June 1, 2018

‘Live well. Laugh often. Love much.’

Parents mark a span of 37 straight years of their 10 children in Catholic schools

The 10 children of Jim and Ann Selby of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis have been in Catholic schools across a span of 37 straight years—a span that will end on June 1 when their youngest child Jacob will graduate from Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis. Nine of the 10 children are pictured here with their parents in a photo from 2014 when they threw a surprise party for their parents to celebrate their 60th birthdays. The children, from left to right, are Sarah, Patrick, Christopher, Maria, Andrew, Jacob, Anna, Caitlin and Matthew. The oldest child, Jon, was unable to attend. (Submitted photo)

The 10 children of Jim and Ann Selby of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis have been in Catholic schools across a span of 37 straight years—a span that will end on June 1 when their youngest child Jacob will graduate from Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis. Nine of the 10 children are pictured here with their parents in a photo from 2014 when they threw a surprise party for their parents to celebrate their 60th birthdays. The children, from left to right, are Sarah, Patrick, Christopher, Maria, Andrew, Jacob, Anna, Caitlin and Matthew. The oldest child, Jon, was unable to attend. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

When you’re young and in love, there are certain plans that you just don’t have.

Getting married at 18, Jim and Ann Selby didn’t plan on having 10 children.

They also didn’t plan on having one of the most amazing eight days in the history of Catholic parenting.

“Jon got married on a Saturday,” Ann recalls about their oldest child. “Anna got baptized on a Wednesday at a school Mass at St. Monica. Christopher got confirmed on a Thursday. And Patrick made his first Communion that Saturday.”

The longtime members of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis also didn’t plan on their 10 children being in Catholic schools across a span of 37 straight years.

That’s 37 consecutive years filled with packing lunches, checking homework, saying prayers, preparing their children for the sacraments, cheering at games and plays, sizing up their children’s prom dates, being there for them through the tough times, and helping them celebrate their successes.

It’s also 37 straight years marked by Ann telling their 10 children before they leave the house, “Be a blessing and make good choices.” And it’s also 37 straight years marked by Jim reminding their children during the high school years, “Don’t get in any trouble. I don’t have any bail money.”

Now, that incredible streak connecting their children and Catholic education will come to an end on the evening of June 1 when their youngest child Jacob will graduate from Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis.

“Free at last!” Jim says with a laugh as he sits with Ann on the porch of their Indianapolis home.

Ann smiles wistfully and adds, “I think it will be emotional. It’s the end of an era for us.”

A foundation of faith, values and family

That era started when Ann and Jim took their oldest child Jon to kindergarten at St. Monica School in 1981. Matthew followed. Then came Christopher, Andrew, Maria, Patrick, Sarah, Caitlin, Anna and finally Jacob.

They all received the foundations of their Catholic education and faith at St. Monica, before attending Indianapolis Catholic high schools that have included Bishop Chatard, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory and Cardinal Ritter.

“We have good public schools here, but with what we were trying to teach our kids, we felt they would get that best in Catholic schools,” Ann says, noting the importance of faith, values and family.

Jim adds, “One of the greatest things about the Catholic schools is that you have a lot of people looking out for your kids. There’s a lot of people who care about your kids.

“And when you look at what our kids have done with their lives and how they get along with each other, it was a good decision.”

It was also a challenge.

“It was a struggle financially,” says Jim, an electrician. “But we just got used to it.”

They also have their share of memorable moments from the 37 years. They both smile as Ann shares the story of when Patrick was a first-grader and he decided one day—amidst the chaos of packing lunches in the morning—to put together his own lunch.

“He got a paper bag, put in two pieces of bread and some corn chips,” says Ann, who didn’t know the details of that lunch until later. “At lunch time, his teacher saw what he had. She felt bad for him and got him a hot lunch. He came home and said, ‘I’m going to pack a bread sandwich every day!’ ”

‘Live well. Laugh often. Love much.’

That story fits naturally with the sign right near the front door of the Selbys’ home, the sign that welcomes people with this message, “Live well. Laugh often. Love much.”

Msgr. Paul Koetter has been welcomed into their home many times during the past 21 years, dating back to 1997 when he became the pastor of St. Monica. His closeness with the family is reflected in Jim and Ann choosing him to be Jacob’s godfather. That bond also shows in one of Msgr. Koetter’s favorite stories about Ann and his godson, whom he calls “Jake.”

“When Jake was about 5, Ann was on the parish council,” recalls Msgr. Koetter, now the pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis. “As a council, we took turns as to who would lead the prayer, and that person would also ask a question for the council to discuss. Ann’s question was, ‘What blessing have you received that you would have never prayed for?’

“She shared the story of having Jake when she was 45—and what a blessing it turned out to be. It led to one of the best discussions we ever had as a parish council.”

That story shows the welcoming attitude that comes naturally to Jim and Ann, he says. So does another story he mentions.

In 1984, Ann’s parents moved in with the family after her father suffered a stroke and became bedridden. Following his death in 1989, Ann’s mother continued to live with the family until she died in 2004 at the age of 92.

“That same attitude of welcome is there with their grandkids,” Msgr. Koetter says. “Ann is always happy when she has them at her house.”

The 37 straight years of Catholic education for their children is an extension of that approach to life, according to Msgr. Koetter.

“It’s more of a sense of Catholicism as who we are as a family and how that connects with God,” he says. “The Catholicism and the family are so melded together for them. And Catholic education just flows out of that strong bond between their family and the Catholic faith.”

As the ninth of her parents’ 10 children, Anna Selby has seen that strong bond all during her 22 years of life.

“With all of us going to Catholic schools, our parents worked really hard to make that happen,” says Anna, who is finishing her first year as an English teacher at Cardinal Ritter. “Knowing it meant that much to them, I knew I should hold up my end of the bargain. So it made me focus and work hard.

“They also expected us to live our faith—to be respectful of everyone no matter their background.”

She pauses and adds, “They’re the best people I know. I believe that with all my heart.”

Her brother Christopher notes, “We had few possessions, but we had a lot of quality time together. Decades later, it’s clear that being a family is the best blessing.”

‘God has a plan for you’

As the Selbys prepare to celebrate the high school graduation of Jacob—all the siblings are planning to be there for his party on June 23—Jim remembers the wisdom that a priest shared with the seniors of one of his other children’s graduating classes.

“He said, ‘God made you. God loves you. God has a plan for you.’ ”

The memory of that wisdom leads Jim and Ann to look back to when they were at that same point in their lives—to look back across the years and consider the plan that God had for them.

“For us to be together,” Jim says.

“And to raise all these kids,” Ann adds. “They’ve turned out to be great people, and we’ve learned a lot from them.”

That plan has extended to the next generation.

“It’s really cool to see some of our kids sending their kids to Catholic schools. It’s important,” says Ann, who still drives a minivan so she can pick up a few of their 14 grandchildren in the afternoon from St. Malachy School in Brownsburg.

“Our faith is the foundation everything is built on,” says Jim.

“And our kids get that, too,” Ann adds.

“They thank us a lot,” Jim says. “They thank us for raising them the way we did.”

“And in a lot of ways, they’re raising their kids the way we did,” Ann adds.

God made the plan. The Selbys keep trying to make the most of it. †

  

Related: ‘What blessing have you received that you would have never prayed for?’

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