Mike and LaVonne nurture their gifts of family and Faith
Mike and LaVonne Hundt have a strong partnership. Their 29-year marriage and family was built with sweat, tears and love, all powered by Faith. Like so many Catholics, Mike and LaVonne learned they needed God with them in their marriage.
Meeting in college, Mike was a cradle Catholic who had not yet completely discovered the power of Faith. LaVonne was not a Catholic and had very little faith. Thanks to the guidance of some good friends, she became the woman who would eventually guide her husband to a deeper understanding of how the Church could strengthen their marriage and them.
“We always say that when we met, we saved each other. I became Catholic when we got married, but even then my Faith was in the periphery of my life,” says LaVonne. “Looking back now, I can totally see how God had His hand in all of this.”
Faith was a big part of Mike’s family, who have been part of St. Peter Parish from its beginning in the late 1800s. His uncle, Monsignor Robert Hundt, worked with the young couple on their marriage preparation.
LaVonne’s parents were divorced, and she grew up guided by her single mother. Although close to her siblings, she didn’t know what a good and strong marriage looked like.
“I didn’t know how to be a wife,” LaVonne remembers. “I learned how to be a wife and be married from watching Mike’s parents.”
The example provided by Mike’s parents included a quick sense of humor. Mike remembers being at his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary when someone asked his mom if she had ever considered divorce. She thought for a moment and said with a laugh, “Divorce, no. Murder, yes.”
“We always say that when we met, we saved each other. Looking back now, I can totally see how God had His hand in all of this.” -LaVonne
In the beginning, Mike and LaVonne’s Faith life was focused just on attending Sunday Mass. That changed when LaVonne dug a little deeper into Catholicism.
“I started going to a Bible study with a great group of women in La Crosse. I learned so much,” LaVonne says.
She didn’t keep her newfound knowledge to herself. LaVonne shared what she was learning with her husband. “She said I need to learn more about my Faith,” says Mike.
Early in their marriage, Mike and LaVonne committed to using Natural Family Planning. This was a huge struggle, as they had very little knowledge of how it worked and had to work through lots of conflicts. Their determination rewarded the couple with five children: Rachel, Sarah, Steven, James and Anna.
Because Catholic education is important to them, the Hundts chose Providence Academy in La Crosse for their children. Mike and LaVonne also were active at the children’s school, volunteering as needed.
“The foundation of Faith they got was second to none,” LaVonne says. “We could have never instilled the Faith the way they did,” Mike adds.
Their two oldest daughters graduated from Providence Academy, and the three youngest transitioned to public school, where they hope their children’s Faith is a positive example to their peers.
“Our kids are very unafraid of defending their Faith,” says LaVonne.
They were also blessed with several priests who made a profound impact on their family. They both agree that those relationships have been invaluable in learning about Faith, life and family.
Keeping their relationship fresh requires focus and work. There must be more to their marriage than just raising children. Mike says, “One thing I know has helped our marriage over the years is remembering you cannot stop dating your spouse. You have to keep your marital relationship a priority.”
A foundation of Faith also makes the difference in a marriage, Mike believes. “I’ve watched other people,” he says. “Marriages will struggle and kids will get into trouble because they don’t have a moral compass.”
LaVonne recommends visiting the confessional frequently and going to Mass regularly to strengthen a relationship. “It is difficult to sit next to someone at Mass and be mad at him,” she says with a laugh, “A priest once told me that being Catholic isn’t for wimps, and it is so true. Being married isn’t for wimps, either!”
Mass and the sacraments are a marriage necessity because not every moment of every day is joy-filled. Spouses disagree, and sometimes they fight.
“Although I love him, there are days I don’t like him much. He knows exactly how to push my buttons,” says LaVonne. “Marriage is the hardest thing we have ever done. How can it succeed without Faith?”
Mike’s response is brief and to the point, “Good luck.”
“You have to work at it,” LaVonne continues. “You have to choose love even when you don’t want to. We are so far from perfect. It’s hard work and it’s challenging, but it’s worth it.”
In addition to sharing their Faith with their children, Mike and LaVonne carry God into the community. It is important to show their children that Faith, like marriage, requires hard work and the gift of time. “We tried to bring our children up with an understanding of the Catholic Faith and how you have to promote Catholic education,” he adds. Teachers for parish religious education, the Hundts try to show the joy of Christianity in a world filled with despair.
“We try to be in the world but not of the world,” says LaVonne. “You can’t be preachy about the Faith and be depressed because the world is going to hell in a handbasket. We have hope, and we have the sacraments and the opportunity to tell Jesus that we are sorry when we make mistakes.”
Although the three oldest Hundt children are grown, they all live close to the family home. This has been a real blessing as Mike and LaVonne welcomed their first granddaughter in January and first grandson in February.
Their greatest hope is that their children carry the lessons from their parents—the good and the bad—and share in the desire to work hard in family relationships and within their parish family.
Mike says, “Hopefully, we’ve been able to be a good example for them.”
Story by Mary Kay McPartlin
Published in the July/August 2022 issue of Catholic Life Magazine