For Hingham couple, giving means listening with their hearts

Each week, Rita and Kevin Gill open their Hingham home to 20 to 25 children who range in age from infants in their mothers’ arms to neighborhood youngsters to friends of the Gills’ school-age children. The young people are taking part in a rosary group where they begin with a litany to Jesus followed by the offering of intentions.

“To listen to what kids pray for, what comes out of their hearts, is amazing,” says Rita. “On Sept. 11, one third-grader prayed for the terrorists because they did not know God,” she reminisces.

The rosary group, now in its third year, also offers a social opportunity for youngsters to come together. “The children ... seem to respond very well. The kids are great,” enthuses Rita.

“The seed is planted,” Kevin agrees.

In growing up, both Gills received a firm foundation in their Catholic faith. Rita is one of eight children whose father worked for Boston Edison Company and whose mother worked in the nearby school cafeteria. “We had no extra money, but we had a great joy. We knew the joy of life without money.”

“I was blessed to have a mother who had an unshakable faith. She had a passionate love for God and the Blessed Mother,” remembers Rita. “A lot of her time was spent in teaching me about our faith. It mattered enough to her to give her faith to me.”

Kevin is the youngest of five children. His mother came to the United States from Ireland, and his father ran the shipping department at Gillette.

Kevin also has fond memories of his father as a role model in teaching him about the Catholic faith. “We prayed the rosary as a family. I remember my father getting up so early in the morning to pray in the living room before going to work. He led by example.”

Today, the Gills are following the examples set by their parents. They take time out each day to pray as a family with their children, Kevin, Jr., 18, a senior at St. Sebastian School in Needham; Marianne, 15, a freshman at Notre Dame in Hingham; Stephanie, 14, an eighth-grade student at Thayer Academy; Patrick, 12, a sixth-grader also at Thayer; and Christine, 9, a student at nearby Foster Elementary School in Hingham.

“I hope I can give to my kids what my mother gave to me,” Rita says. “Faith is a gift that comes to you from your parents.”

Both Gills participate in the Renew Program in their parish, St. Paul in Hingham, a six-week commitment where participants meet weekly to share Gospel readings and to talk about how the passages they study pertain to their lives.

Rita is also a lector and daily communicant, while Kevin attends daily Mass as often as he can.

The Gills’ desire to give was strengthened following their trip to Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, in 2000, where they visited with their children as part of a group of 27 family members and friends. They returned with the desire to pray the rosary as a family at the end of dinner each day and to read the Bible with their children.

“I offer each decade of the rosary for each of my children,” says Rita. “I cannot be with them all the time, and there is a confidence in knowing that when I offer the rosary daily for them, the Blessed Mother will watch over them.”

“We sometimes need a crisis to open our eyes,” observes Kevin. “We thought we would lose our brother-in-law, my best friend, to serious illness prior to our visit to Medjugorje. His recovery following our trip has made me increase my spiritual walk from that time forward.”

The Gills also returned with a commitment to encouraging Catholic values by reaching out to future generations and protecting the faith through rosary groups, Marian devotions and through their contribution to the Annual Catholic Appeal in the Archdiocese of Boston.

“Our belief is that of those to whom much is given, much is expected,” says Rita. “I consider it a privilege that we are the givers and not the receivers.”

With privilege comes responsibility, and “you are held to a higher standard when you know the responsibility of being a Catholic,” adds Kevin.

“Everybody has something to give. Everybody has a gift and a calling,” explains Rita. “Listen with your heart and spend time in prayer to know where Jesus wants you to give. He pulls you.”

“Every time you give, you get back tenfold,” Kevin sums up.

For more information on the Annual Catholic Appeal, call Damien DeVasto, director of the Catholic Appeal Office, at 617-746-5628.