Faith, Family and Friends: In the Right Order
“Without faith, you have nothing,” says Robert (Bob) Gau. These words speak to Bob Gau’s approach to life. Now 75 years old, Bob’s journey has included his loving wife Kathy of 47 years, ten children, 26 grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, a successful business, and very importantly, an opportunity to make a lasting impact in the Catholic Church. “Faith will get you through crises in life,” he says. This faith includes a belief in the importance of Catholic education.
Bob believes in endowments for Catholic education. His most recent fund memorializes Kathy, who passed away in 2008. The “Kathleen Ann Gau Memorial Scholarship Fund,” will provide scholarships for students to attend Bishop DuBourg High School for generations to come.
Bob’s commitment to the Catholic Church has deep roots. From his birth, he was a member of St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Lemay. “I was baptized, went to school and married there. Our first two children were also baptized at St. Andrew’s,” he says. He realized early on the importance of Catholic education. “I think children in Catholic schools have a better opportunity of success both personally and professionally,” he says.
Through his own initiative he raised the funds to attend St. Louis Preparatory Seminary for three years, and Bishop DuBourg his senior year. He credits his Catholic education as the key foundation to the good life he has enjoyed. Now he gives back.
“I feel it is hard for people to afford to send their children to Catholic schools,” Bob says. When he attended grade school, his parents donated regularly to offertory collections, but in no way would their contributions have covered the cost of his education. Later, eight of his ten children attended Catholic elementary schools tuition-free. “People who have received a Catholic education free or at a very low cost have an obligation to give back,” Bob says.
His last two children did require tuition to attend Catholic elementary school. When they finished, he began to donate what had been their tuition fees, in addition to his regular Church contribution. He understood that the Catholic Church, as well as the school, had earned his ongoing support. Bob, like so many Catholics, understands that Catholic education is the future of our faith.
With the declining Catholic school enrollment, he believes we all need to do our part to stem that tide. “In an ideal world, Catholic education would be free. I think it is the best form of evangelization. We should all be looking at the deficit our parishes face to offer Catholic education to all families who would like to attend, and, as a parish family, raise funds to close that deficit, ” says Bob.
That vision is inspiring, but it is part of a lifetime of giving back to the faith that he and Kathy made the priority in their lives. Members of St. Margaret Mary Alocoque (SMMA), Bob has served on the Parish Council, the Finance Committee, and was part of a group of six members of SMMA who over breakfast forged the idea of building a new church. He served as chairman of the capital campaign that successfully raised the funds to build the church, which was completed in 1992. It was a family effort. With Kathy securing treasures from decommissioned parishes, they were able to, through a dedicated committee, build a church that has a mixture of traditional with modern features. Bob also served on the board of the “Friends of the Cathedral Basilica.” As his last initiative as a board member, he led the effort to secure funding for new pews.
Bob and Kathy not only helped build a church, but they were also Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion in the parish. Kathy began a pro-life organization at SMMA’s grade school. Along with her friend Jane, she started the perpetual Eucharistic Adoration at SMMA. Both of these initiatives continue today. In addition, Kathy was a member of the Marthas.
“When my wife died, I was very sad. I cried, but it did not break me because I had my faith,” he says. “We were regular church goers. Our friends are also Catholic, which is important because we share the same values. We became friends because of our involvement with our kids,” says Bob. Putting things in perspective does make a difference. Faith, Family and Friends, in the right order, will make life fall into place.