Irish eyes smiling for ‘mother of the year’

Photo Caption: Rosemary McGuire Meade of Geneseo, with her husband, Lorin, by her side, beams as the St. Patrick’s Society Grand Parade XXIV steps off in Rock Island last Saturday.

By: By Jennifer Willems

ROCK ISLAND — Coming to Rock Island and taking part in the St. Patrick Society’s Grand Parade is a longtime tradition for Rosemary McGuire Meade of Geneseo, who usually rides on a flatbed truck owned by the McGuire Clan.

This year was different, however.

Instead of traveling near the end of the parade — which starts in Rock Island, travels across the Centennial Bridge, and ends in Davenport, Iowa — Meade was right up front as the St. Patrick Society’s 2009 Irish Mother of the Year.

Her Irish eyes smiling as she and her husband of 48 years, Lorin, rode in the white horse-drawn carriage accorded to the Irish Mother of the Year, Meade said her only regret was that she was not able to be closer to their seven children and 19 grandchildren during the parade.

They still found other ways to celebrate together during the weekend. One of those opportunities came at St. Mary’s Church in Rock Island where Mass was offered before the parade began. Wearing matching sweatshirts proclaiming their connection to “Rosemary Meade, Irish Mother of the Year,” they filled the church’s gathering space and the first four pews in the sanctuary.

While she makes it a habit never to offer unsolicited mother ing advice, she shared a few things that she has learned over the years with The Catholic Post.

“One of the things I think is important is to be a good listener,” she said when asked. “And it’s better to say nothing than to regret what you’ve said. Sometimes it’s better to pray.”

When her grandchildren started to arrive, Meade said she was “supportive, but not interfering.”

“It’s their life and I think God wants it to be that way,” she explained.

And she was never demanding about who spent the holidays where.

“Life is complicated and difficult. They have other family on their spouse’s side,” Meade said. “We’ll miss them if they’re not here, but we’ll celebrate when they are.”

There is one family gathering that nobody misses, however.

“One of the neat things we do is get together in the summer and everyone comes,” she said. “We just really, really enjoy that. There’s a place on Lake Michigan in Michigan that accommodates the 35 of us well.”
Last summer brought a new opportunity for Meade’s extended family to expand their horizons, grow in faith and work together when they took a mission trip to Kentucky to work with the Glenmary Home Missioners.
“We had been trying to get that coordinated for at least a couple of years,” she told The Post. “I thought, ‘If we could have fun for a week we could do something like that.’ We also thought it would be good for the next generation.”

Since no one time seemed to work for everyone, they chose a week in July and invited whoever could come. In the end about 20 family members — children included — were able to go and those who couldn’t watched the youngest children or supported the group financially.

In building houses, sorting clothes and just celebrating everyday life with the people, they had rich experiences that changed their lives, she said.

That commitment to serving others is something she and Lorin learned from their parents, she explained.

Growing up in rural Iowa during World War II, Meade said her parents opened their doors to everyone. Despite the fact that money was scarce, John and Mary McGuire made sure that their daughter had a Catholic education.

“I look back on that and think we didn’t have very much, but I never felt deprived. We had all the treasures you could want in your life,” she said, adding that her husband’s mother was always active in the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

“We’ve been blessed to have good examples,” she said simply.

The Meades have tried to live their own lives the same way.

Married in 1960, the couple moved to Geneseo to work as teachers. Lorin was a band teacher on the junior high and high school level while Rosemary stayed at home with their young family. She quipped that with eight children, including a set of twins, she had her own pre-school.

“You do what you have to do,” Meade said. “When you have one child, you’re busy. Life fills up. If you have eight, you’re busy. Life fills up. You have to be efficient.”

Parishioners at St. Malachy’s their entire married life, they have been active in Cursillo and TEC and so have their children and their spouses. In addition, the Meades have been involved in Marriage Encounter, Bible studies and most recently, JustFaith.

JustFaith, a process that immerses participants in Catholic social teaching and moves them to advocacy, keeps Rosemary Meade busy as she continues to work with her study group to raise awareness about poverty and injustice. Her husband plans to be in the next study group that is forming at St. Malachy’s.

“I think Christ puts the hunger in us, I really do, to learn more,” she said. “I have always had a red flag with injustice, even when I was in school. . . . This is a hunger to learn more and to expand our horizons and move in the direction that God calls us.”

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