Families from the Lumen Christi Cohort, which comprises five parishes, commemorate the Feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne during a Mass celebrated July 26 in Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Hamilton. Mary Stadnyk photos
Families from the Lumen Christi Cohort, which comprises five parishes, commemorate the Feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne during a Mass celebrated July 26 in Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Hamilton. Mary Stadnyk photos

By Lois Rogers | Correspondent

Catholic scholars are fond of pointing out that the most highly blessed grandparents in history are St. Anne and St. Joachim, whose grandson was Jesus Christ.

So when Hamilton’s Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish decided this year to honor grandparents with a Mass and festive social, the marriage ministry team planning the event set the date for July 26, the memorial of Sts. Joachim and Anne.

“So often in today’s society, [grandparents] wind up … spending time caregiving or due to societal issues, actually raising their grandchildren,” Barbara Dohrenwend, a member of the parish marriage ministry, said in explaining the importance of “looking into more ways we can honor the role grandparents have in bringing the family together.”

Some 200 grandparents and family members gathered in Our Lady of Sorrows Church to share prayers and fellowship and take part in creative crafts in the social hall with younger generations. Those in attendance came from Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony as well as the partner parishes of the Lumen Christi Cohort: St. Gregory the Great, Hamilton Square; St. Raphael-Holy Angels, Hamilton; St. John the Baptist, Allentown, and St. Vincent de Paul, Yardville.

Tanya Taylor, a parishioner in St. Gregory the Great and a Cohort team leader, said she was pleased with the turnout from different parishes.

“It’s so important to bring grandparents and grandchildren together in a church setting as a core part of passing on family traditions,” she said.  “It’s so important for children to hear about their families from their grandparents.”

Important Role

Mass was celebrated by Msgr. Sam A. Sirianni, rector of St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, and concelebrated by Msgr. Thomas N. Gervasio, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish and diocesan vicar general, who proposed the idea of observing the popular feast with a Mass that would unite the generations.

In his homily, Msgr. Sirianni looked to Sts. Joachim and Anne, noting that while they are not mentioned in Scripture, there was prominent acknowledgement of their roles in early Christian writing attributed to James.

He explained how Anne and Joachim were distraught because they couldn’t have children; however, through their prayer and from the message of an angel, they learned they were going to become parents and “bring forth new life to the Mother of Life Eternal – Jesus Christ.”

“We see the Mystery of how God uses the Church and each one of us to be bearers of the Good News,” Msgr. Sirianni said.

He smiled as he spoke of the “grandparent glow” and the unconditional love that grandparents have for their grandchildren. He assured the congregation that “St. Joachim and St. Anne have that same grandparent glow for Jesus, for it was from their own flesh and blood they brought forth the child who was to become the mother of the one who reflects hope, joy and promise of life to come.”

Love and Guidance

Sharon and Dominic Conte, members of the Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish marriage ministry who helped plan the day, were among those with the “grandparent glow.” The couple, who sat at a big round table with five of their grandchildren at the social after Mass, could not have been happier.

“We have 10 grandchildren between the ages of eight and 10, and when Msgr. Gervasio suggested this at a marriage ministry meeting, we thought it was great because not enough is done for grandparents in general,” Dominic Conte said. “They get forgotten, and they help so much in guiding children.”

Taylor said she believes grandparents have a very important role in the life of a family – one that should be nurtured and shared. She is eager to hear and share the recordings her own recently deceased grandfather, Maynard Portis Sr., made as a family legacy.

“My grandfather had belief, and he wanted to pass it on,” she said. “He created recordings about his faith and his family. I want my children to hear his recordings and pass them on to generations still to come.”

“Children listen,” she added, looking around at all the wide-eyed youngsters sitting with their grandparents at the social or working on keepsake crafts. “They pick up everything.”