Cathedral celebration includes ice cream and crafting gift baskets for local senior living communities, following pope's lead
DETROIT — Grandparents are the bedrock of families.
They are the guardians of traditions, keepers of family histories, the rallying point during crises and the gathering point during family get-togethers.
More often than not, it is the grandparents’ faith that shapes the family, which is why the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Office of Family Ministry and the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament combined efforts to honor grandparents Sept. 10.
For the past three years, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has set aside the first Sunday after Labor Day as Grandparents Day, emulating the Vatican-established World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly on July 23.
The cathedral hosted a special Mass for grandparents and the elderly celebrated by retired Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Donald F. Hanchon, followed by a service project in which people could write notes and assemble gift bags to give to local seniors and enjoy some ice cream from MJ Northend Parlor, owned by cathedral parishioners Anne and Mark Justice.
“We are celebrating all the grandparents, who received a special blessing from Bishop Hanchon, and we also have some snacks and ice cream,” Nicole Joyce, associate director of family ministry, told Detroit Catholic. “We also have a little service project where they write a little note of encouragement and a medal of St. Anne, the patron of grandmothers. The bag includes some candy, some crosswords, and goodies that we’ll donate to nursing homes in Detroit.”
Bishop Hanchon spoke about his family during his homily, including the relationship he has with family friends from Mexico whose son he fostered years ago. The young man was he was living in the U.S. to study English, Bishop Hanchon said. Now married with four children, he has made Bishop Hanchon an honorary ‘Papa.’”
“When I heard conversations about grandparents, I know what it feels like,” Bishop Hanchon said. “Those who have lived through the birth of a child, and then see them grow to be parents, to witness the growing up of grandchildren, it’s a beautiful dynamic. Watching grandparents smile when they tell me what it’s like to be in charge, but not totally in charge, and that it’s OK to say, ‘goodbye.’’”
Bishop Hanchon reflected on the faith of his own grandparents, who in turned passed it down to his parents.
“When I was born, my father turned 30, same as my mom,” Bishop Hanchon said. “I was thinking of my 30-year-old parents, who were having their fourth kid. I think with gratitude of all the love they had experienced from all the people in their lives, the love they experienced from their grandparents.”
Bishop Hanchon said it can be disconcerting for grandparents today to see the faith dwindle from generation to generation, worrying that they might not be transmitting the faith as much as they would have hoped.
Bishop Hanchon said it's natural to worry about the soul of one’s child or grandchild, but encouraged grandparents to know it is Jesus whom they can always turn to.
“What we hope for in our grandchildren is they be as close to Jesus as we have been,” Bishop Hanchon said. “That they experience his closeness to them and his reconciling presence, his peace-giving presence. My hope is they experience it as many times in their life as I have experienced.”
The congregation gathered in the cathedral courtyard after Mass for the service project and ice cream, allowing time for community with the church’s elderly and an opportunity to reach out to seniors in the neighborhood who might not have that community connection.
Joyce said the gift bags will be going to senior residents at Mission Point of Detroit and Boulevard Temple Detroit, with hopes it will turn into a relationship between the parish and those communities.
“Pope Francis talks about reaching out to the elderly every year in a pastoral note about this particular day,” Joyce said. “One of the things he says is that he himself is elderly, and sometimes people tend to forget about the senior citizens in their communities. When their children grow up and move out, they become isolated. He wants to make sure the Church is intentional about welcoming them into the community and making them feel involved in expressing their thanks for all the roots they planted here in the Church.”