Read: Fathers' Day without father | The faith and love of the Condit Family

Luke Condit of Christ the King parish in Ann Arbor died in January of this year after a prolonged battle with cancer. He was 45-years-old. May he rest in peace. Luke left behind a widow, Anna, six children and a legacy of unwavering faith and contagious joy. The Diocese of Lansing’s Stephanie Van Koevering, has been talking to the Condit family as they approach, this weekend, their first Fathers’ Day without father. Stephanie writes:

It’s a sunny Saturday morning in Whitmore Lake, and the Condit household is noisy. The breakfast dishes are being cleared, and three-year-old Joseph still wears his footed fleece pajamas as he dashes about the living room. His five siblings gaze curiously at our two-person FAITH team as we enter, laden with camera bags. Introductions are quickly made, and everyone settles into the cozy furniture together. The two littlest children clamber into the familiar lap of their Aunt Monica, Luke’s sister, who has come to stay and help in the aftermath of her brother’s painful loss.

A brief silence falls. At this moment, everyone knows the Condit family is about to share their most intensely personal experiences with a pair of total strangers who will go on to publish their recollections in a diocesan magazine for all the world to see. Everyone here wants to get it right, to do justice to Luke’s memory. All 10 of us stand together on the precipice for the briefest instant, awed and uncertain.

But Luke’s wife, Anna, has become accustomed to doing difficult things. Softly clearing her throat, she begins to share the story of her husband’s life.

And as her words tumble forth, Luke Condit’s joyful presence can be felt once more — and every heart in the room is moved by it.

“We were both at Franciscan University simultaneously, but we never met,” Anna remembers. “I knew of him, though. Three different people told me about him and suggested we’d be perfect together, but at that time, he was discerning the priesthood.”

However, a 30-day Ignatian silent retreat convinced Luke he was called to marriage. He accepted a job at Ave Maria College, where he soon met Anna.

“We were first introduced in the back of St. Thomas the Apostle Church,” she says, her eyes shining. “He came over to the house where my sisters and I lived, and we had brunch together. We clicked right away.”

But then, Ave Maria College was relocated to Florida. And Luke went along.

“I remember praying in my room, giving everything to the Lord,” Anna says. It would be a prayer she’d repeat more than a decade later. “He seemed like the guy I was looking for, but then he was gone. All I could do was trust. And things worked out for us.”

Anna eventually moved to Florida, and the couple wed in 2007. Their sons Jonah and Caleb, now 15 and 14, were born there.

“But Luke loved the winter; he loved the snow,” Anna recalls. “In Florida, it seemed like we were always trying to avoid nature. Alligators and fire ants were in our backyard, and a poisonous snake bit our neighbor. Once we had kids, we kept saying, ‘Stay off the grass. Keep away from the water.’” This wasn’t what we wanted. Luke loved fishing, camping and being outdoors. We had family and friends we had left behind and missed. So we decided to come back to Michigan.”

The family settled into their new life, welcoming Rita, 12, James, 10, Rose, 6, and little Joseph, 3.

“Luke was a wonderful father,” Anna says, her eyes filling with tears. “He gave everything he had to us.”

Jonah speaks up, his role as the new man of the house tempered by the sorrow in his eyes. “When I turned 13, my dad gave me a surprise weekend trip. He took me skiing — his favorite pastime — and we had a nice steak dinner together. We went zip lining.”

When younger brother Caleb turned 13, fishing was on the agenda. “I caught eight giant salmon,” the curly-haired teen says proudly, showing a photograph of himself, his dad, and some pretty impossible-looking fish.

“Luke began to experience health symptoms during the summer of 2022, but there was a misdiagnosis,” Anna says. “So, we were on the wrong track until January of 2023, when Luke was finally — and correctly — diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer. At that point, they gave him a prognosis of six months to two years. We knew that Luke’s life was in God’s hands, so we turned to him to guide our decisions about treatment. We were told the two years would only be possible if he did chemotherapy, so after discernment and prayer, Luke was determined to start treatment right away.”

Throughout those early days, Luke’s personality remained larger than life.

“I remember just wanting to be at the hospital because there was so much joy in the room. He was so at peace. He felt like he was in God's hands,” Anna says.

At this point, the Condits’ parish community began to rally around the young family. As she remembers, Anna’s voice begins to break.

Luke’s sister Monica takes up the narrative, scarcely missing a beat. After months of serving as Anna’s primary source of adult companionship and support, she is skilled at knowing when her sister-in-law needs a hand.

