Brian and Alisa find God’s love in their children
Brian and Alisa Weiss, along with their seven children, are a joyful family in their parish, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Richland Center. Having a large family turns heads when they are out together. “People say, ‘You’re either Catholic or Amish, and I saw you drive up in a car, so…,’” Brian says. “I love taking our kids to church. We often get compliments on the size of our family,” says Alisa. “In the secular world you might get a head nod.”
The couple, married for 21 years, are now at ease with having seven children. Natural Family Planning (NFP) helped them to find their peace in having a big family, and they are thankful the Catholic Church offers Faith-based help for couples.
“We are so lucky to be Catholic. I can’t imagine not having our Faith.” -Alisa
Both had grown up Catholic, but before their marriage were not immersed in the Faith. Brian attended a high school seminary in Madison for four years. Alisa’s Catholic journey was a little different after her parents divorced when she was eight. “My dad made us go to church when we were with him, and my mother prayed with us every night,” she remembers.
While not a regular church goer, Alisa says, “When I met Brian, I always felt like I knew God and loved God.”
After they married, Alisa wanted to be closer to God and started attending Bible study at a local church. She told Brian, “I think we need to start going to this evangelical church.” Although Brian was not a regular in the pews for Mass, he knew right away he didn’t want to learn about God anywhere but the Catholic Church.
Back to Church
“When we got married, we weren’t going to church,” says Brian. “Being at the high school seminary was great. Somehow, I drifted away. Having the kids brought us back to wanting the Church into our lives.”
So, Brian and Alisa started attending the Catholic Church. Alisa was intrigued by all there was to know about the Faith and shared her discoveries with Brian.
When the couple started their family, the road was rocky at first with two miscarriages interspersed with their first two children. Their oldest daughter was born in 2004 after their first miscarriage in 2002. “We were so glad we had her after losing the first baby,” says Alisa.
Their son was born after their second miscarriage. “Then I got pregnant again,” she remembers. “I was praying to lose the pregnancy.” God ignored Alisa’s prayers. At 36 weeks, while planning the home birth with a midwife, Brian and Alisa found out they would be welcoming twins.
“I kind of laughed because I was so worried about having a baby and then to find out we were having twins,” Alisa says. “The twins are absolutely remarkable. God just knew. I was so concerned [about] how we would be able to afford the pregnancy and wondering what people would think.”
For their fifth pregnancy, Alisa worried again about the timing but was much less worried than she had been before. “There was a good space between the twins and number five,” she remembers. “My concern wasn’t because our hearts didn’t want another baby, but I was afraid to tell Brian. I told him over dinner, and he said, ‘Cheers!’ Every pregnancy I would get a twinge of worry. He was always happy and joyful and focused on the babies.”
“When something happens, I try to find the solution,” Brian explains.
Learning about NFP was the next step for Brian and Alisa to feel they were on the right path with their family. They took the class with a local doctor and his wife, and both found the program to be easy to understand and follow.
“I think we looked into NFP because we got pregnant with number five and it was a shock,” Brian says. “We knew we shouldn’t be on birth control, and we knew the Church had a method. I thought, ‘Let’s see.’ Our initial reaction was so we could prevent a pregnancy. Once we learned the reason for NFP, we knew it was okay to have these kids.”
“If I had questions, I called. We don’t stop learning. There’s a lot to know in the Catholic Faith,” says Alisa. “I like to understand the ‘why’ of things. NFP made perfect sense to me.”
Brian and Alisa appreciate the flexibility of NFP and how it can be used to either avoid or achieve a pregnancy. By inviting God into the process, Alisa and Brian felt confident their family would grow the way it was meant to be.
The process with NFP began with Brian and Alisa expecting to use it to avoid, but they found instead the permission to have the big family they both wanted. They experienced great joy in turning their family over to God.
“NFP did work naturally with us once we accepted the ‘why’ we were doing it,” Alisa says. “The technical part was sometimes challenging. In the end, we accepted that each pregnancy was still up to God. We will never regret what we have, but we don’t want to regret what we didn’t have.”
The arrival of their last two children—numbers six and seven—were the joyful answer from God to Brian and Alisa’s, “Yes” to His invitation to children. “With six and seven, we actively knew we were going to have another baby,” says Alisa.
The Weiss’ are not currently planning to have any more children, for those wondering if seven is the magic number. “Only because we are tired and feel older,” says Alisa with a laugh. “I am definitely a different mother with number seven than I was with number one.”
They both agree, though, that if God sends them the gift of another baby, that child will be lovingly welcomed by Brian and Alisa and the baby’s seven siblings.
Many people have expressed to Alisa and Brian disbelief at parenting seven children who range in age from five to 18. “Seven is easy,” Alisa says. “You drop perfection right away. You can’t do it all, so you don’t even try. You just go with the flow.”
They agree that the split between the four older children and the three younger children has helped. The older children are a big help in navigating activities and events with their younger siblings. “Everybody just pitches in,” says Alisa. “It’s such a joyous family.”
Another advantage is that you can’t spoil seven children. The family budget is followed carefully, and while the Weiss family may not go on expensive and exotic vacations, they spend quality time together living a simple and happy life. “We are going strong with these simple fun things that we see through little kids’ eyes,” Alisa says. “We love living this life.”
The Catholic Faith is an important part of daily life, from praying as a family to attending Mass. “It’s never, ‘Are we going to Mass?’ It’s, ‘When or where?’” explains Alisa. “I like being able to say ‘We’re Catholic.’”
Relationship with God
Brian and Alisa spend time in conversation with God every day about their children, praying for their health, happiness and that they stay faithful to Him. They have sacrificed to provide their children with a Catholic education to build on the foundation of Faith that begins at home.
All their Faith and prayers are paying off in the way the Weiss children live in the world. Brian’s father died in 2019, and Alisa’s father died in March of last year. Navigating those losses has been helped by the family’s Faith. “The kids mention both grandfathers every day,” Alisa says. “We are so lucky to be Catholic. As it says in the Gospel of John, ‘Lord, to whom should we go for answers? You have the words of eternal life.’ There’s nowhere else to go. There’s nowhere else that gives that hope and guidance. I can’t imagine not having our Faith.”
Brian’s mother receives support from her children, in-laws and grandchildren. They have witnessed the power of family and Faith. “It’s not just one person helping her through her widowhood,” says Alisa.
People are not always understanding of having a large family, although the Weiss family has found online communities to be helpful and supportive of a life that is a little different than most.
“I think people do want to have large families, but they are afraid,” says Alisa, who remembers very clearly her fears in the beginning. “Just because of our Faith, whenever anyone tells me they are pregnant, I want to encourage them to be excited.”
For those who are starting a family or those who have a desire for another child, Alisa and Brian believe the joy with each child will wipe away any fear.
“We are really lucky to experience all the years of holding our children in our arms,” Alisa says.
Story by Mary Kay McPartlin
Published in the Jan./Feb. 2023 issue of Catholic Life Magazine
If you are interested in learning more about NFP and which method may be a good fit for your marriage, please contact Christy Kitzhaber at 608.791.2658 or visit the diocesan NFP page at diolc.org/nfp.