Time to love: Tele and Lara Fernandes
With two children and a third on the way, Tele and Lara Fernandes describe the feeling of parenting preschoolers as sometimes being “in the whirlwind.”
Yet they make time to worship, time to serve, and time for family, bearing in mind that “each of us, by our love and care, leaves a mark on the life of others,” as Pope Francis writes in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love).
Issued five years ago, the document addresses the complexities and realities of family life at all stages.
The pope calls the family a “living reflection” of the communion of love present in the Holy Trinity, quoting St. John Paul II: “Our God in His deepest mystery is not solitude, but a family, for He has within Himself fatherhood, sonship, and the essence of the family, which is love. That love, in the divine family, is the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Father has declared an “Amoris Laetitia Family” year, so the NTC is expanding its regular feature The Domestic Church to explore how local families live with faith and love.
FAITH TAKES ROOT: Tele was raised in Kuwait, in a culturally Catholic family. When he was a student at the University of Texas at Dallas, a cousin invited him to the Catholic student organization. There his faith flourished as he learned about Catholicism, developed deep friendships, and visited different parishes for Mass.
Lara was raised Catholic, but she didn’t receive the sacrament of Confirmation until she was in her 30s. As a teenager, “I was confident in my relationship with God,” she explained, but she wanted more time to understand the Church. “When I went back to the Church and it was my choice, it made my faith stronger.”
THE RIGHT MATCH: Having a spouse that shared their beliefs and traditions was important to both of them, and they met on CatholicMatch.com.
MORE THAN MASS: When they met, Lara and Tele were in their 30s and had “established individual faith lives, and we were conscious about trying to add to that as a couple,” she explained. Until their second child was born, the couple was quite active on the Diocesan Mission Council.
Retreats, including Christ Renews His Parish, have boosted their faith.
Currently Tele serves as a Eucharistic minister and Lara makes hats and blankets for a pregnancy center.
PARENTHOOD PLUS: Lara said having children has provided more ways to appreciate each other. “Tele is a fantastic father,” said Lara. “Seeing him with our kids strengthens our marriage and it makes me appreciate him more.”
TWOSOME TIME: The couple takes advantage of the children’s early bedtime to reconnect in the evening.
They occasionally take a vacation day together and enjoy a lunch out, a park visit, or a movie while the kids are at school.
BLESSED AND THANKFUL: Although he had many cousins and friends, Tele grew up an only child, which has made him especially grateful for his family. He said, “Every day I wake up and thank God for this family. It’s been incredible.”
GOD THE FATHER: Becoming a parent has taught the couple truths about God. Lara recalled holding newborn Charlotte and thinking, “She doesn’t even know how much she’s loved.” Later, she realized the same could be said of God’s love for us, which she called “beyond the realm” of our understanding.
PASS ON THE FAITH: The couple realizes they are the primary models and teachers of the faith for their children, so they intentionally set an example of prayer, service, and worship.
They say morning prayer together and take turns saying grace before meals, so Sebastian, and soon Charlotte, actively participate.
Lara finds creative ways to live liturgically. For example, the Advent calendar offers a daily work of mercy, and they fill the manger with acts of kindness.
DAY BREAK: Both parents work full time, and they have realized the value of starting their day with Scripture and prayer. Lara said, “My patience is better. Everything is better.”
“It makes a big difference,” agreed Tele, who likes to pray the Rosary when he commutes to the office.
UNEXPECTED INSIGHTS: Parenthood teaches many lessons, including some you don’t want to learn. Lara said with a laugh, “If you want to know the things you don’t like about yourself, your children will do that exact thing.”
FAMILY FIRST: Tele said, “As you’re raising kids, you can’t do it alone. You need family and community — to help, to spend time with.”
UNIVERSAL CHURCH: Tele has lived in India, Kuwait, Oklahoma, and Texas, and he appreciates that he could find a Catholic Church everywhere. Lara remembered a trip to India where Mass was celebrated in Konkani, but she pulled up the readings on her phone and followed along.
She said, “I like the idea that every day across the world, millions, maybe billions, of people are contemplating the same readings — that connection.”
LIFE LESSONS: As their children grow up, Tele said he hopes home life teaches them about God’s love and forgiveness. “In the family you practice love and forgiveness all the time, probably every hour,” he said.
Lara said, “Mostly, I want them to have a relationship with God. I have personally always felt like He’s present in my life...Having God as your anchor, you’re always coming back when that is solidified as your truth.”
Tele added, “You want them to have faith when Mom and Dad are not there.”