FORT MILL, South Carolina — The responsibility of passing on beliefs in many families is increasingly falling on the shoulders of grandmas and grandpas.
With that in mind, a new group has formed in the Charleston Diocese to help grandparents take a more active role in evangelizing and strengthening the faith of both their grandchildren and other young people in the community.
The first meeting of South Carolina’s premier chapter of the Catholic Grandparents Association was May 4 at St. Philip Neri Church in Fort Mill.
Organizers said the meeting was intended mainly as an information and brainstorming session to find out what people want and need from the group and to come up with ideas for sharing the faith.
Founder Catherine Wiley started the Grandparents Association in Ireland in 2009, and the organization now includes chapters in the United Kingdom, the Philippines and the United States.
In a 2018 interview with The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper of the Diocese of Charleston, Wiley said grandparents are an important source of catechesis in families because these days both parents frequently work, and busy schedules and the overall secular culture make it difficult for families to practice their faith together or even to attend Mass.
Grandparents are sometimes the only ones available in a young person’s life with strong knowledge of the faith and the time to share it.
“They may be the only practicing Catholic members of their family … they are key to passing on the faith because they are rooted in it,” Wiley said.
Organizer Cynthia Wood, a member of St. Philip Neri, has a 3-year-old grandson and said her role as grandmother has given her new perspectives on the contributions grandparents can offer to the
“I know how instrumental grandparents can be in helping their grandchildren learn about their faith, especially if they can be there and be part of their daily lives by taking them to Mass, praying with them and teaching them,” Wood said.
She offered a simple example: When her grandson was a baby, she gave him a mobile of the Nativity scene to hang in his bedroom. Now, at 3, he knows all of the people by heart.
The goal of the association is to help participants reach out to young people in their families, whether they live close or far away. Wood said training in the use of technology and social media to evangelize is one possibility for the group.
Christy Brown, with the Charleston Diocese’s Family Life Office, is another organizer of the group. She has one granddaughter who lives overseas, but she shares the faith with her as much as she can. Brown also teaches confirmation classes at her parish and said she realized how crucial grandparents are when she asked students who was their greatest influence in the Catholic Church.
“Nine out of 10 students told me that influence was their grandparents,” Brown said.
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Knauss is a reporter at The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper of the Diocese of Charleston.
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