Teresa Tomeo: Faithful Catholic Parents, Education ‘Key’ to Formation

Popular Catholic commentator Teresa Tomeo celebrates her Catholic upbringing and education amid heartwarming stories, good laughs and practical tips for raising children in her new book, Everything’s Coming Up Rosie: 10 Things My Feisty Italian-American Mom Taught Me About Living a Godly Life.

Tomeo is a well-known Catholic author, syndicated Catholic radio talk show host, and motivational speaker. The Cardinal Newman Society recently caught up with Tomeo to discuss her new book and the role of Catholic parents and Catholic education in forming young people today.

“I fell away from the faith for many years but my Mom and my Dad, plus a really good Catholic grade school education, planted the seeds,” Tomeo explained.  “When push came to shove, I looked in the mirror and slowly came back to my senses.  I don’t think I could have done that without those seeds being planted by a loving Catholic family and good solid lay and religious teachers.”

CNS: In your new book, you share the wit and wisdom of your Italian-American mom, Rosie, through storytelling and practical advice. What do you hope readers come away with after reading the book?

Teresa Tomeo: That we need to get back to the basics; the Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments, loving one another as Christ and our Catholic faith teaches us.  It’s not all that complicated, except we make it so because we just refuse in this world to put God first.  My mother knew this as did her mother.  It’s common sense but, as I say in the book, that’s something that is not so common anymore.

CNS: Since parents are the first and primary educators of their children, how can Rosie serve as an encouragement to Catholic parents in their role?

Teresa Tomeo: I think she serves as a great reminder to parents to never give up on your children.  I fell away from the faith for many years but my Mom and my Dad, plus a really good Catholic grade school education, planted the seeds.  When push came to shove, I looked in the mirror and slowly came back to my senses.  I don’t think I could have done that without those seeds being planted by a loving Catholic family and good solid lay and religious teachers.

CNS: Your mom provided you with a strong Catholic foundation, including the importance of relying on our Blessed Mother’s intercession, such as when your family escaped unharmed from a gas explosion at your apartment complex. Can you comment on how your mom provided a Catholic witness in both word and example?

Teresa Tomeo: Well she never gave up and she never lost her joy.  She persevered through many a trial and I saw how she grew stronger from those trials and even more importantly I saw how she prayed, went to Mass, and called on the intercession of Our Lady and the saints regularly and she taught me and my sisters to do the same.  We didn’t always listen, at least at first but eventually, her witness made a major difference and still does in my life even though she passed away three years ago.  The phrases in the book, the ten things Mom taught me, were among the most memorable. But she had a lot of other funny but profound sayings as well, so many I could probably write a few volumes worth.

CNS: Another lesson your mom shared with you was “Nevva get too big for those britches” or “humility.” You discuss how social media is one factor contributing to a self-centered society. What are some of the other challenges young Catholics face today?

Teresa Tomeo: Young people are not immune to the epidemic of loneliness as outlined in the special Surgeon General advisory that came out a few weeks ago. And the Surgeon General just released a follow up report to the loneliness advisory raising his great concerns about teens and social media. He says it’s adding to the problems already experienced—so again, families really need to get a handle on media usage. In addition to social media, young people spend far too much time with media in general, which causes them to focus on themselves.  Most importantly church attendance is down overall. That combined with broken families, and families who no longer consider faith or church attendance important, it’s a recipe for disaster.

CNS: How can they grow in humility and virtue?

Teresa Tomeo: Pope Francis spoke about this problem on his recent trip to Hungary telling young people not to be “couch potatoes.” He went on to tell them to aim high and to focus on doing great things for God.  You can’t do this while staring at a phone or laptop. However, young people need to see and hear from and about great witnesses of the faith and to be reminded of so many saints, even their age, such as Blessed Carol Acutis or Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who always looked to Jesus.  They loved life, they had fun, but at the end of the day they had their priorities straight. They need to learn about these and other wonderful examples.  As St, Paul says in Romans 10:17 “faith comes through hearing.” I heard Rosie talk about the Blessed Mother, St. Teresa, and other favorite saints of hers growing up and it eventually made a big difference in my life.  I absolutely love the great cloud of witnesses we have in the ten thousand plus saints in our Church.

CNS: For years, you’ve been a big supporter of The Cardinal Newman Society and faithful Catholic education. Why do you think it’s so important for Catholic parents to seek out faithful Catholic education for their children? What role do you see faithful Catholic schools, homeschool programs & colleges playing in the future of our Church and country? 

Teresa Tomeo: Well again, I credit the solid Catholic education I received for eight years in grade school as key in my formation.  I was growing up in turbulent times back in the late 60’s and 70’s.  But it’s not nearly as turbulent as it is today. We have to be able to know who we are and why we are here.  We have to have a compass and a solid Catholic education is going to help steer one in the right direction.  The religious sisters and lay instructors not only taught us the faith, they taught us the importance of a vocation.  That’s where I discovered my communications vocation.  By the time I was in the third grade, thanks in part to the encouragement of my teachers, I knew that I would be in the communications field.  I didn’t know exactly what that meant at the time but my teachers were the ones who recognized my gift of gab and my interest in writing, and they encouraged me along the way.  I also had a very profound experience when I made my First Holy Communion and that’s what eventually brought me back to the Church.

CNS: Anything else you’d like to add?

Teresa Tomeo: I would just like to end where I began; reminding parents, older siblings, others who work with young people keep planting those seeds.  Keep working hard at looking for good Catholic schools that are true to the faith.  And even if your child does stray, know that you did what the Lord called you to do in terms of bringing them up in the faith to the best of your ability. Keep praying. Keep loving them and keep reminding them when the opportunity arises that God loves them too and that there is always a place for them in your home and God’s house, the Catholic Church. Oh, and as I say throughout the book, a little dose of old fashion Catholic guilt doesn’t hurt either.

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