Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.
Father’s Day takes on added significance this year due to the fact that Pope Francis has declared this to be the Year of St. Joseph, who is the model of fatherhood for all men. Earlier this year, Catholic News Agency featured a beautiful story about the fatherhood of a 68-year-old Argentinian widower named Luis Avagliano. After being widowed, and with the blessing of his two grown children, Avagliano decided to become a priest, and he was ordained on March 19, 2021, the Solemnity of St. Joseph. On the occasion of Avagliano’s ordination, Bishop Carlos Jose Tissera of Quilmes, Argentina, declared that it was no coincidence that this milestone should occur on the day that it did.
Bishop Tissera went on to compare Avagliano’s experiences as a father to those of St. Joseph, saying, “Like him, you have experienced the beauty of love as a couple, the experience of marriage, the joy of being a dad; the responsibility of forming a home, the joy of expecting your children and their birth; the incomparable joy of the first babblings of a baby looking into your eyes and saying the most wonderful word: Daddy.”
Avagliano recalled being raised in a loving Catholic family in Buenos Aires. When he was 15 years old, he experienced one of the most challenging periods of his life, when, in just a three-month span, both his father and his older sister passed away. “God never abandoned me,” Avagliano recalled, “He gave me strength to help and support my mother…With her faith we carried on. We never stopped trusting in God. His strength cannot be explained, you feel it and experience it.”
Avagliano married at 23, and he and his wife Flora raised their children in the Catholic faith, having them baptized in the same church where his mother had taken him as a child. In 2014, after 38 years of marriage, Flora passed away. Expressing the closeness he still feels to her, Avagliano said, “She is up above with God, but she is present in my life always. Just as she accompanied me throughout my earthly life, she continues to accompany me throughout her life in Heaven.”
After Flora’s passing and a period of discernment, Avagliano eventually felt called to go beyond the permanent diaconate in which he had served during his marriage and to become ordained a priest. His two children participated in the ordination ceremony, one of them taking off his diaconal stole and putting on his priestly stole and both putting the chasuble on him. Avagliano said he considers it a blessing to have been called by God to live out both vocations to fatherhood, the one in marriage and earthly fatherhood and his new calling as a spiritual father in the Church.
Avagliano’s father clearly made a lasting impression on him in the time they had together because he grew into a model of fatherhood, fulfilling his calling as a man to first look after his mother and then to raise his own family. This is the foundation that good fatherhood creates so that it prepares others to go off into the world and make their mark.
Reflecting on his own amazing call to fatherhood, Avagliano said, “How beautiful it is to fulfill what the Lord asks of you and to be open to that disposition, to be able to open your heart so that He can enter in, can transform you, can guide you, can enlighten you, can accompany you.”
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