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The quiet influence of grandparents

My grandson came to my parish festival last Sunday. This is more remarkable than it sounds. Through a wonderful and dramatic turn of events, I recently moved from the North Carolina coast, where I lived over 30 years, to central North Carolina, where I began a new ministry and a new life. Tommy and his mom and dad live less than an hour’s drive from the church where I worship and work. I arrived just in time to celebrate Tommy’s first birthday next month.

My first weekend on my new job happened to correspond with the festival. My daughter Katie, Tommy, and I attended. Organized by our Hispanic parishioners, the festival was amazing: Latin music, dance, delicious homemade food (grilled chicken, goat tacos, tortillas made from scratch), games for the children, even pony rides.

While Tommy was too young to participate, he was fascinated. Sitting in the shade, eating our lunch, I said to Tommy, “When you’re visiting Nana, I’ll bring you to church here.”

After I said it, I asked Katie, “That’s all right, isn’t it?”

“Of course,” she replied.

Like many young adults, Katie and her husband, both raised Catholic, are not attending Mass regularly. My hope is that they will find a parish home in the near future, but in the meantime, I’ll tread lightly. I’ve tried the heavy-handed approach, and it’s backfired. In its small way, my parish festival was a chance for Katie to see a different side of parish life. She was as smitten with the experience as was her little boy.

My new life, closer to my only grandchild, allows me an opportunity to get to know him in a way that wasn’t possible when I lived over 200 miles away. I’ve even agreed to help Katie and Tom with childcare when my work schedule permits. I’m thrilled to have a chance to be a big part of my grandson’s life, just as my grandparents were a big part of my childhood.

Being a grandmother for almost a year has caused me to reflect on how influential grandparents can be in their grandchildren’s lives.

Working in parish ministry, I’ve often witnessed young adults return to the Catholic Church to complete their Sacraments of Initiation because they remembered going to Mass with their grandparents, even though their own parents didn’t take them to any church. In adulthood, they chose for themselves to become Catholic because of their grandparents’ quiet influence.

My experience has shown me that we grandparents are more influential than we may realize. Even if our children and grandchildren fail to acknowledge our influence, we should not become discouraged. In almost every case, however, we must measure our words carefully.

How we live our faith is far more compelling than any words we use.

In our lifetimes, we may never realize the profound effect we may have on our grandchildren. But we can be assured, if we live prayerfully, compassionately, and faithfully, God’s grace is present and in all ways profound.

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