Living the Faith: John and Mary Toland

SUDBURY -- As most parents will tell you, it can be a trying experience to bring young children to church. Crying rooms, Cheerios, coloring books, small toys -- all weapons in the arsenal of a parent trying to keep their child quiet during Mass.

At Our Lady of Fatima parish in Sudbury, much of that stress has been taken out of bringing young children to church.

“We have a crying room, but it really isn’t used very much at all,” said Mary Toland, who has been a parishioner there for the past nine years. “Father always says, ‘Don’t worry if your children make noise. Once they are baptized they are members of our parish family.’”

Toland, 46, who attends weekly Mass with her husband John and their four children, whose ages range from nine to four, noted that the parish is burgeoning with young families like their own.

“Our parish is very warm and welcoming to all parishioners -- even the youngest ones,” she said.

The couple originally moved to Sudbury nine years ago because of John’s job. They quickly became parishioners at Our Lady of Fatima, involving themselves in the parish community. Mary is currently the fourth grade religious education coordinator and is a member of the parish pastoral council. She is also an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.

She lauded their pastor, Father Michael Bova Conti, for his ability to reach out to everyone in the parish.

“When we first joined the parish, he met with the entire family,” recalled John.

“Then the next time he saw us at Mass, he remembered every one of our names,” Mary added.

“He really makes an effort to be out there -- to be the leader of his parish,” she said.

Both Mary and John grew up in Catholic families: he in Quincy, she in Belmont. Each of them has five siblings. Each of them credit their faith to the upbringing their parents gave them.

“We both came from families where church was a priority,” explained Mary, noting that now as parents, it is up to them to pass the importance of faith onto their children.

“There are a lot of levels to faith,” she said. “It means we have something to look forward to when we die; it’s something to cling to in difficult times; it allows you a path to say ‘Thank you’ to someone for the way you live.”

“For me, I feel that we are very, very lucky to have what we have, and that’s part of the reason why I go to church: to give thanks,” added Mary.

John, 45, added that faith is, “something to guide you to what it’s all about.”

Because he is an engineer, he often is tempted to control his surroundings, he said.

“Engineers are trained to believe that things don’t just happen -- there’s always a cause and effect,” he explained. “From a faith perspective, it gives you a sense that there isn’t always cause and effect -- that you can’t always control everything -- and that’s important.”

“At the end of the day, faith is the reason you make the right decision,” he said.

“Family is very important; faith is very important,” added John. “We have a good thing going here.”

Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Sudbury

Year established -- 1955

Pastor -- Father Michael Bova Conti

Deacon -- John Nicholson

Religious Education Director -- Susan Murphy

Volunteer Coordinator -- Christine Dunn

Music Director -- Cynthia Carpenter

Youth Minister -- Patti Cappelloni