WESTFIELD – Alicia Belanger believes strongly in “passing on the faith” to her eight grandchildren and in that spirit, she started a local branch of the Catholic Grandparents Association (CGA).
The CGA was launched in 2009 by Catherine Wiley of Mayo, Ireland, a grandmother who stands firm in the belief that grandparents play a pivotal role in the contributions they make to their family, the church and society.
Belanger was so taken with the premise of CGA that she asked the Rev. Timothy McDonnell’s permission to start a local branch which was granted more than a year ago.
At the heart of the CGA is encouraging grandparents to strengthen family ties which are essential for the emotional and spiritual well-being of today’s children.
“Grandparents can be forgotten,” Belanger told Reminder Publications. “Some grandparents are not as appreciated between generations. Our branch seeks to help those who want to learn ways to pass on the faith.”
Belanger and a group of grandparents based out of St. Peter & St. Casimir Parish, 22 State St., gathered on the evening of June 17 to show their support for Belanger and encourage others across the Diocese of Springfield to consider starting their own local chapter. Belanger is also available to speak to local parishes on how to start up a chapter.
Madeleine Jaeger, who has 22 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, noted that grandparents should explain to their grandchildren why faith is important in their lives.
“I joined this group to share ways to set a good example,” Jaeger said.
All of the grandparents assembled expressed similar views about joining the CGA, including the importance of networking with others who share similar situations.
“I joined this group to keep me connected with other grandparents who are concerned for the welfare and spiritual life of their grandchildren,” Yvonne Kriesak, a grandmother of three, said.
Gayle Tyler, a grandmother of four plus three great-grandchildren, noted she “prays more for the kids and relies on God to look out for them.”
Ellen Onofrey, who has 11 grandchildren, stated,“I like the support of each other in the group. The group also helps us to pray for our children, and also get good ideas on how to share the faith.”
Ann Crum, with six grandchildren, commented that the members share a common goal. “We are trying to do the same thing in our own way,” she said.
John Murphy cited the importance of spirituality during the group’s gathering. “We want our grandchildren to carry and share the same values we have,” he said.
Gary Belanger added that grandparents “want to be good role models, from teaching how to make the sign of the cross to praying.”
Joanne Osowski, with 11 grandchildren, echoed Belanger’s sentiments.
“With the times we’re living in, it seems religion is not always stressed,” she said, adding that sports and extracurricular activities seem to take precedent over attending church. “If we are more aware of our faith we are more prone to pass it on.”
All members agreed that instilling a simple habit of saying a prayer at bedtime is a good start.
For Wanda Brennan, a grandmother of five, her goal is simply to “pray for them each day.”
Dolly Fisher, who has five grandchildren and one great-grandchild, added she prays for her grandchildren “to keep them on the right track.” Fisher smiled as she added, “So far, so good.”
Therese Hentnick, a grandmother of 13, also prays for her grandchildren each day, adding her prayers include “them to have a happy life and to come to God.”
Leo Surniak, a newer member and grandfather of two, emphasized that prayer as a “community is very strong.”
Alicia Belanger thanks God each day that she can continue the local chapter in the hope it inspires others across the Diocese of Springfield.
“The Holy Spirit will guide us,” Belanger said.
The group meets the first Tuesday of each month at 11 a.m. for a novena for grandchildren, and on the first Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. in the church’s social center to network and share ideas of how to pass on the faith. Membership is free.
Belanger is also organizing the second annual Grandparents’ Pilgrimage on Sept. 7 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge.
The day includes a gathering service with children’s choirs and a birthday party with cake for the Blessed Mother, Shrine tours, a rosary procession along the outdoor Stations of the Cross, a visit by the Children of Fatima, Eucharistic Adoration, time for a picnic and family activities, and a Mass of Thanksgiving for Grandparents. Preregistration is requested. For more information, contact Belanger at 568-0123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the CGA, visit www.catholicgrandparentsassociation.com