“It all became too much for him,” Monica says. “So, Luke and Anna’s friends at Christ the King Parish began to help them search for miracles in the most extraordinary ways.”

A generous benefactor from New Jersey offered to send Luke to Lourdes. When Anna’s family heard the news, two relatives stepped in to ensure Anna could be with him. The children stayed with family in northern Michigan, and Luke and Anna went to Lourdes in June 2023.

“They had a week there, which was, I think, an enormous blessing for the two of them,” Monica says. “And then, in October, Luke went to Medjugorje with me and my mom. And when he came back, he was just in a tremendous amount of pain. The cancer was in his spine, and he had a pathological fracture. It was terrible for him, but he never complained. He united his sufferings with Christ. That was his driving force.”

At that point, the most sacred portion of Luke’s journey began. His faith made him a source of inspiration and comfort to everyone he encountered.

“Of course, it was hard. Of course, there were moments of sadness and fear,” Monica says. “But most of all, Luke would help those struggling with his diagnosis to trust God and believe in his goodness. He was very open to whatever God wanted, whether it would be healing or something else. So many people around the world were praying for him. So many Masses were being offered for him; priests, sisters and the whole Salesian province here in America were praying for him. So, if God wanted to do a miracle, he could have, but Luke was never clinging to either healing or death.

“In fact, we never felt like he was dying. He was always living, always fully alive. And yeah, he was just generous in his response and powerful in his testimony.”

Anna says that while there were only a handful of times she felt despair over Luke’s illness, she never questioned his journey.

“There was just a strength. I'm sure it was just all the prayers, knowing that everything was in God's hands,” she says. “It's been much, much harder since he died. But last year, maybe Luke's joy and strength made us feel like everything was okay. It was all going to be okay.”

In his last days, Luke’s life pointed to the power of God’s healing touch.

“He loved the rosary,” Anna says. “The Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, were in his room, praying it with him. And that Sunday, just a few days before he died, we had over 200 people come and gather in our yard to say the rosary. Our entire community, the Spiritus Sanctus community, Christ the King came. We were all up in the room with Luke and had the windows open. They sang songs, and we did a Chaplet of Divine Mercy. It was beautiful.”

Today, months after Luke’s death, meals are still coming. Financial resources — even checks as big as $10,000 — will help the family recover. But most of all, the parish and surrounding community provide the comfort the Condits need.

“Luke had a big personality, tons of joy and a great sense of humor,” Anna smiles. “That’s what was in his eulogy, you know? He was a person whose joy was utterly infectious. Contagious joy, they called it.”

And his kids miss that joy. They always will.

“I just miss sharing my every day,” Jonah says. “I used to go to his room after school, talk to him about what happened that day, just be with him. He was so encouraging. When he knew I liked photography, he became my biggest fan.”

This Fathers’ Day, the Condit children will honor Luke in a special way. One idea is to make memory boxes.

“Each of us can take a box and put things in it that remind us of him, connect us to him,” Anna says, tousling Rita’s hair. Rita, who has been quiet until now, leans into her mother’s embrace. “We’ll decorate the outside with photos or things from magazines that remind us of who he was. It will be good.”

Then, as if from nowhere, young James speaks up, his young voice strong. “We feel him with us,” he says, recounting one of several experiences where he felt his father’s presence.

“We like to go over to the neighbors’ house,” James recalls. “We always go over there. But my sister and I went over, and it was late. I came back, but Rita didn't, and I'm a little bit scared of the dark. I prayed to my dad for help, and then I just felt peace. Then, I ran all the way home.”

As he ran, James saw a light.

“Joseph had a little headlamp, and we had just walked outside looking for something,” Aunt Monica recalls. “We were shuffling around on the porch, and then James came running up. He was grinning ear to ear, and he said, ‘Do you want to hear something cool?’”

The Condit family has a constant sense of Luke’s presence.

“We know he’s in heaven, watching over us,” Rita says quietly, confidently. “We will see him again.”

In the sunny Saturday morning atmosphere of the Condit home, we all know Rita is right. Through the tears, we are ready to share Luke’s journey — his legacy — in faith.

It’s what he would want, after all.

* Pictured above: The Condit family today, L to R: Caleb, Jonah, Aunt Monica, Joseph, Rita, Mom Anna, Rose and James. Meanwhile, pictured below is an image of the late Luke Condit RIP with his beautiful family.