New ministry equips grandparents to pass along the faith

| Susan Klemond | September 1, 2016 | 0 Comments
Katherine Kersten speaks on: "Intergenerational Faith: A Key to Reviving Our Spiritual Heritage" at the Catholic Grandparent Conference. Photo courtesy Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis Office of Evangelization and Catechesis

Katherine Kersten speaks on: “Intergenerational Faith: A Key to Reviving Our Spiritual Heritage” at the Catholic Grandparent Conference. Photo courtesy Susanna Bolle Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis Office of Evangelization and Catechesis

Carl and Susan Keeney began teaching their granddaughter about the Catholic faith while she lived with them during the first years of her life. The girl is now 10 and the couple, parishioners at St. Vincent de Paul in Brooklyn Park, has continued to teach her. They helped prepare her for baptism this spring, but to their disappointment, the girl’s mother (their former daughter-in-law) wouldn’t allow her to be baptized.

“It’s been very, very tough for us to see that,” said Carl, 68.

The Keeneys attended an Aug. 27 conference for grandparents called “The Gift of Being Grand” at Mary, Mother of the Church in Burnsville to find tools to continue pursuing their hope for their grandchildren to become Catholic and their three sons to return to the faith.

God has given the Keeneys and all grandparents the mission of passing the faith on to their grandchildren, who often aren’t receiving it from their parents, speakers told 350 grandparents, parish leaders and priests at the conference, also the launch of a new archdiocesan Catholic Grandparent Ministry. Through their prayer, personal sharing and example, grandparents can offer a vibrant witness of the Catholic faith to their adult children and grandchildren.

“If we allow a generation to be broken from the faith, then it makes it that much more difficult to bring them back to the Church,” said Crystal Crocker, interim director of the archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, which co-sponsored the conference with the Office of Marriage, Family and Life. “I think God’s calling us now not only to pray, but also to pass on the faith through our actions wherever we can.”

The conference gave grandparents in different age groups opportunities for prayer and resources for sharing the faith through topics including Pope Francis and the role of grandparents, God’s message to grandparents, intergenerational faith, challenges and prayer.

Grandparents’ role

Beyond the conference, the Catholic Grandparent Ministry, developed through the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, encouraged grandparents and parish leaders to start parish prayer and study groups, along with attending regional meetings.

Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens, who shared some of Pope Francis’ teachings on grandparents, said in a society where many are focused on themselves, grandparents can show how to focus on others.

“Pope Francis says you have a special gift to give,” Bishop Cozzens said. “One is the gift of prayer and how important it is to be able to pray, both for yourself and others. Second, by reaching out to young people and sharing with them the wisdom they don’t have.”

Grandparents’ role in society today is undefined, and they can be more intentional in passing on the faith, said Katherine Kersten, a writer, attorney and senior policy fellow at the Center of the American Experiment in Golden Valley.

“Grandparents can provide a rich context of meaning that helps children make moral sense of the world and assists them in answering . . . questions such as why am I here, how should I live, [and] what will happen when I die?”

Catholic speaker Jeff Cavins told attendees that the Bible speaks about grandparents’ role in influencing their grandchildren.

“The Scriptures show that we have a duty as grandparents to leave an inheritance and a legacy to our children,” said Cavins, developer of “The Great Adventure” Catholic Bible study program. “You are part of passing on that inheritance.”

Cavins also noted that grandparents with regrets about raising their children may gain a second chance as they reach out to their grandchildren.

Helping form disciples

But grandparents need a plan to bring their children and grandchildren back to the faith, said Judy Cozzens, a volunteer with the grandparent ministry and presenter who is the mother of Bishop Cozzens. She shared seven practices for passing on the faith, including prayer, telling stories, reading the Bible and sharing.

When praying for grandchildren, our prayer life becomes more about giving spiritual life to others and allowing suffering to bear fruit in others, said Father Jonathan Kelly, formator and spiritual director at St. John Vianney college seminary. He suggested praying a daily rosary and offering masses for family members.

One means of helping become grandchildren disciples is taking them to mass, after first preparing them, said Father Joseph Bambenek, St. Pius X pastor and Catholic Grandparent Ministry chaplain. Grandparents should tell them why they attend, and afterward share the experience,

At another session, Crocker advised grandparents to lead first with words of grace when talking to adult children outside the faith and the truth might strike them later. Also, follow adult children’s wishes about their children and faith, and find ways outside the faith to teach basic lessons.

Kim Doyle, 59, has started a parish grandparents discussion, prayer and service group at St. Joseph in Rosemount, the first parish group to form as part of the Catholic Grandparent Ministry. The parish will start a study program called the Grand Adventure, promoted by the archdiocese, she said. The Catholic Grandparent Ministry has developed a plan for starting parish groups, available through catholicgrandparenting.org.

Carlyle Sweeney said he found useful tips and encouragement at the conference that will help in  his relationships with his children and grandchildren.

“It’s just encouraged me and strengthened me that we have to keep working together and it’s educating and learning the best ways to communicate and to get the word to our kids and grandchildren and the old ways are not always the right ways.”

Kim Doyle’s husband, Shawn, 58, said, “This is all about educating grandparents, giving them some tools to help with their grandchildren and helping them understand the impact they have on their family.”

Grandparents shouldn’t underestimate their role, said Bishop Cozzens, citing Pope Francis:

“How beautiful is the encouragement that an elderly person manages to pass off to a young person who is seeking the meaning of faith and of life.”

For information about resources and events for grandparents, and about forming a parish grandparents group, visit CatholicGrandparenting.org or call 651-291-4411.

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