they will continue to germinate and grow.

“So plant,” he continued. “Never give up speaking to them about who Jesus Christ is to you in your life. Plant deeply those seeds, and they will come to fruition. And I’m blessed to see that wonderful harvest as these young people grow. Be assured that the work you’re doing now is going to pay off in the future. Even though they might not always say that they’re engaged in the Catholic perspective, know that the seeds you plant are active.”

‘What We’re Doing Matters’

Feedback among attendees was overwhelmingly positive, both vocally and in response surveys issued during the evening. The Catholic Identity Committee intends to use the suggestions and critiques provided to plan the next installment of the speaker series.

“It was a great turnout,” said SPS parent Christina Crespo-Muñoz. “It was nice to hear the affirmation of what we’re trying to do [as parents] – reminding them they’re here because of God. And it’s nice to see people [of the school community] coming together, too.”

Beth Sagarese was encouraged by Father Zeis as well. “It’s good to hear him tell you it’s OK to want something for your child – you get so worried as a parent,” she said. “It’s good to hear from a priest that what we’re doing matters.”

Michele Cano, parent and SPS director of admissions and advancement, said she heard the message to relax in knowing that God has wonderful plans for one’s child.

“His talk certainly takes the ‘pressure’ off as he reminded us what we already know as Catholics but can sometimes get lost in the craziness of life: that we can have all the plans we want but God has a plan for our children and they will be fine.”

“The other thing that he said, and I truly felt was an answer to my prayers, was that he works with the students at Princeton and the seeds that we sow in them now will continue to germinate as they grow up and leave home,” she continued. “With my oldest daughter starting to look at colleges, I have been so stressed about the influences on college campuses these days. It was exactly what I needed to hear.”

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By EmmaLee Italia | Correspondent

Sometimes parents’ dreams for their children don’t turn out the way they anticipated – and that might actually be a good thing.

Such was the message of a talk by Franciscan Father Gabriel Zeis, diocesan vicar for Catholic education, who spoke Feb. 1 to parents of students in St. Paul School, Princeton. Coming at the tail end of Catholic Schools Week, the talk was the first of a speaker series initiated by the school’s Catholic Identity Committee.

“We wanted to do something a little different, a little outside of the box,” said Dr. Ryan Killeen, principal, addressing the 50-some parents who filled a private room at Triumph Brewery Company, Princeton, for the parents’ night out presentation. Father Zeis approached the theme, “Untapped Potential: Raising Faith-Filled Children,” from the perspective of God’s plan for each child perhaps differing from what parents imagine.

Father Zeis recalled how his mother saw him as a famous cellist, his father, a great baseball player.

“They believed in me and imagined what I could be, and thankful for my potential, prayed diligently that I would succeed,” he said. “Little did they know that I did not recognize any of these as my ‘untapped potential.’ Jesus also sees potential in those who listen to his words ... but that potential is the kingdom of God waiting to explode in us.”

Ultimately, Father Zeis felt that God was calling him to the priesthood, in spite of the plans and dreams his parents held for his future.

“It’s not the anticipation of what parents think, it’s not the anticipation of what society thinks, not what any sort of testing can tell us about our children – it’s about what God believes our sons and daughters will inevitably become,” he explained.

Father Zeis referenced the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23), in which Jesus illustrates the seed falling on fertile ground as the one that takes root.

“There is that fertile place where God’s grace is at work ... and blossoms and gives fruit. Jesus knows we have the ability to think. He was speaking to ordinary people, not men and women with advanced degrees. In fact, those with advanced degrees could not hear him, could not think of Jesus as anything but a carpenter. They did not see Jesus’ ‘untapped potential.’”

A Proactive Schools Vision

Following Father Zeis’ talk, parents were given the opportunity to ask questions. For example, one parent wanted to know about the state of Catholic schools and education throughout the Diocese of Trenton.

“We have outstanding faculty ... but we are up against some difficult challenges,” Father Zeis conceded. “[Because of] demographic shifts ... and where our schools are located, they are not facilitating the needs of the Diocese at this point and time. We understand that tuition is a big hurdle for many of those who wish to have a Catholic education ... and parents of children with special needs are not able to find them met within the Catholic school system.”

“Right now we’re at a place and time in which we have to rethink where we want to be,” Father Zeis said. “That’s my job as vicar for Catholic education, to help Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., come up with a plan for diocesan Catholic schools and determine what will Catholic education look like in the future of this Diocese? I am of a firm belief that we cannot allow the disintegration of this program to take place – we need to have a proactive vision.”

Another parent was curious about the faith challenges Father Zeis witnessed in the students to whom he ministers at Princeton University, as university chaplain. He had some encouraging news: students take their Catholic upbringing with them, despite the tendency to weigh their parents’ teaching against what the college environment provides – even if they ask questions their parents might not want them to ask.

“We in the chaplaincy at universities have that opportunity to be there when those questions are asked,” Father Zeis said. “And inevitably, you’ll find that they do go to someone – a chaplain or a Catholic professor or a Catholic coach. So what seeds you plant in your sons and daughters before college are great seeds they will continue to germinate and grow.

“So plant,” he continued. “Never give up speaking to them about who Jesus Christ is to you in your life. Plant deeply those seeds, and they will come to fruition. And I’m blessed to see that wonderful harvest as these young people grow. Be assured that the work you’re doing now is going to pay off in the future. Even though they might not always say that they’re engaged in the Catholic perspective, know that the seeds you plant are active.”

‘What We’re Doing Matters’

Feedback among attendees was overwhelmingly positive, both vocally and in response surveys issued during the evening. The Catholic Identity Committee intends to use the suggestions and critiques provided to plan the next installment of the speaker series.

“It was a great turnout,” said SPS parent Christina Crespo-Muñoz. “It was nice to hear the affirmation of what we’re trying to do [as parents] – reminding them they’re here because of God. And it’s nice to see people [of the school community] coming together, too.”

Beth Sagarese was encouraged by Father Zeis as well. “It’s good to hear him tell you it’s OK to want something for your child – you get so worried as a parent,” she said. “It’s good to hear from a priest that what we’re doing matters.”

Michele Cano, parent and SPS director of admissions and advancement, said she heard the message to relax in knowing that God has wonderful plans for one’s child.

“His talk certainly takes the ‘pressure’ off as he reminded us what we already know as Catholics but can sometimes get lost in the craziness of life: that we can have all the plans we want but God has a plan for our children and they will be fine.”

“The other thing that he said, and I truly felt was an answer to my prayers, was that he works with the students at Princeton and the seeds that we sow in them now will continue to germinate as they grow up and leave home,” she continued. “With my oldest daughter starting to look at colleges, I have been so stressed about the influences on college campuses these days. It was exactly what I needed to hear.”

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