Simply stewardship

Column: Genealogy

Simply stewardship

Lesle Knop is the executive director of the archdiocesan office of stewardship and development. You can email her at:

by Lesle Knop

The word “genealogy” is derived from the Greek words for “generations” and “knowledge”: genea and logos. Genealogy is the study of families and the tracing of lineages and histories.

Recently, I spent some time with my retired brother-in-law whose new hobby is research into our families’ various trees. Through his diligence, we now know names of some of our ancestors going back 12 generations or more.

His search for accurate spelling and middle initials, names found on gravestones, in church records and among census data revealed that some relatives died in infancy or early childhood. Cross-referencing names and dates with world history, we know famines, plagues and wars may have contributed to these early deaths.

Large families were common, including a man who married twice and fathered 22 children. We say we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Well, the connections we have with one another may indeed be familial as well as spiritual.

Most ancestors are like those mentioned
in the Book of Sirach:
 “Of others no memory remains, for when they perished, they perished. As if they had never lived, they and their children after them” (44:9).

If there were no record of these ancestors, how would I know I am their descendant? DNA, the color of my eyes, the shape of my face? Yes, physically we are connected. But that’s not all. Many of my ancestors had been buried in Catholic cemeteries, baptized and married in Catholic churches near places like Prague, Stockholm and Dublin. I am the descendant of Catholic men and women who shared their faith with their children, and their children, and their children.

Again, the Book of Sirach continues: “Yet these also were godly; their virtues have not been forgotten. Their wealth remains in their families, their heritage with their descendants. Through God’s covenant their family endures, and their offspring for their sake. And for all time their progeny will endure, their glory will never be blotted out; their bodies are buried in peace, but their name lives on and on” (44:10-14).

Our office maintains a list of Catholics who have named an entity of the local Catholic Church in their wills and estate plans. When noticed of their intentions, individuals become members of the Catholic Legacy Society (some anonymously).

The Catholic Legacy Society members give their last gifts for the future church. Our true wealth, our Catholic faith, is our heritage; our hope is that our faith will remain with our descendants.

If you would like more information about how to become a member of the Catholic Legacy Society in support of your parish, school or Catholic organization, visit the website at:, or feel free to call our office at (913) 647-0325.

About the author

Lesle Knop

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