CHARLESTON—The Tuncaps firmly believe that faith and prayer made it possible for their family to attend the World Meeting of Families in Milan, Italy.
At a cost of $11,000 just for the flight, the event would have been impossible for the young family, but God provided a way around every obstacle.
Allen Tuncap, a Petty Officer 2nd class in the U.S. Coast Guard, said he and his wife Janell live simply with their five children — Ethan, 10; Aveah, 6; Tobey, 3; Elyjah, 2; and Madden, 6 months. They attend church at St. John Neumann on the Air Force base and have formed close friendships there and through the S.C. Guam Association.
Mr. Tuncap said he was online one night, reminiscing about his two amazing trips to World Youth Day, when he came across an ad for the family meeting. He said it was as if Pope John Paul II had sent him a message from heaven.
He immediately felt called to attend and told Janell about it. Then they found out the cost. But that discouragement gave way to a rebirth of excitement when they found out they could fly free on a U.S. Air Force cargo plane through the Space Available program.
The catch was that the family wouldn’t know whether they could get a seat onboard
until the last minute.
“It’s precarious. We won’t know until it happens,” Mr. Tuncap said. “It’s all prayer. If it’s God’s will it’s God’s will.”
Prayers have been winging heavenward from the beginning, starting with registration. At $2,000, the non-refundable fee was a huge gamble, considering the Tuncaps didn’t have a guaranteed flight.
They decided to take the risk, but the transaction wouldn’t go through. Mr. Tuncap started praying to St. Rita, patron of impossible causes, and suddenly an option popped up offering registration for $116, total.
Ethan, the oldest child, called it the first family miracle. The Tuncaps paid for themselves and another family as well, as a gesture of thanks.
The conference runs May 30 to June 3, and their first chance at Space-A seating was May 19. Once again, God was with them, and they all obtained seats on the plane. They are now staying with families in Milan and eventually Rome.
Ethan and Aveah said they’ve been on flights before and aren’t nervous at all, even though cargo flights are loud and bumpy affairs. With childlike enthusiasm, they look forward to the excitement of their journey, especially meeting the pope.
Pope Benedict XVI will preside over several events at the gathering, including a Mass with thousands of families.
Mr. Tuncap said attending the World Family event is the next step in an intense faith journey.
Growing up in Guam, he started attending church very reluctantly at age 16 at the insistence of his parents. On a whim, he went to World Youth Day, and it was on that pilgrimage, listening to the stories of others, that he realized the true love of God.
From there, he went through discernment for the priesthood, but decided what he really wanted was to be a husband and raise good children. Shortly after that he met Janell.
Because the stories from his youth events made such an impact, Mr. Tuncap is especially eager to hear from other families at the world meeting.
The Tuncaps note they are not the hale and hearty type, shaking hands and calling out “Praise God!” They live their lives simply and let their faith speak for itself.
“We don’t wake up saying we’re going to be holy,” he said. “It’s like brushing your teeth, it’s just routine.”
The family tries to honor the three altars: church, the dinner table, and time between
husband and wife so they are in communion with each other, Mr. Tuncap said.
Every night at dinner, each child says an individual prayer, even Elyjah, who thanks “Jesus Rice, the cross. Amen.”
Mrs. Tuncap said they are just like any other family. They have their ups and downs and strive to balance family, work and celebration, which is the world meeting theme.
“We’re just normal people who are filled with the love of God,” she said.
Her face lights up when she talks about her children, telling tales of how they play church, and pretend to be popes and priests, or Mary and Joseph. They don’t pay much attention to their regular toys.
The couple smiles at each other as they talk about how they resolve arguments. Mrs. Tuncap said her husband is blessed with humility and knows how to joke her out of a bad humor.
This was an important task as the family of seven packed for a flight that hinged on available space.
But the Tuncaps were not worried. They believed it would be the second family miracle, and so it was, carrying them across the heavens to see the pope.
CNS photo by Mic Smith