Pope Declares Grandparents’ Day
Grandparents and elderly need to be remembered, visited, learned from Pope Francis says
By Margarita Mendoza, El Observador Editor
July 1, 2021
‘Grandparents are the link between generations, passing on the experience of life and faith to the young” Pope Francis said in declaring World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.
The day is to be celebrated for the first time on July 25.
“Grandparents are often forgotten and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on,” the pope said, adding, “World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, … will be held throughout the Church every year on the fourth Sunday of July, close to the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ ‘grandparents.’”  
Pope offers plenary indulgence on July 25
Pope Francis has granted a plenary indulgence to grandparents, the elderly and the faithful on the first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly on July 25.
To obtain a plenary indulgence one must make a sacramental confession, receive Eucharistic communion and pray during the solemn celebration the pope will preside over in St. Peter’s Basilica or at other functions that will be held throughout the world that day.
The plenary indulgence will also be granted “to the faithful who devote adequate time to actually or virtually visiting their elderly brothers and sisters in need or in difficulty,” according to a note from the Apostolic Penitentiary explaining the requirements of the indulgence.
Additionally, the note said, “the plenary indulgence may also be granted to those who are unable to leave their homes for serious reasons and ‘unite themselves spiritually to the sacred functions of the World Day, offering to the Merciful God their prayers, pains or sufferings of their lives, especially during the transmission, through the means of television and radio, but also through the new means of social communication.’ ”
After the celebration of the Angelus on Jan. 31, Pope Francis said, “It is important for grandparents to meet their grandchildren and for grandchildren to meet their grandparents, because — as the prophet Joel says — grandparents, before their grandchildren, will dream, and have (great desires), and young people, taking strength from their grandparents, will go forward and prophesy.”  
Pandemic worsens isolation
Since March 2020, the elderly have been isolated, particularly in nursing homes, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and have had little if any physical contact with loved ones.
“It was very sad,” said Cecilia Jelinek, whose grandmother Margarita López died in a long term care facility due to COVID. “The isolation was very difficult for her because she couldn’t communicate in English.” Jelinek said the staff was supportive, but eventually her grandmother forgot her second language due to her Alzheimer’s illness and only was able to interact in Spanish. 
Adela Flores, Jelinek’s mom, visited her own mother  every single day and, from outside the facility, wrote notes on a chalkboard, so López could read them through the window. 
Jelinek, whose husband, John, is diocesan director of Adult Faith Formation, Religious Education and Youth Ministry, says older adults “need a lot of affection. They need to have a lot of contact with their loved ones and they also need to be listened to.”
Love, time, sympathy, help
Father Ricardo Hernández, a diocesan chaplain for the sick and adults in nursing homes, said, “Many elderly people complain about how they have been abandoned by their children, and it brings them joy when I approach them as a priest.”
He has found the elderly “feel very useful when you consult them. I have had the joy of sharing time with elderly people. From them I have received good advice.” 
Father Hernández said, “It is a great idea — Pope Francis’ initiative — to benefit the elderly and hence raise awareness because sooner or later we are going to be elderly as well.” 
Often, older adults end up abandoned in nursing homes after they have dedicated their lives to their families. They become “like old furniture,” said Father Hernández. Aged men and women are left in places they do not know or do not want to be. 
“In this country, sometimes those places are elegant, with magnificent rooms (and) spectacular views. In theory they would have everything there.”
In fact, the things most needed by the elderly, “the affection, love or attention from their children,” becomes scarce. The family “only appears one day before Thanksgiving or Christmas,” he said.
“There are places where the staff is not trained (well) to care for the elderly,” he added. “As a result, they treat them badly, and relatives do not realize it because they do not visit them.”
The sad irony, he said, is that when a parent or a grandparent dies, the family shows lots of affection by writing nice obituaries about the deceased  who would have enjoyed hearing those words when they were alive. 
“But in life their relatives never visited them,” he said.  
There are many adults “full of wisdom in the long term facilities” as well in in their own homes, said Cathy Weightman-Moore, director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Rockford. 
But some elderly could be a challenge for several reasons. Some are ill, physically, mentally or both, and have trouble communicating in a proper or traditional matter. 
Healthy or not, human beings do not stop being persons by aging and, as in any other stage of life, they need to feel loved. They still have the capacity to know when they are valued or rejected by others. 
In keeping with the pope’s wishes for World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, families are encouraged to visit, write and communicate with their loved ones on July 25 and every day.
Check your parish website or bulletin to learn of blessings or events being planned for July 25. 


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