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Jefferson SD Dad Shares Parenting Secrets for Father’s Day

JEFFERSON, SD – For a Jefferson, SD father of six this Father’s Day, the secret to a good father is equal parts faith, understanding and never forgetting to channel your inner child.

John Fitzsimmons and his wife Lindy are the parents of six children: Jack, 32, Peter, 31, Jimmy, 29, Annalize, 26, Mary Kate (Sister Mary Incarnata), 21, and Joey, 18. All children graduated from the Bishop Heelan Catholic High School in Sioux City. Joey graduated from college in May and is wondering where he will go to college this fall.

“You know it’s remarkable. Now that Joey’s leaving home, I think I’ve been a dad with kids at home for 32 years, so it’s going to be a big change,” John said. “It’s one of those moments in life where you ask yourself, what do I do now?”

When expressing his concerns to his son Jimmy, who is studying to become a priest at a seminary in St. Louis, Jimmy told John, “You’re still a father, so get over it.”

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For John, being a father was a constant goal.

“I felt like I was made to be a father. Because probably between high school and college age, I felt like I had to be a father to a lot of kids. It’s a strange ambition for someone that age. You can call me weird, that’s fine,” John said.

He and Lindy have been married for 33 years. They are spending Father’s Day weekend with son Peter, Peter’s wife Nora and their 11-month-old grandson in Minneapolis.

“I just love everything about being a dad. I think the hardest times are the best times. When there is a fight in the family, you become closer. The kids who may need a little more guidance at different times in their lives, then you deepen the bonds of the relationship,” he said.

John said other fathers have asked him about fatherhood, especially since Jimmy left the U.S. Army and joined the seminary and Mary Kate was called to begin monastic life at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Ala.

“But I think that in retrospect, as a father, as a parent, you just have to do everything with love, so much love. They need to realize that no matter what happens, their father will love them. And don’t just say, but do. And I think that’s important,” John said.

“I think it was taught to me through my parents. And it’s just something that maybe I’m just programmed to do. Don’t know. One thing our priest, Father Joe Vogel, said is that if you make a mistake, tell your children you are sorry.”

He has learned what it means to show forgiveness and then move on, regardless of the circumstances.

“And I think that’s one of the big things and I’ve always been able to do it easily. Number one because this man makes a lot of mistakes and number two because you know it’s just a demonstration of love.

Lindy emphasizes another of her husband’s strengths.

“One of the things that makes him a great father is his ability to reach his inner child because he remembers what it was like to be a child and now he loves being there as a child. He relates to them. He knows he’s not perfect. He knows he needs forgiveness. And then he also gives that to his children,” Lindy said. “His inner child is the best part of what makes him a great father.”

Faith is an important part of life for the Fitzsimmons family. The family will attend Mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Jefferson.

“I think you know it’s right downtown. I truly believe this is some kind of secret sauce of a close-knit family. If they can maintain a relationship with God, everything else will fall into place. That is important to us,” says John.

Over time, John’s children spread across the United States. Jack and his wife Katherine have five children and live in Indianapolis, Ind.

“Everything is great except the 10-hour drive between us. We have to figure out how to change some aspect of that,” John added. Jack works for a grain company in Minneapolis.

Annalize works in medical device sales and is married to Josh.

Joey wants to study business administration at university.

For the Fitzsimmons children called to the religious life, “The religious life is a joy, but it comes with a price,” John said. Their time with Sister Mary Incarnata at the convent is limited.

And this Father’s Day, John wanted to share some sage advice.

“As a father, I would tell other fathers that it’s not exactly rocket science. Love your children. A lot of families don’t go to church anymore. Go to Mass on Sunday,” John said.

The Journal’s Jared McNett shows how to download and browse the Sioux City Journal app.

Jesse Brothers