Editor’s note: This week the Catholic Herald begins “Families of Faith” – an ongoing series about families in the Diocese of Superior whose practice of their Catholicism is a public witness of their faith. If you are aware of a family that might be an inspiration to readers by being featured, please contact Anita Draper at 715-394-0213.
Catholic Herald Staff
The coach who led the Superior Spartan girls basketball team to its first state championship game had God, and his wife, beside him.
The Spartans took the runner-up trophy at state, but just seeing the team play its best was achievement enough for Phil and Janelle Roe, members of St. Anthony, Lake Nebagamon, and their three children.
Phil is in his third year as head coach of the varsity girls basketball team. He’s been teaching social studies at Superior for a decade, and has nine years’ experience as head and assistant coach of basketball and track. This was the Spartan girls’ second consecutive trip to state.
Janelle and Phil have been married 14 years. They have three children: Noah, 13; Julia, 10; and Bethany, 7.
The couple met in college at UW-Superior; both had gone to Teens Encounter Christ, a retreat program for diocesan teens, and that was the connection.
“We both came from really strong Catholic backgrounds,” Janelle said.
Phil’s father is Deacon Joseph Roe, who serves Sacred Heart of Jesus, Stetsonville, and Janelle’s mother is Becky Stuart, an administrative assistant with the Diocese of Superior who, along with Janelle’s dad, Erik, is also active in the Superior conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Teenagers when they married, the Roes had their first child at age 19. They count it as one of their first struggles.
“That isn’t the easiest financial situation at all,” Phil said. “What we got out of it was strength and resiliency.”
Early parenthood made them stronger, more mature. Phil had a 2.8 grade-point average his first year in college; bolstered by his responsibility to his wife and son, he earned a 3.8 the following year.
Janelle sacrificed a lot for their family, added Phil. She stayed home to raise the kids, “one of the best investments we’ve made,” and she waited until 2009 to have her own photography studio. Her once amateur interest in photography has grown into a professional, home-based business, and she is well-known locally for shooting weddings, family portraits and team photos.
Proponents of Natural Family Planning, the couple was dealt some difficulty around the time Phil took his job as head coach. Within an 18-month period, Janelle suffered two miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy. The trauma took an emotional toll.
“That was really a very, very hard time in our marriage,” Janelle said.
The bright side is the Roes are fortified to handle hard times. Six months prior to the miscarriages, they’d traveled to Texas for a Worldwide Marriage Encounter. They now lead WME weekends, and all of their marital experiences – good and bad – help them relate to other couples.
“I’ve been able to help other women now since,” Janelle said.
They encourage other couples to make a strong marriage their top priority.
“It’s never easy, and you always have to work at it,” added Phil.
Inside their marriage, they support one another through communication and, in Phil’s words, “true empathy.”
When Phil’s team was going to state, Janelle went to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion to pray for players’ help and good health.
“It was very meaningful for me,” she added.
The Roes are also very active in their parish, according to St. Anthony youth leader Tammy Brown. They hosted the first-ever couples event at St. Anthony around Valentine’s Day last year; Janelle works in the office, is a lector at Mass and is the religious education teacher for second-grade students. She and Phil promote pro-life causes and are skilled parents, added Brown.
“They have done an outstanding job raising three respectful, loving children who are much like their parents in wanting to help and be of service to others,” she said.
“Phil and Janelle are humble people and are not out there seeking recognition; it is all a part of who they are and the vocation God has called them to,” Brown continued.
“They can be and are an inspiration to other families in our parish and in the community in the way they live their lives faithfully and lovingly to all.”