A couple joins hands in prayer during the Our Father in St. Denis Church, Manasquan, July 23. Mike Ehrmann photo
A couple joins hands in prayer during the Our Father in St. Denis Church, Manasquan, July 23. Mike Ehrmann photo
Dorothy Dougherty loves being a grandparent. Although she never knew her own grandparents – and often wishes she had – now that she’s a grandmother, she’s determined to make the most of it.

“It’s a thrill,” Dougherty said, sharing that it’s her desire to have a strong relationship with her grandchildren and be an example for them in all ways, especially when it comes to passing on the Catholic faith.

Dougherty reflected on grandparenting following the July 24 Mass celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., in St. Charles Borromeo Church, Cinnaminson, as part of the diocesan observance of the second annual World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. The Bishop also celebrated a Mass July 23 in St. Denis Church, Manasquan.

“In my own life, I was blessed to know three of my four grandparents. They were beautiful and loving people,” the Bishop said in his homily to the two faith communities.

Noting how delighted he was to see so many grandparents and elder members present for both Masses, the Bishop said, “Your presence today, as the whole of your lives, bears witness to the great faith that has brought you to the present moment.  So many years!  So many memories!  So many joys and sorrows!  So, much of a life that has been – through it all – God’s gift to you!”

The World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly observance was inaugurated last year by Pope Francis who called for it to be an annual celebration held on the fourth Sunday of July, nearest to the Feast of Sts. Joachim and Ann, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary and grandparents of the Lord Jesus.

“Pope Francis invites all the faithful to reach out in love to our grandparents, but also to those who may not be grandparents, those who have grown old in our midst, including those priests who have served us as our spiritual parents and grandparents,” Bishop O’Connell said.

The Bishop also encouraged the congregations to remember the elderly that weekend with an invitation, a visit, a card or gift, a phone call or message – “some reminder that they are not alone. [That] would be among the best ways to celebrate this World Day,” he said. “The Holy Father asks us all to let the elderly know that they are not forgotten – that we are grateful for them, that we care for them, that we pray for them, that they continue to be an important part, active part of our lives.”

An Enjoyable Day

Both St. Denis and St. Charles Borromeo Parishes aimed to make the diocesan observance of World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly memorable by providing welcoming environments and festive hospitality. There were opportunities for parishioners to greet the Bishop after Mass and receptions were held where they could enjoy refreshments and camaraderie.

At the start of Mass in St. Denis Church, there was a slideshow presentation showing photographs of treasured moments between grandparents and their grandchildren as the children were preparing to receive Sacraments in the Church. There was also an icon of Sts. Joachim and Anne enshrined in the sanctuary as well as an invitation for seniors to join the parish’s Grandparents’ Guild. The parish also offered both a “snack to go” for those who were on the run, as well as a more substantial reception in St. Denis School cafeteria with sandwiches and cupcakes arranged in the shape of a Rosary. Crafts for grandparents and grandkids to do together, as well as games and prizes were also available. 

Veronica Garrett, head of the active Grandparents’ Guild, told of how the members meet monthly to share best practices of grandparenting.

“Our ministry is devoted to modeling a Christian way of life for our grandchildren,” she said, noting that the ministry includes persons who may not be grandparents, “but serve or have served as role models for so many of us. I see the role of grandparents and the elderly, with their wisdom and experience, as vital for the spiritual development of our youth. In light of what the secular world has to offer, we need to respect and support them always.”

Garrett stressed, “We encourage all grandparents and the elderly to come pray with us as we touch the hearts, minds, and souls of our grandchildren as they grow in their Catholic faith. We strive to be the best version of ourselves as grandparents.”

Sharing Perspectives

Similar to Dougherty, who attended Mass with her daughter Kristine Dougherty and grandchildren, Molly and Sean Ruggiero, other multigenerational families expressed appreciation for the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly observance.

Mary Neary of Sacred Heart Parish, Riverton, was heartened to hear Bishop O’Connell speak about grandparents helping to hand on the faith to their grandchildren. That’s something Neary strives to do with her own grandchildren as they grow up in a world where faith is not readily discussed.

“I try to impress upon them to have faith and trust in God, at all times but especially during the hard times,” she said.

Neary’s 11-year-old grandson, Benjamin Warwick, added that he recognizes how his “Nana” and grandfather, Kevin Neary, “do so much for us … They are always there for us. They love us and try to teach us to follow our faith.”

Father Dan Kirk, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, viewed the global observance of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly as being “a beautiful witness of what our Church professes in the building of generations of faith and recognizing the importance of families.”

The day, said Father Kirk, “is about something that involves the wider Church, not just our parish. Our whole Diocese, our whole world is celebrating today and that’s a beautiful thing.”

To view the photo gallery from the Mass in St. Denis Parish, Manasquan, click here

To view the photo gallery from the Mass in St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Cinnaminson, click here.