Detroit Stories Episode 52: 'The Elders Project' (PODCAST)

Gesu parishioner Pat Jones is on a mission to capture stories of faith, resiliency and courage from community's senior members

(0:02) Emmett Moten Jr., a 79-year-old member of Gesu Parish in Detroit, talks about growing up Catholic as an African-American in the South, where racism and segregation were prevalent parts of daily life.

(2:00) Pat Jones, a writer, producer, storyteller and parishioner of Gesu, talks about her latest initiative, The Elders Project, in which she seeks to capture the stories of older Gesu parishioners like Moten and 95-year-old Beatrice Ward, the first Black woman to integrate Gesu School in 1963, to preserve for future generations.

(4:55) Jones describes the urgency of the project. Each year, dozens of Gesu parishioners pass away, and with them, generational stories of faith that define the century-old parish and its community. Fr. Lorn Snow, SJ, Gesu’s pastor, talks about his support for the project.

(7:30) Moten talks about his interactions with Jones, who persuaded him to tell his story, which includes anecdotes about his childhood, living through segregation not only in the wider culture, but even in the Church.

(10:38) Jones describes the emotions of listening to stories like Moten’s and Ward’s. Many of the stories The Elders Project seeks to capture bring up a wide range of emotion both for listeners and for the storytellers themselves, Jones says.

(12:37) Jones talks about her desire to grow the project by capturing stories from dozens of Gesu parishioners, and eventually, expanding the vision to other parishes. She describes the resiliency of the Gesu community.

(15:01) Jones and Fr. Snow make the connection between storytelling and evangelization. Fr. Snow calls the project “an incredible tool” for evangelization, given the personal faith and testimonies of the elders being interviewed.

(16:56) The narrator describes the importance of capturing stories from “the Silent Generation” — who remains dutifully present for daily Mass, adoration and ministries in parishes across the Archdiocese of Detroit — before it’s too late.

Reporting by Gabriella Patti; narration by Fr. Craig Giera; script by Casey McCorry; production by Ron Pangborn

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