Growing in virtue

North Texas Catholic
(Jun 28, 2023) Feature

the Fernandez Family stands together on a stoop, smiling

The Fernandez family, Salvador Eben Fernandez, holding his son Mateo, 2, his wife Ioely, holding their daughter Caeli and their two sons Emiliano, 7 and Jonas, 10, shown outside of St. Patrick Cathedral in downtown Fort Worth, on June 04, 2023. (NTC/Ben Torres)

Salvador “Eben” Fernandez and Ioely Pereda Fernandez were in their early 20s when they married 11 years ago.

Eben said he was too young to understand love, but through the sacrament of marriage, “God has taught me what love is, and how to love.”
The St. Patrick parishioners, who have four children, say that growing in intimacy with God helps them love each other.
Pope Francis expressed similar thoughts in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (On Love in the Family). 
The pope writes, “Christ the Lord ‘makes Himself present to the Christian spouses in the sacrament of marriage’ and remains with them.… By his Spirit, he gives spouses the capacity to live that love, permeating every part of their lives of faith, hope, and charity” (Amoris Laetitia, 67).
The couple shared with the North Texas Catholic some experiences and lessons learned as they raise their children in the Catholic faith.
EARLY DAYS: Although Eben wasn’t Catholic when he met Ioely, her Catholic faith was evident. They were just friends when she invited him to attend a young adult meeting at her parish (the topic was marriage!), and they discussed favorite Bible verses on their first breakfast date.
“When we first met, one of the biggest things that attracted me to her was her conviction in her faith,” said Eben. 
After their wedding, Eben would drive Ioely to Mass and sit with her, especially after their first child, Jonas, was born and an extra set of hands to hold the baby was helpful.
RCIA ALUM: In 2015, he attended RCIA, but Eben admits he was not open to the instruction. Then a job loss left him feeling humbled. He was given a video about Our Lady of Guadalupe, which helped him overcome a bias against Mary. He completed a second round of RCIA and joined the Church in 2016. 
VIBRANT VOWS: Ioely remembers the early days of marriage as being difficult, due to “a lot of immaturity. There’s been a lot of maturing throughout the years. I’ve understood why marriage is a sacrament and how it makes us holy. Marriage helps me to be more sacrificial and to grow in virtue. Sometimes I need a lot of patience.”
Eben said, “Once I understood what love is, and applying it through my marriage, I’ve learned to love her better. I’ve learned that love is sacrifice, putting her needs before my own.”
FAMILY FIRST: The duties of fatherhood changed Eben’s mindset. “I remember when we had our first one, realizing I can’t play around with my job. This is how I feed my family. Being more responsible, not just financially but also spiritually. It got me thinking, ‘What am I going to teach my kids?’”
Eben became a field agent for the Knights of Columbus a year ago and appreciates being able “to help families while I provide for my family.”
COUPLE TIME: With four children, their days are busy, but they stay connected by having lengthy conversations after the kids’ early bedtime. 
DIFFICULT DAYS: Ioely advised, “When things are difficult, see that as a blessing. We struggle with accepting difficulties and embracing them, but those difficulties help us to be holier — Little by little.” 

hands in praying position next to a notepad

AMAZING GRACE: “Another thing that really helps us is going to confession, very, very often. He tends to go every week; I go every couple of weeks. That helps a lot,” said Ioely, who recently stepped down as youth coordinator at St. Bartholomew Parish to stay at home with her children.
PASS IT ON: Ioely and Eben tap into the liturgical calendar for family fun. They put up a Jesse tree during Advent, eat Divine Mercy sundaes, dress up for an All Saints party with the cousins, and celebrate holy days and feast days.
They say a family Rosary regularly. Their older sons have rosaries in their favorite colors and have chosen a decade that is most meaningful to them. “They will jump to pray that decade,” said Eben.

praying the rosary

Teaching the children Catholic traditions “has helped me grow a lot in faith,” said Ioely. “The more I teach them, the more that I learn.”
GOAL SEEKING: Eben wants his children to “put God first. We try to teach them to always have the end goal in mind.”
Ioely added, “We often talk about how our goal is heaven, so we need to live with that purpose in mind. Eben is helping me to reach my goal, which is to be with God.” 
FINDING TRUTH: Ioely appreciates the Church because, “This is the one true Church that Jesus Christ Himself established. We grow to know God in the Church.
Sacraments help us to grow in holiness by giving us grace. We receive Jesus Christ Himself in the Eucharist. That’s the most beautiful thing.”
Eben, who slips away for Adoration frequently, cherishes “the Eucharist. The fact that the almighty, all-powerful Creator of the Universe wants to be a part of me, wants to be with me. That’s just the most amazing thing. Being able to take part in that — I can’t explain how blessed I feel.”
St. Patrick, Ebren Fernandez, Salvador Fernandez, Ioely Pereda Fernandez, Amoris Laetitia, Domestic Church, Catholic Faith, Vocation, trending-english