Family Fully Alive Articles


Family Example

Faith is personal to the Wagners of Iowa

By Patrice Athanasidy

The Wagner family looks at service simply as a part of life. It is woven into everything they do from their service to their parish, to their careers, to their serving as examples to their children.

Referring to being named Iowa’s 2014 Family of the Year by the Knights of Columbus, Jayson Wagner says, “We don’t think we do anything that special. We are trying to be involved a little bit and teach our kids the importance of these things.”

The Wagner family is very involved in parish life. Jayson serves as a deputy grand knight and youth director for Anamosa Council 1791, based at St. Patrick’s Church in Anamosa. He and his wife, Darci, serve on parish committees, help run events throughout the year that encourage family participation, and work to raise funds for charities, including Mary’s Meals.

Darci explains that their children also participate in ways that match their ages. Nick, 13, is an altar server, often serving at the Saturday evening Mass. Darci describes the Wagner house as being in St. Patrick’s backyard, explaining that that makes it easy for the family to help. Nick is also at the ready to serve Mass for funerals and weddings. He can be seen lending a hand at many Knights of Columbus events.

Darci says their daughter Maggie, 9, helps at many Knights of Columbus events as well—setting up, serving meals, and cleaning up. Jayson adds that the kids really enjoy being part of the church activities and often volunteer to help before they are asked.

Father Dave O’Connor, pastor of St. Joseph Church in nearby Marion, Iowa, enjoys seeing the Wagner family come to Mass as a family. He points to their bringing the whole family, including 8-month-old Jonah, as a true symbol of living the faith.

“Nick and Maggie take opportunities to hold Jonah and take care of him at Mass,” said Father O’Connor. “They are a family that lives their faith.”

They dedicate their lives to others in their careers as well. Jayson, a clinical exercise specialist at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, works with cardiology and pulmonary patients. “It can be very rewarding,” he says describing the change from when he sees them immediately after surgery to when they finish the outpatient program six to eight weeks later. “I can see them change a lot.”

Darci is a mathematics teacher with the Anamosa Community School District. Now in her 17th year, she enjoys working with students at all learning levels and styles.

The couple brings a giving spirit to family life as well. Jayson and Darci, married for 17 years, met through a mutual friend. They had attended the same high school but were a couple of years apart so they didn’t really know each other until they met after college.

When asked what helps them create their spiritual family life, they both emphasized praying as a family. They also pointed to the Christ Our Life Conference in Des Moines as life-changing.

“It pushed us over the edge as far as our faith was concerned,” says Jayson. “It took on an entirely different dimension. Nothing has been the same since.”

Darci adds that the children attended the most recent conference. “It seemed to resonate with them. They talked about our faith. They embrace and love that. It is part of our daily routine.”

Jayson says he reminds his children “nothing is more important than your faith. So many things come and go, but God is constant. It is hard to remember that, especially when things are not going well, but the conference made us realize how awesome faith is.”

Darci says their faith has been one of the ways to cope with the challenges they have had as a family through the years. She described coping with Nick being born premature soon after the Wagners had moved to town. They were in a new neighborhood and hours away from their families. It was a struggle, she explains, marveling at how healthy Nick is now.

Jayson says, “We spent a lot of time talking to God.” The Wagners pray during good times and bad.

Darci, an adult convert to Catholicism, concludes that everyone needs their own conversion experience, even when they are born Catholic, to truly make their faith their own. “We pray for our own kids to have some sort of conversion experience. It is a very personal thing,” she said.