Mother of 13 has message of 'life, hope and love' Lecture series crosses generations and faiths

November 13, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Mary Ann Kuharski, a 53-year-old mother of 13, lectures her children constantly either in the kitchen of her Minneapolis home or in telephone calls to those who have left the nest.

What is a mother for, if not to give advice spiced with humor and prayer, she asks.

"I am here to bring a message of life, hope and love," she said. "The idea is to change hearts and maybe enlarge them."

Start with your own family, said the columnist for a Catholic monthly newspaper and author of two books on family life.

Kuharski has transformed her kitchen chats into a lecture series that crosses generations and denominations. She will speak in Baltimore today and Westminster tomorrow, relying on anecdotes drawn from her offspring, who include six adopted children of multiethnic backgrounds. A brood that regularly fills two church pews will provide a writer with the grist of Christian family life, she said.

Her books and talks are not "how-to's" for struggling parents but more "what I do. I am a Catholic mom raising Catholic kids."

In a phone interview last week, amid interruptions from the three grandchildren she was baby-sitting, she touched on her favorite topic: families as the heart and soul of any nation.

Closely linked to the survival of any culture is the life of the family. Strong traditions based on love, faith and morality must pass from one generation to the next, she said.

"If we lose family life, we lose the soul of the nation," she said. "When America decides the family is not important, it cannot survive."

Today, she will speak at Loyola College in Baltimore on "Raising Real Catholic Kids in a Sodom and Gomorrah World" -- "a real mouthful for a subject," she acknowledges.

"It is their title, but I will have fun with it," she said.

She will switch gears tomorrow at St. John Roman Catholic Church in Westminster where she is expecting an audience of parents for a discussion on "Keeping Our Catholic Tradition Alive in the Home."

"We are our children's first missionaries," she said. "They will know their priorities by ours. Prayerful parents have prayerful children."

One phrase that echoes frequently through her home is "we expect greatness from you and we are praying for you." High expectations will make children rise to the occasion, she said.

The extended family is vital, so she does not let grandparents off the hook.

"Grandparents have questions to answer, most notably: 'What did you do to influence those kids?' " she said. "Until your heart stops beating, you must ask yourself how you can positively influence your grandchildren."

She will weave a message on adoption into both talks. An advisory board member of the National Council for Adoption, Kuharski has testified twice in Congress on adoption issues and appeared on national television.

Kuharski previously served on the Minnesota Governor's Task Force regarding children with handicaps and special needs. She also founded Pro-Life Minnesota and serves as Respect Life director at her home parish.

"I always touch on adoption because I am adopted and so are six of my kids," she said.

Her children range in age from 8 to 28. While she has weathered the baby years, she is coping with as many as six teen-agers at a time.

Kuharski will speak at 7: 30 p.m. today at Knott Hall, Loyola College and at 7: 30 p.m. tomorrow at St. John, Monroe Street, Westminster. Admission is free at both events. Information: 410-876-2248.

Pub Date: 11/13/97

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