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Volunteering at the Affton Christian Food Pantry is among the ways the Meehans, live faith as a family. From left: Jen, James, Patrick, Jim and Megan.
Volunteering at the Affton Christian Food Pantry is among the ways the Meehans, live faith as a family. From left: Jen, James, Patrick, Jim and Megan.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Family | Jen and Jim Meehan teach putting faith first

Starting a pro-life student club, volunteering at a food pantry are some of the ways the Meehan family is giving back

Tell us about your family involvement with the Affton Christian Food Pantry.

Jen: When Patrick was six, he had a lemonade stand. We told him we would match whatever he set aside to share with someone less fortunate. We thought we’d buy a toy for Toys for Tots or something. In six months, he saved about $30 and he said he wanted to feed hungry people. We went to the grocery store, bought a couple bags of food and brought it to the Affton Christian Food Pantry. It was a great parenting moment. They were thrilled, and they were so kind to him.

About three or four weeks later, he asked what happened to that food. I said, “I’m sure they shared it with families who are hungry.” And he said, “Do you think they’re still hungry?” I said, “Yeah, I’m sure they are. That’s why they go to a food pantry for help.” He said, “Then Mom, we didn’t do enough.”

So Patrick and I started going once a month. They asked me to be more involved. In 2012, I started as part-time executive director. The best part is that my children have grown up here. We incorporate it in our home-schooling. Patrick has grown up serving in the food pantry. One of our favorite parts is getting to know the clients. You really build relationships.

Jen, what’s your approach to the children’s interests?

Meghan started her pro-life work when she was 10. We just let them lead. They come to us and say, “This is a problem we have to fix,” and then we try to figure out how to make that work for our family.

Jim, your approach?

Meghan’s New Year’s resolution was to end abortion. OK, we’ll work on that. Our youngest has taken on homelessness as his calling, including organizing a group within his Cub Scouts to create “blessing bags” — personal care items and shelf-stable foods they can hand out. As a family, the commitment we made is to always have some fast-food gift cards with us to give those to people asking for help.

Describe the faith-related activities you do with the children.

Jen: We try to pray every night together and have dinner together. We do a prayer service after dinner in Lent and Advent. We try to make our faith real and active. We’re at the food pantry and serve. We pray outside Planned Parenthood or gather around the Advent wreath and light the candles. We hope to be raising practicing Catholics into their adulthood, not just having a neat childhood experience for them.

How have you leaned on and learned from each other?

Jim: Faith has been so incredibly important to us. Marriage can be like a house with all these virtues you build around, but the foundation is love and God. And basically faith and hope are the roof. We try to live those virtues — perseverance and integrity. We really try to incorporate Ephesians 5, of laying down our lives for each other in daily life. We each strive to get the other to heaven. That’s our goal.

Jen, an example?

A couple years ago, early spring, I rolled the windows down in the car. I left the windows down, assuming I’d be back out again. Then Jim handled the running around that evening in his vehicle, and I forgot about it. About 4 o’clock in the morning one of those loud cracks of thunder woke us up followed by that downpour sound. I heard it, rolled over and said, “Oh, no.” Jim said, “What is it?” I said, “I’m pretty sure the windows in the minivan are still down.” I was so out of it, I just rolled back over and thought I’d just deal with it tomorrow. Jim got up and went out in the rain to put the windows up. I thought at that moment, “My God, look how much this man loves me.” I’m the one who had to drive with the wet seats, not him.

Ultimately I know that no matter what, Jim has my back and I’ve got his. No matter what, even when we hit those bumps in the road, we lean back on that. Often we’ll just pray together. If there are no words, we’ll just sit, hold hands, put ourselves before God and see where we’ll end up.

Jim and Jen Meehan

Parish: St. Dominic Savio in Affton

Occupations: Jen home schools the youngest two children and is the part-time executive director of the Affton Christian Food Pantry. Jim works as a corporate trainer at Core & Main in St. Louis County.

Activities: Marriage preparation, adult education catechist, lead Scripture and spirituality series and retreats

Children: Patrick, 15, a sophomore at Bishop DuBourg High School; Megan, 14, will attend DuBourg in the fall; and James, 12. Patrick is active in liturgical music and lectoring at St. Dominic and has led the family in reaching out to hungry families; Megan started The Pros, a pro-life group at St. Dominic and is an altar server; James is an altar server and has an interest in helping homeless people.

Favorite saints: St. Vincent de Paul, St. Teresa of Kolkata, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Dominic Savio

Families and phones

The Meehans address social media and electronic gadgets

• Enter into contracts, with a lot of controls, full access at anytime with their passcodes.

• Follow children’s social media accounts.

• Maintain open communication, especially before they get a phone

• Explain the reasons for rules. They’re not just mom and dad trying to be controlling —it’s about safety, respect for yourself and others as well as integrity.

• Set a bed-time for phones, and a “sleeping” place that is public. They don’t take them to their rooms at night.

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