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 | By Natalie Burt

Grandparents are Our Role Models of Faith

Dec. 20, 2022, marked a special day that changed my life forever. My daughter gave birth to her first child and my first grandchild. Florence Josephine was born at 5:46 a.m. and weighed 6 pounds 15 ounces. Moments after birth, she was holding her head up and even now, she continues to mesmerize all with her big blue eyes. Yes, I was and am in love. People had shared with me how the love that you have for a grandchild is like no other, and I too have found that to be true.

For multiple years I taught confirmation at our parish. Each class came with a variety of students from different backgrounds, families and schools. Some knew their faith, most did not — or at least not well. But with each class, I posed the same question, “Who has been your role model in the faith?” Would you guess that hands down the most common answer was “my grandma” or “my grandpa”? Every single time and with every single class, their answers consistently were that grandparents are the role models of our faith.

Grandparents, you have an instrumental job to pass on the faith to your grandkids, even if you don’t realize it. Kids today can seem uninterested, disengaged or aloof, acting like they don’t care. But believe me, they do care, and they are mindfully observing how your faith impacts your life. The modeling of faith and involvement in the parish influences them in ways that a parent cannot. A grandparent’s witness or sharing won’t be interpreted by them as being controlling or “shoving it down their throats.” They might have that attitude regarding their parents, since in the teen years, kids are naturally trying to separate and find their own way. The practice of your faith will be seen as Grandma just being Grandma, or Grandpa just being Grandpa. You have the privilege of modeling and sharing your faith in ways that only you can.

My father-in-law John is a proud parent to 9 children (his, hers and ours), a grandparent to 41 and a great-grandparent to 26 — a total of 76. However, if you include the spouses, that total is currently 101. On a particular visit, he showed me his system for praying for each person in the family by name. He has each person’s name on an Excel spreadsheet along with a prayer intention, birthday and anniversary date. Every morning, he prays a rosary bead for each individual until every loved one has been prayed for. I am in awe of this dedication and sustaining love and prayers that he gives each family member.

Then, there is my own mother Therese. She has been a director of religious education at a very small parish in Indiana for 35 years. One of her favorite activities is vacation Bible school. She loves how music energizes the kids. She loves decorating and spends hours turning the rooms into majestic scenes from the Bible or a theme-related setting. She enjoys all the creativity in the snacks, games, Bible lessons and crafts. In the early years, she loved sharing this ministry with her own kids. Now, she delights in seeing the participation of her grandchildren. It’s her way of sharing the faith, and she is amazing at it.

While most of us aren’t on staff at our parish or have an Excel spreadsheet to keep up with the names of people in our family, each of us has something we can share to plant the seeds of faith in the younger generations. Of course, many of us can pray for our family’s conversion, protection or healing, but there are countless other opportunities to fuel the action of God working in our family’s lives.

Here are some practical ideas, and while this is in no way an exhaustive list, hopefully it can spark some ideas!

  1. Personally live your faith by going to Mass and adoration, praying or participating in a ministry.
  2. Openly talk about your faith. Share answered prayers. Share how God has worked in your life.
  3. Gift religious items, books or stickers. Buy grandkids a cross for the wall in their bedroom. Give them holy water. Give teens a religious item for their keychain.
  4. Offer to take a grandchild to Mass, faith formation, confession or a vacation Bible school.
  5. Pay for mission trips, youth retreats or conferences.
  6. Suffer well! Offer up your aches and pains or illness for love of others.
  7. Build your relationship with them. Teach children a new skill or how to cook a family recipe. And here’s a hint: Never ask them if they want to. Instead, let them know that you want to do this with them and carve out the time.
  8. Play games with your grandchildren.
  9. Gift something that they do with you like movie tickets, ice cream, sports games, painting pottery, etc.
  10. Look for opportunities to make memories.

While some of the above aren’t specifically sharing the faith, they can strengthen your relationship and provide opportunities for discussion.

Grandparents are called to participate in the crucial role of passing on the faith to future generations, whether through prayer or an active ministry. Many times grandparents can feel lonely and not needed. Their children rarely visit, or they only see their grandchildren at celebratory events. It’s certainly not enough time to establish and sustain a meaningful relationship. However, whether frequent or rare, each moment can influence them in ways unseen. You can be and are a witness and model of faith. That legacy will be passed on.

As Pope Francis said, “There is no retirement age from the work of proclaiming the Gospel and handing down traditions to your grandchildren.”

Find out more about grandparents passing on the faith at

Did you know?

Sept. 10 is National Grandparent’s Day. While Pope Francis inaugurated the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne as World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly — July 26 annually, their feast day — in the United States the celebration is moved to the first weekend after Labor Day. This is so the celebration coincides with the national holiday and so that it does not get overshadowed by Natural Family Planning Week, which begins the Sunday before July 25 each year. We celebrate World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly Sept. 10 this year.

Natalie Burt is the Family Ministry Coordinator for the Office of Family Life. Email her at