Archbishop urges grandparents to follow examples of Sts. Joachim and Anne

Members of the parish of the Basilica of Ste. Anne carry flowers to the sanctuary in procession during the annual feast of Sts. Anne and Joachim, the grandparents of Jesus, on July 26. On Sunday, Pope Francis celebrated the first-ever World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, timed to coincide with the feast day. (Photos by Valaurian Waller | Detroit Catholic)

Annual feast day at Basilica of Ste. Anne an occasion to celebrate the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, proclaimed by pope

DETROIT  Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron gathered with parishioners from across the Archdiocese of Detroit to celebrate the patron saint of city on July 26 at the Basilica of Ste. Anne. 

Celebrating Mass at a parish whose roots stretch all the way back to the founding of the city in 1701, the archbishop welcomed Ste. Anne parishioners and guests alike to what was one of the largest gatherings assembled at the parish since it was named a minor basilica by Pope Francis on March 1, 2020. 

The Mass featured a reading from the Old Testament book of Sirach: “Now will I praise those godly men, our ancestors, each in his own time.” 

It was a fitting reminder of how it’s proper to honor Sts. Anne and Joachim, the parents of Mary and grandparents of Jesus, who taught what it meant to be a devout Jewish family. 

Archbishop Vigneron preaches about the importance of grandparents in the lives of their children and grandchildren, noting that even Jesus and Mary learned from Sts. Joachim and Anne. 

“What are the reasons for venerating Joachim and Anne? What lessons we can draw in our lives from their example?” the archbishop asked in his homily. “The pope declared Grandparents Day yesterday, on the Sunday closest to the feast of Joachim and Anne. In doing so, the pope is helping us think about something in the lives of Joachim and Anne.” 

The archbishop highlighted grandparents’ role of “reciprocity,” saying it is they who pass on family traditions, memories and customs that give a family its identity. It is grandparents who are tasked in showing their grandchildren “how things are properly done,” the archbishop added. 

“Who taught Jesus how to speak, what was right from wrong — though he always knew right from wrong,” the archbishop asked. “Who taught him how a pious Jewish family observed the Sabbath? It was from Mary and Joseph, but how did Mary know? Because she learned it from Anne and Joachim.”

A statue of St. Anne and the Blessed Virgin Mary is adorned with flowers at the Basilica of Ste. Anne during the feast day celebration July 26. 

For the many grandparents in the congregation, it was comforting hearing about the role Joachim and Anne played in the formation of Jesus, and subsequently the role they have in the formation of their own grandchildren. 

“Tonight’s homily gave me a lot of food for thought and caused me to really ponder how important it is, the idea of reciprocity, and to keep passing along what we have been given,” Judith Jones, a parishioner of St. Paul on the Lake in Grosse Pointe Farms, told Detroit Catholic

“I was thinking about how we have an enormous treasury in in our faith, and the idea that we have to pass it along,” continued Jones, who became a grandmother herself on July 14. “We form the next generation, and this continues on through time. When you walk through the doors of Ste. Anne, you have this idea that this (parish) has been here for so long, since the beginning of our city. It’s an amazing legacy to pass on.” 

The feast of St. Anne has become an annual celebration at the basilica, capping a novena at the 1886-built church — the eight in the parish’s 320-year history.  

A woman clutches a prayer booklet bearing the image of St. Anne during her feast day Mass. 

The novena features Masses celebrating different communities in the Archdiocese of Detroit, including French, Native American, Celtic, Latino, Chaldean, African, Asian and Eastern European. 

People gather from across the archdiocese for the opportunity to venerate the relic of St. Anne — from a distance this year because of COVID-19 restrictions — and to pray at the archdiocesan shrine to St. Anne inside the basilica. 

“I try to come down every year for the novena, but unfortunately we couldn’t do it last year,” said Pat Perrell, a parishioner of St. Lawrence in Utica. “This year, we came down for the Spanish night, the Polish night and tonight (the solemnity). We enjoy the community and being able to worship together as a family. It’s great to see all the different communities, the different ethnicities in our community, coming together in our belief in God.”

Archbishop Vigneron preaches to a large congregation during the feast of Sts. Anne and Joachim at the Basilica of Ste. Anne in Detroit. Ste. Anne was named the patroness of the Archdiocese of Detroit in 2011. 

Following Mass, Msgr. Charles Kosanke, the basilica’s rector, presented the archbishop with a Ghirelli family rosary from the Vatican featuring images of the edifice of Ste. Anne de Detroit, the archdiocesan shrine to Ste. Anne, the women at the Crucifixion, the basilica’s umbraculum — the papal umbrella that signifies a church’s title as a basilica and an image of Fr. Gabriel Richard. 

The archbishop thanked the parish for the gift and encouraged all in attendance to use their lives to give witness to Christ, just as Anne and Joachim did. 

“You are called to show a way of life that the next generation will receive and share with the next generation,” Archbishop Vigneron said, specifically speaking to the grandparents in the congregation. “The world is hungry for a way of life of repentance ... Make part of the celebration of this feast day a response to the will of God, to be instruments of grace in the lives of others.”