Kathy Mironchik remembers approaching Father Michael Ramos, O.F.M. Cap., with the idea of starting a chapter of the Catholic Grandparents Association at St. Joseph’s parish in New Paltz.
“He went flying into his office and came flying back out with information. He was thinking of starting a chapter,” said Ms. Mironchik, who has two grandchildren.
The chapter, the first one in the archdiocese, held its first meeting in April with Mironchik and Donna Dietz as co-coordinators. Father Ramos, a parochial vicar at St. Joseph’s, serves as the spiritual director.
“I never felt so passionate about anything,” said Ms. Mironchik of the chapter that follows the association’s Passing on the Faith motto.
“I worked for 20 years in advertising and 22 years for the school district. I feel now I’m finding a passion.
“We’re all realizing our children are working two or three jobs and our grandchildren are involved with sports, Scouts and other things. We are the ones who have to bring them in, even if it’s just for a little bit of time. A lot of us have fond memories of our grandparents with the faith.
“When I would stay with my grandmother, she would bring us to Mass and say the rosary with us.”
Catherine Wiley founded the Catholic Grandparents Association in 2009, six years after she organized the first National Grandparents Pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Our Lady in Walsingham, England. The U.S. branch of the association was established in Massachusetts in 2012.
Ms. Wiley, a native of Ireland, visited St. Joseph’s on Nov. 6 with Kit Johansen and Marilyn Henry from the Delray Beach, Fla., and Fort Worth, Texas, offices, respectively. Ms. Mironchik attended 8 a.m. Mass with the three visitors. The visitors and Ms. Mironchik met with Ms. Dietz and Father Ramos in the parish center following Mass before entering the friary where Wiley interviewed Ms. Mironchik and Ms. Dietz for a video.
The St. Joseph’s chapter is open to all Catholic grandparents, not just parishioners. Father Salvatore Cordaro, O.F.M. Cap., the pastor of St. Joseph’s, supports the initiative.
“I think any inspired support in our faith building for our children is needed,” said Sue DiSisto, coordinator of parenting and family life education in the archdiocese. “Grandparents love their grandchildren. The children respect and look up to them. Their voices matter in their grandchildren’s lives.
“The backbone of this group is prayer. They’re teaching grandchildren to pray and are praying for each other’s grandchildren. It’s spiritual support.”
The chapter at St. Joseph’s meets on the fourth Tuesday of every month, except for the Tuesday after Christmas. Most meetings draw 20 to 30 grandparents.
Sean Fogarty, a St. Joseph’s parishioner who has one granddaughter, attended his first meeting on Nov. 29 and plans to return.
“I invite them to come to church and go to breakfast afterwards. They were very involved here and life got in the way. They’ve gotten preoccupied with that,” Fogarty said.
“Right now, I don’t see anyone else in their lives that may be involved as much as I am in making the Catholic Church a priority. I don’t want to push them or push them away either. I don’t know how to best encourage or motivate them to come...You want to have what we get from Mass and we want them to have a chance at that too. It’s their choice.”
Father Ramos recalled how his grandmother played an influential role in his decision to become a priest and hopes the grandparents will discuss the faith and encourage their children and grandchildren to attend Mass regularly.
“We have a significant number of children in our religious ed program—probably 300 or more. We don’t see that number of children at Mass,” Father Ramos said. “Sometimes it’s the grandparents bringing kids to church and the parents are missing. So, I thought this would be a way to help us address that issue.
“Parents today for whatever reason are extremely busy and faith seems to be the thing they let slip because of the other things they’re involved in. Kids are involved in so many activities whether it’s athletics or after-school activities. I do the meeting with the parents for baptism, and I know parents are not going to church, but still they have the desire to have their children baptized.”
The chapter held a picnic with more than 60 people attending on Sept. 11, Grandparents Day, and hopes to hold another one in the spring. The group also is planning a trip to the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass.
Ms. Dietz, who has 18 grandchildren and a 19th on the way, hopes that more grandparents will become involved, even those who see their children and grandchildren regularly attending Mass. “When Kathy mentioned one particular family saying we do not need your organization because our grandchildren go to Mass. Well, you know what, they should be here to share their stories and ideas with us who are not doing that well.”