Speaker to grandparents: Bring God to grandchildren

| Melenie Soucheray | May 17, 2017 | 1 Comment

Amid the hustle and bustle of family life, there are people who can cut through secular influences and nurture a child’s faith. Depending on the family, they’re known as “Gobby and Pa,” “Gigi and Pops” or sometimes simply “grandma and grandpa.”

Mary Pedersen

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ Office of Evangelization and Catechesis hosted the first in a series of regional grandparents meetings May 10 aimed at sharpening grandparents’ faith-building skills. Dozens gathered at St. Pius X in White Bear Lake, which co-sponsored the event, to celebrate the Eucharist, pray the rosary and to hear Mary Pedersen speak about “Passing on the Faith: Naming Grace in the Domestic Church.”

Pedersen, known as “Mimi” to her eight grandchildren, serves as the director of adult faith formation for the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa. She has degrees in religious studies, and ministry and preaching.

“I love being a mom, but being a grandmother is much better,” said Pedersen, who has six children. “[Grandparents] get to see the world anew through the eyes of these little ones.”

And, she doesn’t have to make any more parenting decisions, she added.

“They say for children to grow up healthy and happy, they need at least five caring adults in their lives. At least five,” Pedersen stressed. “We [grandparents] had better be one of those five.”

Pedersen’s 39-year-old daughter remembers her late grandmother as her best friend.

“She said, ‘Mom, it’s because I could just be me.’ We can be that type of person,” Pedersen said.

Pedersen noted documents from the Second Vatican Council that cite parents as the primary catechists and first preachers to their children. Furthermore, Pope Francis has encouraged Catholics to “name grace” by making God’s presence more visible in the home and beyond.

Pedersen urged grandparents to praise God in front of children.

“Speak of God when God is present,” she said. “The more we name grace, the more we’ll experience grace.”

Upcoming events

Grandparent Study Group Training Workshop
• 5:30–7 p.m. May 24
• Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis
(St. Joseph Hall), 777 Forest St., St. Paul
• Free-will offering ($10 suggested donation)
A light dinner will be served.

Grandparents Technology Workshop
• 5:30–7 p.m. June 14
• Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis
(St. Joseph Hall), 777 Forest St., St. Paul
• Please bring a cell phone, tablet or laptop for this hands-on workshop.
• Free-will offering ($10 suggested donation)
A light dinner will be served.

For more information about these events and to register, visit rediscover.archspm.org, or contact Susanna Bolle at 651-291-4411 or bolles@archspm.org.

Several grandparents in the audience nodded in agreement. Others were hearing the advice for the first time.

Jeff and Debbie Lentsch, both 68, are members of St. Joseph in West St. Paul. They have two children and three grandchildren.

“When I came and I saw the name of this speech, I thought, ‘Boy, I don’t get this connection right now,’” Debbie said. “Now, it will be a conscious thing. We can look for that opportunity to name the grace, bring God to them and let us see God in everything.”

Jeff said one of his takeaways was to send grandchildren handwritten notes.

Lilee Perera, 77, a member of Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul, has five grandchildren. She gave one of her granddaughters, Grace, a medal depicting Our Lady of Grace for her first Communion. When Grace recognized the shared name, she smiled, Perera recalled.

“The Holy Spirit was with me when I said, ‘Grace, I was thinking Jesus will see your medal and say, ‘“That’s my Mom.”’ I think it’s the Holy Spirit who knows what the child should hear,” she said.

Crystal Crocker, interim director of the archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, and soon-to-be-grandmother, explained that prioritizing grandparents seemed like a good strategic move. The office, with the archdiocesan Office of Marriage, Family and Life, launched the Catholic Grandparent Ministry with a major conference in 2016.

“Grandparents play a big role in the family and are very important to the faith formation of children,” Crocker said.

The 350 people who attended the first conference seemed hungry for support, Crocker said. They wanted practical ways to be credible witnesses to their own spiritual lives, so they could pass their faith on to the next generations. A core group of advisers was formed to suggest next steps, which included the regional program.

Patti Ries, pastoral care associate at St. Pius X, is one of the grandparent ministry advisers, with Father Joe Bambenek, St. Pius X pastor, serving as the group’s spiritual director.

“We help our grandparents be the ones who share the truth and goodness of the Catholic faith with their grandchildren and children, [and] to live as authentic witnesses of Jesus in the world today,” Ries said.

Father Bambenek noted that the ministry empowers grandparents to take back the role that God intended for them in the lives of their grandchildren.

“Intergenerational encounters are a crucial part of what it means to be human beings. We’ve kind of lost that in our culture now,” he said.

For more information about upcoming grandparents’ programs in the archdiocese, visit rediscover.archspm.org.

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