Grandparents’ love for family manifests in prayer

| Josephine von Dohlen | June 23, 2016 | 0 Comments
From left, Lilee Perera of Nativity of Our Lord prays a rosary with Elfriede Falvey, Mary Jean Loomis and other Catholic grandparents for their grandchildren at Nativity June 14. Dave Hrbacek/ The Catholic Spirit

From left, Lilee Perera of Nativity of Our Lord prays a rosary with Elfriede Falvey, Mary Jean Loomis and other Catholic grandparents for their grandchildren at Nativity June 14. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Every Tuesday after the 8:15 Mass, about one dozen grandparents gather in the Marian chapel of Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul to pray the rosary for their grandchildren.

The parish’s Grandparents Apostolate of Sts. Joachim and Anne seeks to build a community of grandparents by uniting in prayer for their grandchildren while supporting one another in Christ.

Founded in 2011 by Father Joseph Bambenek, former parochial vicar of Nativity, and Lilee Perera, 76-year-old grandmother of five, the group will celebrate its fifth anniversary July 26, the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ maternal grandparents and the patrons of grandparents. Its 83 registered members pray for 545 grandchildren and 45 great-grandchildren.

Out of love for her own grandchildren, Perera felt called to reach out to other grandparents after an unsuccessful hunt for a support group with a similar mindset.

“God was beginning to use me as an instrument. Through spiritual direction, I was told to pray and discern about the role of grandparents, so I did,” she said.

Step by step, the apostolate was formed.

“The grandparents apostolate’s mission is founded on this: to know, love and serve God through the grandparents’ vocation and role in the family and society,” she said.

Models of prayer

It wasn’t just Perera’s interior call that led her to form the group. It was also what Perera was observing throughout society that compelled her to pray especially for her family.

“Everything is turned upside down. What was normal for our generation isn’t what is normal today. We have lots of knowledge and wisdom that we can pass on, but our kids seem so busy,” she said. “That is why prayer is so important, not only for our grandchildren, but for all families.”

Barbara Wollan, a 79-year-old retired nurse, is a grandmother of 22 and a great-grandmother of two. She has been part of the apostolate for four years. She was drawn to the mission because of her own personal devotion to the rosary.

“I would hear stories about people’s grandchildren falling away from the Church, so I turned to prayer,” she said. “If I place importance on prayer, especially the rosary, my grandchildren know it is important. Then they are able to go out and spread the faith to others.”

Other grandparents have expressed similar sentiments.

“My wife and I felt like our grandchildren don’t get what they need spiritually. So first, we wanted to educate ourselves so that we could go and encourage our grandchildren,” said Gordon Buesgens, a 75-year-old retired sports official.

He added: “It is different for our grandchildren than it is with our children. It seems they want to get out of church as soon as possible. We want to help them understand the importance of the Eucharist.”

The aspect of education culminates with three celebrations that the apostolate hosts annually. Each event features a speaker to both educate and encourage the grandparents in their work of passing on their faith to their families, as well as to foster a community of support. These celebrations have brought together about 185 grandparents in the past five years. The next event featuring speaker Mary McClure will be held 8:45-10 a.m. July 26 at Nativity.

While Nativity’s apostolate attracts grandparents from more than 30 parishes across the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, similar groups are springing up elsewhere.

Kim Doyle, a parishioner of St. Joseph in Rosemount and member of the Apostolate of Sts. Joachim and Anne, is extending the mission by starting a group in her own parish.

“I wanted to continue to enrich our archdiocese with additional programs for grandparents . . . to build a support group and share what we are doing with others,” Doyle said.

St. Pius X in White Bear Lake also has a grandparents group that focuses on bonding activities for grandparents and their grandchildren.

“We try to be the north metro hub for the grandparents’ initiative,” said Kim Williams, a St. Pius X parishioner.

Recognizing grandparents’ important role, the archdiocese is also partnering with parishes to launch a grandparents initiative and hosting The Gift of Being Grand Catholic Grandparent Conference at Mary, Mother of the Church in Burnsville Aug. 27.

Tags: , , ,

Category: Senior Living