Palm Beach Gardens

The diocesan “Grandparents Pilgrimage” held here Oct. 22 was a lovely and powerful celebration with moments of reflection on grandparenting and the impact grandparents have on lives.

“We are so excited,” said Janice Petersen-Minshew, event organizer and coordinator of diocesan Marriage and Family Life Ministry moments before the celebration gathering families from parishes across the diocese. “We have been working on this for weeks, and we are looking forward to a wonderful celebration,” she added.

The pilgrimage took place at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola and included a Mass with Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito, special music and liturgy, and a prayer for grandparents written by the Pope Benedict XVI. A reception followed.

As part of the morning, children were encouraged to submit photos of their grandparents and write special prayers for them, which were then displayed.

“My prayer is Lord Jesus, may you bless my grandma,” said Amori Gonzalez, 7, who carefully and neatly wrote his prayer to his beloved grandmother, Leonidez Gonzalez.

Amori is a parishioner of St. Philip Benizi in Belle Glade and traveled to the cathedral with his grandmother and his brother, Ariel, who also wrote a prayer that filled several cards.

“They give me love and happiness,” said Leonidez Gonzalez, who spends weekends with her grandchildren and accompanies them to Mass every week.

Celebrations also encouraged participants to reflect on the first feast day of Blessed John Paul Oct. 22, a role model who showed his unconditional love to old and young alike until his death in 2005 at the age of 84. Bishop Barbarito said Blessed John Paul continued to emphasize the importance of family life and the message that “family is the future of humanity.”

Bishop Barbarito also talked about St. Joachim and St. Ann, grandparents of Jesus. “Their simple yet powerful example of prayer must have been a source of inspiration for both the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus in his youth,” Bishop Barbarito said. “Our grandparents serve as bridges of the faith in many ways. It is their loving example of faith, hope and love that many times serves as a great witness to the faith of Christ, the message of the Gospels and the sacraments of the Church. We thank our grandparents for being exemplary role models of the faith and witnesses of Christ in our community.”

This year marks the third annual celebration of grandparents in the diocese. At the end of the Mass, Catherine Wiley, a winter resident of Boca Raton who is founder of the Catholic Grandparents Association, an international organization designed to encourage grandparents to pass along the faith, spoke. She spearheaded the grandparents day here in the diocese that is the first pilgrimage in America. It is patterned after pilgrimages held in England and Ireland.

“Grandparenting is the one vocation that might be the most noble of all,” said the woman, who is a grandmother herself.

“Grandparents want the best for grandchildren. There is nothing they won’t sacrifice for their grandchildren. There has never been a greater need for your faithfulness, your experience, your wisdom, your love,” she explained to the grandmothers and grandfathers in the pews. “You are the guardians of handing down the precious gift of faith. We have to do something to assure our grandchildren get the faith they deserve.”