Past Newsworthy Dads

Family of the Year

Vetters of Wyoming honored by Knights of Columbus

Mary Ann Vetter stood before an applauding audience of Knights of Columbus and their families, and pointed to her husband, Leland, and their 10 children, to deliver a heartfelt message about faith and family life.

“We’ve come to understand that it’s not about us. It’s about the Catholic Church’s teaching and the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” she said.


The 2009 Knights of Columbus Family of the Year, Leland and Mary Ann Vetter of Torrington, Wyoming, and their children – Marie, Diana, Thomas, Steven, Benjamin, Nicholas, Andrew, Paul, Kathleen and Alexis – stand with Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson and his wife Dorian, and Supreme Chaplain Bishop William E. Lori.

It was for this fidelity to God, and for their service to parish and community, that the Vetters were chosen as this year’s Knights of Columbus International Family of the Year. The family from Torrington, Wyoming, received the award from Supreme Knight Carl Anderson at the Order’s 127th Supreme Convention in Phoenix, Arizona, on August 5.

In accepting the honor, Leland Vetter, a member of the Knights for 33 years, displayed his devotion to the Order before 2,000 Knights and their families. Reminding the audience that every Knight should carry three things with him, he pointed to his Knights of Columbus lapel pin, held up a set of rosary beads and took a Form 100 (membership form) from his pocket.

To show how a Knight should never let an opportunity pass to gain a new member, he handed the Form 100 to his son Benjamin, who would soon turn 18 years old and become eligible to join the Order.

Indeed, in all they do, the Vetter family gives meaning to the K of C motto, “In Service to One, In Service to All.”

Leland has held all of his council’s leadership positions, and is known throughout town as the “Tootsie Roll” man, having served as chairman for 20 years of the annual candy drive to raise funds for the disabled. He has also been a bingo volunteer for 25 years and is a member of his parish council.

When it snows in Torrington, he is out before dawn plowing the parish parking lot. He raised funds for the parish hall expansion and helps train parish altar servers.

He teaches at Eastern Wyoming Community College and was recently appointed by the governor of Wyoming to the state’s Community College Task Force on Education.

His brother, Austin, is a priest who attended the North American College in Rome.

Mary Ann spearheads Thursday eucharistic devotions in their parish. She organized a “Mom’s Group,” which provides spiritual formation and retreats for the women of the parish. She visits shut-ins in the neighborhood and takes care of other mothers’ children to give them a break. She and her husband are very involved in pro-life activities also.

The Vetter children are active volunteers in the church and the community. They are the latest of five generations of Vetters, all descendants of immigrants who settled in North Dakota in the 19th century. In fact, Leland’s parents were the North Dakota Knights of Columbus Family of the Year in 1994, and placed in third for the international award that year.

Staying Faithful

Leland and Mary Ann said that none of their children, ages 27 to 2 years old, has fallen away from the faith, though all attend public school.

“It’s a matter of priorities,” Leland said. “Church comes first, and then you plan around it.”

Mary Ann added, “We pray together. I go to daily Mass with the children. It sets the tone for the day.”

They tried for many years to do a family rosary, but it proved too long for the children, so they settled on praying one decade of the rosary together.

“In the evening, we stop everything and gather for a decade of the rosary,” Mary Ann said. “That brings us together, and then we sit and talk about what happened that day. So it becomes real family time and everyone gets to share.”

About having so many children, Mary Ann said, “We were never sad,” when another pregnancy came. “It’s a matter of being open to life and trusting in God. We never doubted. Whenever I’m pregnant, we just say, ‘God knows what’s right for us at this time.’”