Leaving a mark: Nicolas and Shonta' Giovannitti
In their careers as educators, Shonta’ and Nicolas Giovannitti help their students rise to the next level. In their service to Our Mother of Mercy Parish, the couple helps build the faith of their community. And in their role as mother and father to three sons, the parents love, pray, and teach their sons the faith and values to hold close when they become young men.
In Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), the Holy Father wrote, “All family life is a ‘shepherding’ in mercy. Each of us, by our love and care, leaves a mark on the life of others… seeking to bring out the best in them.”
The Giovannittis seek to bring out the best in their students, in their parish, and most of all in their sons.
Nicholas’ roots are in Italy and Mexico, and Shonta’s dad is an immigrant from Liberia and her mother is African-American. United, they live a life of faith and love at the home they share with Nicolas’ parents.
Although Shonta’ and Nicolas graduated from the same high school — “We were six people apart in the senior class photo,” she said — they didn’t meet until they attended the same math lab at Tarrant County College Northeast. “By the grace of God, we met, became friends, and developed a relationship,” she said.
Nicolas invited Shonta’ to attend the Easter Vigil Mass with him. “It’s not like I was Mr. Church Guy,” he said, but as a college student with limited finances, he appreciated it was a budget date: you dressed up, and the parish served refreshments afterwards.
The couple married while they worked their way through college — in fact, Nicolas is currently completing a doctorate in health and human performance.
Education is highly valued by them both. Nicolas said, “We’re thankful for our education; we’re very thankful,” remembering the years he took a bus to his job driving a forklift. “We ate a lot of beans and rice,” he said, laughing.
Shonta’ grew up attending Protestant churches with her mother, but she visited Catholic churches with her father in the summer.
After their first son was born, she joined the Catholic Church because she wanted Santiago “to have a firm foundation in the Catholic faith.”
The Giovannitti’s used to live within walking distance of Nicolas’ parents, and their children would go to their grandparents’ house after school. About three years ago, the couple and his parents each sold their homes and moved in together.
“We are big with ‘it takes a village’” to raise the children, said Shonta’, adding that her mother-in-law is the primary educator for Xavier, who is homeschooled.
For Shonta’, buying a home with her in-laws was another example to “trust in the path that the Lord is leading you on. Step out in faith,” a lesson God has reinforced throughout her marriage and career.
FAITH AT WORK:
Nicolas’ employment revolves around physical fitness: he works as a kinesiology instructor, a fitness center manager, a strength and conditioning coach for Texas Wesleyan football, a high school basketball coach, and a personal trainer.
Building strength and endurance is like faith, according to Nicolas. “When you do face resistance, it’s actually a blessing, because that’s how you get stronger. And the Good Lord is helping you when you go through those struggles.”
Understanding that everyone is made in the image and likeness of God helps him communicate with athletes, regardless of their age or background. “If you really believe these are all God’s children, no matter what level, then I think you can be a better coach. And still be tough,” he added.
LOVING THE LITTLES:
“Faith goes hand-in-hand” with her job as a kindergarten teacher, said Shonta’, who puts a priority on teaching her pupils with and about kindness and respect. “We’re all God’s children, so we want to extend that love to everyone we meet.”
With one son already grown and their second a high school junior, their parents are aware the children will choose how to practice their faith as adults, and they want to equip them with the tools of the faith.
One habit is to explain the meaning of the symbols and traditions of the faith. For example, when the family makes the Sign of the Cross as they pass a Catholic church, Nicolas explains the reason is because the Blessed Sacrament is inside the church.
Shonta’ wants her children to “put God first above all things. Don’t let video games and the internet become your god. Give it a break and spend some time with God in prayer. Prayer is powerful.”
Nicolas appreciates “the continuity of the Holy Eucharist, for over 2,000 years. All the things that have gone wrong — wars and popes and crazy things, all the things that people do — the Holy Eucharist is always there. That speaks powerfully to me.”
Shonta’ appreciates the universality of the Church and remembers a visit to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. “I like the fact that I can see different people, nationalities, believing in the Catholic faith. All the different depictions of Jesus and Mary — I just love that, and I am part of this Church that is universal.
“And I strongly believe in the Blood and Body of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist,” she added.