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"The more children, the more love."
ÖAn Interview with a mother of 20.
Mrs. Lucille Dippolito is a nurse and the mother of 20 children. The youngest is 22 and the oldest is 43. One child died a few months after birth. She has about 30 grandchildren, though she said she has to update the count. Three more are currently in the womb. Her husband died in1993. She currently lives in St. Marys, Kansas.
Of her children, Mrs. Dippolito says, "They have things that money canít buy." And of parents, she remarks, "Your children you take with you into eternity"
The following interview was conducted on February 20, 2002 by Scott Johnston, Research department, Priests for Life:
Q. Did you always want to have a large family?
"Yes I did. I wanted to have six boys. God gave me the bakerís dozenó13 boys! After the first little girl came, I wanted more girls."
"Eight children were born at home. I knew what I could do and what I couldnít do."
"I come from a family of four. I lived next door to a family of 10 children, and those children were always happy! They were happy within themselves. My mother comes from a family of twelve. [Children in large families] seem to have things that money canít buy."
Q. What do you say to people who say they canít afford to have more kids?
"For every little mouth that God sends, He sends the little bit that is needed. I had faith in God that if He sent me a child, He was going to feed that child. I lived better than some families with two or three kids. My kids started doing things! Itís not how many kids you have; itís your faith in God."
Q. How were you able to manage with so many children?
"I said to people [after having a certain number], ĎIím retired.í I got one to do the laundry, one the baking; they rotate their duties."
"We had chickens, pigs. . . . Each child had a responsibility. We butchered our meat; we had a dairy cow. It was a mini-farm on ten acres. A priest friend used to ask us: ĎIs there anything in this house that is not homemade?í [Some things they made included their own butter, and altar candles.] Some of the talents they have they learned from their grandparents. I sew, but now my kids make my clothes for me. I gave to them, but look what I got back!"
Q. Todayís cultural attitudes about parenting seem to suggest that good parenting means providing many material things for your children. Do kids need a lot of material things in order to be happy in their family and to grow up as well-adjusted adults?
"No. Thatís the worse thing that you could do! Just providing everything their heart desires -- thatís absolutely wrong. They need to develop their talents. Doing is learning. They have to be doers.. . . This was the law of the family: by doing they were learning. By working for something they respect it. The more you give, thereís your happiness; thatís what you have to teach your children. You receive your happiness by seeing how they are developing. When I stand before the judgement seat of God, Iím going to tell Him I did everything for them."
"We were never poor, but we didnít have lots of things. My boy had a natural talent for fixing cars. If we had been able to buy things, that talent would not have been able to come out."
"We have an engineer, a nurse. . . . These are things they did because they realized they are not going to get things handed to them. Parents are not here forever."
Q. In considering the prospect of having many children, our society seems to dwell only on the difficulties and hardships involved. What would you say in response to this consistently negative attitude about having many children?
"They are much in the dark. This is utterly false. Everybody is going to have a dark side; weíre not here to have heaven on earth. What are people afraid of today? People that donít have kids have worse crosses than those who do! People need to start reading books on the joys of children. They are going to miss out on a lifetime of happiness. A baby is joy! Young people are very much scandalized; they are being lied to. They are being deprived of a lot of happiness. Having children makes you healthy. After each child I got stronger; couldnít wait for the next one to get here! God gives you these things."
"You never have a dull momentÖalways something that you can look forward to."
"If you are always around young children, you will always be young at heart."
Q. Today there is a big emphasis on the idea that responsible parents must plan for every child they have. Did you deliberately plan each child ahead of time?
"Wrong! Iíd rather take it in Godís time. I would have had a lot more kids if I could have! They donít all have to go to college. Some of my kids are not meant for college. I took these children just as God wanted me to have them. Iím glad theyíre here. Iíd do it all over again. These are your greatest treasures. You canít take a car into eternity! You will not see your boat in eternity! If you love children, every moment is a moment of happiness. This ĎIím going to have them when I want to,í thatís very selfish. Faith in God is the prime ingredient in having a family. God gives you talent; you have to do the work. These people are not getting joy from the right things. The hand that rocks the cradle rocks the world."
Q. Another idea that society seems to suggest to parents today is that if they have many children, they will not be able to love all of them with the same depth that they could if they had a small family. What would you say to this?
"When number nineteen came, the family gives him love. He got so much love from the family. If he was an only child, he would never have gotten so much love! The mother can only give so much love. When you have a large family, the children are getting all kinds of love from all their brothers and sisters. Thereís nothing more joyful than a baby."
Q. What for you are the greatest blessings of having a large family?
"Watching them grow, seeing their talents, the things that they give back. The love that they have for their father. They go to the gravesite and have masses said for him. Seeing them become good citizens. They are helping their country. These are great joys! My daughter who is a nurse and has helped bring people back to life. Look at the great joys! You watch them take their first step, say their first wordóthese are things that money canít buy! The blessings far outweigh the hardships. The world dwells on the hardships. Everything has pain and joy with it. You have to take the bitter with the sweet. We arenít in heaven yet!"
End of interview
* * *
Mrs. Dippolito is a very inspiring woman! She does not sound her age at all, but much younger and full of life. If you were talking for the first time with her, you would be amazed to learn she is a mother of 20 and grandmother of more than that.
She is a Catholic of very deep faith and tremendous trust in God. She is full of gratitude for all of the children God has given her. She has total trust in God for all things, and understands that in this life crosses always occur along with happiness. This is integral to her attitude toward family life. She has the realistic and hope-filled approach that since everyone will have crosses, why not multiply the joy as much as possible? To her, the more children, the more joy!
Mrs. Dippolito is also very disturbed by the lies that society tells young people today, especially the idea that fulfillment can be found in self-absorption.
Talking with Mrs. Dippolito reveals several key themes.
-- Scott Johnston