July 22, 2011

Principal’s new book stresses importance of faith and family

Family and friends are at the heart of Rick Wagner’s life, as this photo shows. First row, from left, Rick Wagner, daughter Laura, daughter-in-law Whitney, daughter Mary holding her son Joseph, Mary’s husband Matt Fuhs and Rick’s wife Carol. Second row, from left, Laura’s fiancée Joey Garcia, son Rick, family friend Taylor Brown and son Rob. (Submitted photo)

Family and friends are at the heart of Rick Wagner’s life, as this photo shows. First row, from left, Rick Wagner, daughter Laura, daughter-in-law Whitney, daughter Mary holding her son Joseph, Mary’s husband Matt Fuhs and Rick’s wife Carol. Second row, from left, Laura’s fiancée Joey Garcia, son Rick, family friend Taylor Brown and son Rob. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

The words on the two plaques help Rick Wagner keep the priorities in his life.

One of the signs hangs in his house, a reminder to put his wife and his four children first.

The other plaque hangs in Wagner’s office, reminding the lifelong member of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis to keep his focus on the high school students under his direction, to strive to bring them closer to God.

Both plaques share the same simple message: “Remember What’s Important.”

For Wagner, the foundation of that message has always begun with an emphasis on faith and family—priorities that have been reinforced and deepened as he prepares to be ordained a permanent deacon for the archdiocese in June of 2012.

“My faith and my family are the two things that pervade everything in my life. When I say ‘family,’ it starts with my immediate family and spreads out from there,” Wagner says. “Especially going through the diaconate program, the message that has come through loud and clear is this whole idea that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s about other people and what we should be striving to bring them—a piece of ourselves.”

Wagner shares a piece of himself in his recently released book that has an appropriate title—Remember What’s Important. It’s a thoughtful collection that includes essays and reflections about marriage, children, parenting, faith and God’s grace. (Related: What’s important in life? Excerpts on marriage, children and death)

Some of the selections were written while Wagner served as the director of Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis. Many others are from the weekly letters he writes in his current role as the principal of St. Theodore Guérin High School in Noblesville, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese.

“I share my thoughts on the importance of loving one’s spouse and children and what that love might look like, on the difficult decisions we need to make as parents and how incredibly awesome the payoff is, and on how faith should be the foundation of everything we do,” Wagner writes in the introduction to the book.

The 51-year-old grandfather also notes that he sometimes challenges parents and students in his weekly letters.

“I challenge parents to be active in their children’s lives, to set boundaries for them and to hold firm when the going gets tough, to be examples for them, to pray with them and for them,” he writes.

“I challenge students to be leaders, to make tough choices about right and wrong and courageously lead their peers to do the same, and to acknowledge the many blessings they have in their lives, and to take their faith lives seriously.”

Wagner decided to take his faith life to a different, deeper level when he chose to become a deacon.

“For the deacon formation program, most of the weekends are done at Fatima,” he says. “When the first group of deacons was being formed, I was still the director at Fatima. At the time, I had a nagging feeling I still wasn’t doing enough about my faith. As the first group of guys came through, I got to meet them and know them. It seemed that calling fit with my nagging feeling. So I inquired about when the next group was meeting. I felt this was it.”

The program to become a deacon has had a “tremendous impact” on Wagner.

“The formation process really made it clear to me that too much of my life has been about me,” he says. “We’re all called to serve. We’re all called to evangelize, to share our faith in words and actions. And the book is a part of that. I really hope the book causes people to stop and reflect for a few minutes. Sometimes, I don’t think we stop and reflect on how blessed we are.”

(Remember What’s Important, published by St. Catherine of Siena Press, is available for $14.95. It can be purchased through the website www.rememberwhatsimportant.com or at Holy Family Books & Gifts in Carmel, Ind.)

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!