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Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94)
Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94)

“As a priest, the No. 1 question I get asked is, ‘How do I keep my kids Catholic, or how do I help them back if they left?’”

So reflects Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94), on a recent episode of Catholic Answers Live, in which he discusses his newest book, Always a Catholic: How to Keep Your Kids in the Faith for Life & Bring Them Back If They Have Strayed.

A Norbertine canon at St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California, and the dean of studies at the Abbey’s seminary, Fr. Sebastian is previously the author of Secrets from Heaven: Hidden Treasures of Faith in the Parables and Conversations of Jesus and Understanding Marriage & Family: A Catholic Perspective. In his newest book, however, he takes a more pastoral approach, offering experience drawn from years in the priesthood to parents longing to give their children the gift of faith.

Alas, in a fallen world where all have free will, Fr. Sebastian admits, there are no surefire formulas or guarantees. “Even Jesus, who did everything perfectly, lost one of His 12 Apostles,” he acknowledges. “I can say this much: If you follow the advice I give in this book, it’s going to make it a lot easier for your kids to want to be Catholic, and even if they  go astray … it will make it so much easier for them to come back.”

Always a CatholicOn this note, the priest offers a hopeful anecdote. “I remember one of my friends — a wonderful family, but one of their sons sort of went off the rails there and is not living a good moral life,” he recalls. “I said to them, ‘What he’s got from his background and his growing up, and what he’s going to have from following this life, there’s going to be no comparison. And eventually he’s going to want to come back, and when he comes back — and they have a bunch of kids — he’s the child in your family that’s most likely to become a saint.”

The key, says Fr. Sebastian, is for parents to live the Faith themselves, thereby setting a loving example that will, ideally, set their children upon straight paths, but if not, at least give them a sense of where to return when they are ready. “To be a Catholic today — just to be a serious Catholic — means to be very countercultural and to do things that the world thinks are weird. And on top of it, you have to be joyful,” he explains. “If you are doing the right things and you’re living a joyful Catholic life, that’s going to help them either stay Catholic or come back to the Catholic faith.”

The journey may be long and arduous, but parents must remember always to trust in God’s providence. “That sense that God is in charge and He’s taking care of your children,” says Fr. Sebastian, “has to be at the root of every parent’s response to this crisis.”