‘A Good Man’: Son rediscovers life, faith of Sargent Shriver
June 6th, 2012
By Mark Zimmermann
WASHINGTON – Mark Shriver heard it often from people from all walks of life following his dad Sargent Shriver’s death: “He was a good man.”
Inspired to look into the life and work of his famous father, he went on to write “A Good Man,” published by Henry Holt and Company. It is subtitled, “Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver.”
“I was taken aback when I heard it from the first couple of people, I thought that was something nice to say to someone who just lost his father,” said Mark Shriver in an interview at his Washington office, where he works as the senior vice president of U.S. programs at Save the Children.
“I realized to be good in the public eye and outside the public eye is harder than being great,” he told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington archdiocese.
Sargent Shriver, a lifelong Catholic, was revered in the public square as the founding director of the Peace Corps and the architect of anti-poverty programs such as Vista, Head Start and Legal Services. He was U.S. ambassador to France and ran for president of the United States.
In his private life, he was a loving husband to Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who died in 2009, and a loving father to their five children.
Mark Shriver found that the source of his dad’s joy, vision and strength was his Catholic faith, “his daily relationship with God.” He started each day kneeling in prayer at early morning Mass.
“He realized God was in charge,” Shriver said.
His son found that faith taught Sargent Shriver to trust in God, and not in material things, after his family lost nearly everything in the Depression.
Shriver opens the book with a scene describing his dad marveling at a sunrise over the Chesapeake Bay, and expressing a desire to someday meet “the creator who made such a beautiful sunrise. ... I can’t wait to meet God.”
That faith, his son writes, was at the center of his dad’s marriage, his vocation as a Catholic husband and father. Mark Shriver’s book describes how Sargent and Eunice Shriver supported each other’s work, which was grounded in their shared faith and belief in the God-given dignity of all people, and their responsibility, as Sargent Shriver once said, “to do our father’s work.”
“They (my mom and dad) went to church (together) every day, had dinner together,” Mark Shriver said. “They took it (their marriage) seriously and were committed to it. ... They had different personalities, but they worked incredibly well together. It was grounded in their faith. They saw injustice, and their faith demanded they do something about it.”
Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard in Washington.
From June 8, 2012 issue of Catholic San Francisco.