Diane Mulheron poses in a portrait with her late husband, Jim. Mulheron continues to pass on the faith in everyday family life with their five children and seven grandchildren, in addition to being very active in her home parish, St. Joseph, Barron. (Submitted photo)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald staff

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles featuring finalists for the Superior Diocese Council of Catholic Women’s 2017 Pax Christi award. The women were recognized May 5 at the annual SDCCW convention in Hudson.

Humility and good humor characterize 2017 Pax Christi finalist Diane Mulheron, a member of St. Joseph, Barron.

Raised in the Dakotas, Mulheron is the oldest of nine children. As a teenager, her relationship with God led her to accept the invitation by her school’s teaching nuns to attend a discernment high school.

Completing her initial three-year vows and consulting her spiritual guides, she made a renewal of vows for a shortened period. With the appropriate permissions, she then returned to lay life and pursued nursing.

In Mulheron’s experience, this was “a temporary calling.” Like many young women who spent time discerning religious life, she “learned a lot of things that helped me raise a family.”

Although raised in a Catholic home, it was during her time in the convent that Mulheron solidified her faith foundation and learned about specific devotions. This foundation has been passed on to her own children and grandchildren, godchildren and fellow parishioners.

Marrying in her late twenties, Mulheron and her husband, Jim, had five children and raised them in the Catholic faith. She remembers the challenges of getting everyone ready for Sunday Mass.

One Sunday, rushing in to the church, an older woman stopped her and said, “I remember those days. Just when you’re ready to head out the door, someone can’t find a shoe!”

This was very encouraging to Mulheron, the primary transmitter of the faith at home. She had the family nighttime prayer routine timed and attempted to get everyone settled before an 8 p.m. television program her husband liked to watch.

“It sounds so pious that we said our prayers nightly. But I did try to say some recited prayers and leave time for spontaneous prayers by the kids,” she continued, “but then the kids would fight over the chair or who was doing what … and I thought, ‘Aren’t we a pious group!’”

At times she couldn’t stop laughing at the scene, but she never stopped her efforts to plant the seeds of faith. And they bore fruit in her children.

Mulheron taught religious education in the parishes she belonged to. Accompanying her own children on a Teens Encounter Christ retreat, she saw it as a great experience and encouraged others to attend.

Mulheron’s three oldest children served a year on National Evangelization Teams; all five are trying to pass on the faith to her seven grandchildren, ages 8 to 2.

“Some more than others,” she said, “but I am happy for the opportunities to help teach the faith, too.”

One weekend, while babysitting three of her grandchildren, Mulheron was able to explain salvation history in a way they could understand. This sparked their greater interest in church, she said.

She likes taking them to the front of the church where they can see, and teaching them the Our Father and the Sign of the Cross. The 3-year-old caught on quickly.

“O Lord, Amen,” he repeated.

The next morning, he insisted they say prayers at breakfast and led with, “Our Amen. Our Amen,” skipping a few words, but proud to show Grandma he’d been paying attention.

It is these everyday occasions that Mulheron takes advantage of to pass on reminders of, and encouragement in, the faith. She provides her children with age-appropriate catechetical materials and CDs with songs about Jesus for the young ones. Advent wreaths and crucifixes have been given as wedding gifts to her godchildren and other family members, as well as prayer booklets and Catholic publications.

Mulheron believes, “It doesn’t hurt to have good information coming in. There are many ways to keep sending reminders of the faith.”

A widow since 2012, Mulheron spent years caring for her husband, who underwent various surgeries from a fall that broke his neck.

They were married almost 40 years.

“I appreciate that I was nominated,” she said of being a Pax Christi finalist. “I look at all those doing so much; I was surprised but appreciated the recognition. When you stand for pro-life and NFP and all that, you get some grief, so it was a nice affirmation.”