Will focus on their role in the new evangelization
By Dan Russo
WAVERLY — In the United States today, only 43 percent of people under age 40 say religion is very important to them, compared with 60 percent of adults over age 40, according to a 2018 Pew Research Study. In a world where religion seems to be becoming less and less important to young people, how can Catholic grandparents pass on the faith to their grandchildren? How can they also reach out to adult children who may have stopped participating in the church?
Those two essential questions are at the heart of a one day event called “Grandparenting: Leaving a Legacy of Faith” that will be held at St. Mary Catholic Church in Waverly on Aug. 25. Co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Dubuque’s Offices of Adult Faith Formation and Marriage and Family Life, the day will feature a keynote speaker, breakout sessions, a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Michael Jackels and the opportunity for fellowship with other grandparents.
“There are so many grandparents who are struggling to pass the faith to their children and grandchildren,” said Mary Pedersen, director of Adult Faith Formation. “We want grandparents to know that this is part of the new evangelization.”
Pedersen echoed the sentiments of Pope Francis who said, “How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society!”
Both Pedersen and Matt Selby, Archdiocesan Marriage and Family Life director, reported hearing about the need for outreach to grandparents from people around the archdiocese. Selby spent several years working in parish ministry before taking on his current role. He said the most common questions he received from parishioners were those concerning the spiritual lives of their children and grandchildren who were not practicing the faith.
“They would often come to me wondering what to do,” said Selby. “A lot of people don’t know what to do or what to say. (They would ask) how to reach out to them in a positive way.”
Both Selby and Pedersen will be leading breakout sessions during the event, along with Deacon Gary and Kay Aitchison. Selby, a convert to Catholicism from Protestantism, will focus his presentation on how to approach interactions with family members who may not be practicing or who may have left the church and joined another faith tradition.
“Always take the approach of proposing, not imposing,” said Selby.
He added that it is important to develop a good relationship with family members who are not practicing Catholics or belong to another faith.
He also alluded to the importance of prayer and fasting.
Pedersen, a grandmother of eight, will speak about how to be a joyful witness of the faith to grandchildren, while at the same time respecting the beliefs and desires of parents.
“Children hunger and thirst for God,” she said, adding that having a warm relationship with grandchildren can help them “to spark that faith that is enriching and fun.”
Deacon Aitchison and his wife, Kay, have written a small group study for grandparents through the Christian Family Movement and have been active in grandparenting ministry in Ames.
The keynote speaker is Crystal Crocker, director of Evangelization, including Grandparenting Ministry, for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. She is an engaging speaker who has pioneered the outreach to grandparents in her diocese, according to Pedersen. She will give two talks over the course of the day.
All grandparents are invited to the event. It will be held Saturday, August 25 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at St. Mary Catholic Church, 2700 Horton Road, Waverly. For those who register before Aug. 13, the cost is $30. After that date, it is $40. Participants are encouraged to bring photos of their grandchildren. Registration is at www.dbqarch.org/grandparent-day and additional resources for grandparents may be found at www.dbqarch.org/grandparenting.
Anyone with questions can contact -Selby at 800-876-3546 ext. 233 or m.selby
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