By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald
Franco Tenuta believes that God is the keeper of a huge treasure box in heaven, and is just waiting to bless his children; we only have to ask.
“God is waiting up there and I believe he is saying to us, ‘Pray and tell me what you want and believe, and it will be done. If it is in my will, it will be done for you,'” the Pleasant Prairie resident said enthusiastically. “We need to say at least one prayer every day to God. His arms are wide open and all he wants us to do is send up a prayer to him.”
The soft-spoken Tenuta is a gentle giant among parishioners at his home parish of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Kenosha, and when he isn’t spending time with his wife, Betty Saveria, tending to his 7-year-old son, Mariano, or working as network manager at AT&T, he is volunteering at church.
He’s served as chairperson of the “Grilled Chicken Booth” at the annual parish festival for 10 years, ushered and lectored at Mass, taught religious education and was an assistant basketball coach. The 41-year-old is running for parish council as a way to share his love of the Catholic faith with others, and to serve others.
Additionally, he is discerning the permanent diaconate after the former Christian formation director at Holy Rosary approached him with the idea recently.
“She came up to me a couple of weeks ago and said, ‘Franco, I have been praying for you to be a deacon.’ I was stunned and said, ‘You have?’ Then she told me that she even spoke with my mother about it. So now I am discerning about it to see if it is my calling.”
A long way from his native Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tenuta is first to admit he wasn’t always so focused on his faith or in volunteering.
“In the past few years, God called home a couple of close friends of mine,” he said. “In perspective, I know we are not here forever, so I want to do whatever I can do on earth to fight for God and bring more people to him. Whatever I can do to bring more people to Jesus Christ and for me to get closer to God, I feel it makes my life worthwhile.”
Through the encouragement of Betty, whom he lovingly refers to as “The Rock” of their 14-year marriage, he has become a strong Catholic.
“I give her all the credit, and before I was married, I didn’t go to church as often as I do now,” he admitted. “She encouraged and pushed me to go; she has always been spiritually the strongest in our marriage and it is about time I stood up to lead the household.”
Tenuta wants to show Mariano what it means to be a strong and faith-filled Catholic – the same lessons taught to Teunta at Don Bosco Elementary School in Buenos Aires and through his parents, Mariano and Jema.
“My dad came here in 1972 by himself and worked four years to be able to support us. So four years later, my mom, my sister, and my twin brother came to Kenosha in 1976,” he said. “And the first opportunity, we all became citizens at the same time. I was 17 and it was in 1983.”
He hopes Mariano will learn to rely on God for all of his needs and learn what it means to be a true Catholic Christian man.
“I want him to imitate what I do,” he admitted. “I have read that if the father goes to church that there is a 90 percent chance that the children will continue that tradition,” he said. “It is vital for me to continue that tradition and set an example for him. When I am in church, he is looking at me and I make a point to sing the hymns real loud and humble myself before God and hopefully he is taking it in.”
Tenuta said an awareness of God helped him redirect his life.
“I used to say all the time that I had more important things to do than to help out at church,” he said. “I wanted to do personal things on the weekends and at nights during the week and I was selfish in that regard.”
Tenuta encouraged others to seek volunteer opportunities within their parishes.
“Most people, I don’t think, feel that their life experience and what they have to offer is valuable to the church,” he said. “That is nonsense; everyone has something to offer to the church. We get caught up in the world and think we are going to live forever, so I don’t think people feel they are needed. We are all needed in God’s world.”