Deo Gratias honorees learned stewardship at home

by Lesle Knop

At Grandparents Day at my grandchildren’s school, a grandmother softly spoke to me about her four grandchildren. Her two oldest grandsons, now teenagers, seldom visit her, she said, and the parents of her two youngest grandchildren, a boy and a girl, are too busy to spend much time with her either.

I sensed sadness in her musings. St. Teresa of Calcutta understood solitude. “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty,” she said.

I think this grandma and her grandkids will be blessed by spending more time together.

On Nov. 3, the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas will honor an amazing pair of Shawnee businessmen brothers and their wives — Ben and Betty Zarda and Tom and Mickey Zarda — with the 2016 Deo Gratias Outstanding Family Award.

I spent some time last week talking to Ben, born in 1927, who shared childhood memories of time spent with his elders.

When Ben was 8 years old, he was diagnosed with a heart murmur. His doctor prescribed prolonged rest.

“I remember Grandpa sitting with me on those long days while my mother ironed,” he said. “That’s where I picked up the German that I know.”

He remembers asking his uncle for a raise at age 10 while earning 22 cents (and a blue plate special for lunch) delivering milk for the Zarda family dairy.

“My aunt would not let my uncle smoke in the house, so I knew I would find him smoking his pipe outside,” he said. “When I got up the nerve to talk, he told me he was thinking about cutting my pay. ‘Why don’t we just leave it like it is?’ he said. I never mentioned it again.”

The Zarda family’s commitment to Catholic causes is well-known.

“My dad taught us to tithe ten percent,” Ben said. “Once a month, he gave a tenth of his dairy income to the parish.”

Ben is the third of nine children. His parents believed that stewardship requires being a witness to their faith by always placing their trust in the goodness of God.

Archbishop Naumann’s commitment to baptize third children of families in our archdiocese affirms this conviction. I am the third child of six. When my own third child was born, a friend told me an old Jewish saying: We have our first child to affirm our love for each other; our second child to affirm our love for family; and our third child to affirm our faith in God and that life will go on.

God has blessed Ben Zarda whose family history could be summed up with these words:

“The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children after them” (Prv 20:7).

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