"Big Four" Highlights


The Dolan Charm in a Book

The brother of Archbishop Dolan tells all about America’s dynamic prelate

Bob Dolan with his wife and their two daughters.

Not everyone has a brother who was billed on “60 Minutes” as “The American Pope.” So Bob Dolan decided to write a book about growing up with the man who is now the Archbishop of New York and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Timothy M. Dolan.

True to the Dolan style, the book – “Life Lessons from my Life with my Brother” – is full of down-to-earth anecdotes of growing up in Ballwin, Missouri, and makes numerous references to food, drink and the Catholic faith. But the final chapter changes pace a bit, with younger brother Bob sitting down with big Tim at the Archbishop’s Residence and asking him the “big questions” about the meaning of life and the hope of eternity and recording the answers for all to read.

Bob Dolan, 54 years old, has been married to his wife, Beth, for 27 years and they have two daughters. They live in Delafield, Wis., about 20 miles west of Milwaukee. He owns Dolan Productions, a video production company which produces TV commercials, TV programs and documentaries, as well as company videos for employee training and websites.

Dolan spoke with Fathers for Good about his book and his famous brother.

Fathers for Good: You tell some pretty funny stories about how your older brother played practical jokes and teased you growing up. So the Archbishop of New York was not born with a halo?

Bob Dolan: My brother was hardly born with a halo, even though our Mom may disagree! He enjoyed a practical joke. He often spoke too much in class. He neglected his household chores every now and then. That being said, he was still the best behaved kid in the family, by far. He was a great student. He enjoyed volunteering at school and in the parish.

FFG: The way you describe life in Ballwin, Missouri, it would make some wish for that simple way of life in middle-class, middle-state America. Have you tried to give your own children that experience?

Bob Dolan: My wife and I have tried to raise our children in much the same way we were raised; stressing to them that faith and family always take priority over everything else. Friends, jobs, accomplishments, disappointments, social activities come and go; but faith and family will be with you always. We tried to teach them that material possessions matter very little. I learned that lesson in my childhood because our family could not afford material things. When my wife and I became parents, it wasn’t a question of affording them, it was a question of needing them, and more often than not we chose not to give our children a handout, even though many of their friends were constantly receiving the newest game, toy, cell phone or computer. I believe this keeps a child grounded and humble and grateful for the important things that God and family provides.

FFG: When do you first remember thinking that your brother was called to be a priest? What set him apart, besides the “Tim Masses” he played at home?

Bob Dolan: Tim is 7 years older than I; my youth is one of the few things I have over him! Thus, literally, I always knew he’d be a priest, for when I was old enough to understand, he was already in Preparatory High School. He was always surrounded by fellow seminarians and priests. He was often in prayer or in church. He was always joyful, even in his teenage years, for he was already content and comfortable with the fact he would one day be a priest. It’s a great blessing.

FFG: You really get heart-to-heart with the Archbishop in the final chapter, asking him the “meaning of life” questions we all would like answers to, and recording his very practical answers. Has your brother always provided this kind of guidance?

Bob Dolan: With family members, my brother has always offered guidance and wisdom only when asked. He has counseled all of us from time to time, as each of us have faced challenges in our lives, just like everyone else does. However, he doesn’t just sit at our kitchen table and start talking Catholicism or God or faith; he will counsel when asked and when needed. It is always helpful and reassuring.

“Life Lessons” by Bob Dolan is available from Tau Publishing.