Go to Mass as a family, urge parents of 14 children

By: By Tom Dermody

Ever feel it’s not worth taking potentially noisy children to Mass?

“Don’t buy into that lie,” said Kathleen Littleton.

Kathleen is the mother of 14. And she, her husband Jim, and their children have been daily Mass-goers for a decade.

“We sit in back,” said Kathleen, whose children range in age from 24 to 4. “There’s always a cry room.”

Attending Mass frequently as a family was one aspect of a “Eucharistic revolution among families” that the Littletons propose as a key to winning the battle of protecting life from conception to natural death.

The Oak Park couple were the featured speakers Oct. 3 at the 29th annual Respect Life Dinner at the Cater Inn Banquet Center in Peoria. The annual event, held on Respect Life Sunday, raises funds to support the Family Resources Center, a pro-life outreach of the Diocese of Peoria’s Respect Life Board.

“We’re never going to convince people of the truths of the pro-life teachings of the church by reason alone,” said Jim Littleton. “We need grace.”

The Littletons shared with the nearly 200 dinner attendees how grace has accompanied them from their meeting at the University of Illinois and throughout their married life, from their reawakening to the Catholic faith and through the gift of their children — 12 girls and two boys. The Littletons have also had five miscarriages.

Authors of the book “Better by the Dozen, Plus Two,” the Littletons say their children are a “team,” including the team of five in heaven who are praying and “rooting for us.”

“In our family everyone shares, everyone helps,” said Kathleen. “Our children are one another’s best friends in friendships that will last a lifetime.”

In urging Catholic couples to embrace church teaching on openness to life, she said couples often limit family size because of worries they won’t be able to provide for their children or won’t have enough love.

Even though the Littletons acknowledged they have faced financial crosses — Kathleen was a stay-at-home mom who is now a parish director of religious education while Jim has a small business and does Catholic ministry — “our children are beautiful, happy, and well taken care of,” said Kathleen. They pray the rosary together nightly, frequent the sacrament of reconciliation, and Jim is an enthusiastic student of the teachings of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the famed orator and media pioneer whose cause for sainthood the Diocese of Peoria is promoting.

Children are not “an imposition, but a gift,” said Jim, assuring that God is not undone in generosity.

However, the Littletons announced at the dinner the family is facing another cross. Jim, 52, was diagnosed with stage four leukemia a year ago.

While they pray for healing, Jim is offering his suffering for those who need his prayers — including for women considering abortion and for those in the medical community who support it.

“We win one heart, one soul at a time,” he said.

Meanwhile, the dinner helps the Family Resources Center “reach people with the truth,” said Pete Smith, the husband of director Jan Smith who gave an update on the free-loan library. Among the current projects being promoted at the center is the recently produced DVD “Babies in the Womb,” featuring Donna Nelson, parish pro-life coordinator for St. Joseph Parish in Pekin.

The center would like to see the video, which features models showing the development of the unborn child from seven weeks through seven months, placed in every school. It also can be viewed on YouTube.

Also speaking at the dinner was John Paul Deddens, director of Students for Life in Illinois, who told of growing pro-life support on college campuses. “This is where young minds are formed,” he said, and the presence of more pro-life groups on campuses “is the beginning to the end of abortion.”

Charles Owens of Henry served as master of ceremonies. Robert Eckert and Sally Jo Winek provided music, and the Littletons were introduced by Jameson Duggan and Jessica Blair of Peoria Notre Dame Teens for Life.

Editor’s note: For more on the Littleton family, visit their ministry’s Web site, www.formingfaithfulfamilies.com. For more on the Family Resources Center, including volunteer opportunities, call (309) 637-1713 or visit the center at 321 Main, Peoria.

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