On First Grandparents Day Diocesan
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
July 22, 2021
The first World Day for Grandparents and Elderly takes place on July 25.
Calling Catholics around the world to mark the day after “dramatic months of difficulty,” Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, told reporters Pope Francis invites people to embrace tenderness, especially toward the elderly who suffered so much during the pandemic.
But, he said, the day also is about “the tenderness that grandparents show toward their grandchildren, of the solid guide that the elderly can be for many disoriented children, especially in a time like the one we are living in, in which personal interaction has become rare.”
“Tenderness has a social value,” the cardinal insisted. “It is a remedy we all need, and our elderly are those who can provide it. In a frayed and hardened society emerging from the pandemic, not only is there a need for vaccines and economic recovery — albeit fundamental — but also for relearning the art of relationships. In this, grandparents and the elderly can be our teachers. This is also why they are so important.”
Several priests of the Rockford Diocese were happy to share their memories of their own grandparents with us.
Father Richard Kramer
“By the time I was born in 1940, I had only one grandparent alive and well – my maternal grandmother ... we loved each other very much for the time we spent together here on earth.”
His grandmother’s life was anything but easy. Her husband abandoned her and her six young children. They coped during the Great Depression by fishing, picking up coal by train tracks, attending wakes and eating the provided sandwiches, and moving when they couldn’t pay the rent. A convert, her non-Catholic siblings provided no help and ridiculed her.
She worked in a factory and headed up the Women’s Labor Union in Aurora. And, Father Kramers says, “Grandma sent her kids to Catholic schools somehow” and her children were successful in various careers. He recalls holidays at her house and his grandmother’s presence throughout years of his mother’s serious illness and the births of her children, and her every-two-weeks’ visits to his uncle in an asylum.
“Grandma was a great letter writer ... I especially treasure what turned out to be the very last letter (Grandma) wrote to me while dying from cancer in the hospital. It was filled with love and encouragement.” She died three years before he was ordained, “enthusiastically supporting my decision to be a priest,” he says, although she at first thought he was too young (15) to enter the seminary.
“Grandma taught me how to face huge situations in life with courage.  She taught me how to make do with what I had and how to work hard to keep things going.  She taught me how to be generous with others when it came to food and celebrations ... She taught me how to love my siblings.  She taught me how to suffer silently when things were not going my way,” he says. 
She also modeled forgiveness in accepting her unhelpful siblings later in life and welcoming the wife of her institutionalized son who had abandoned him, remarrying several times, when she came to gatherings.
“She was always an advocate for the underdog, especially for women who were abused. She always called a spade a spade ... Grandma was a great hugger and had one fantastic lap! We all loved to sit in her lap when we were younger. ... .  She worked hard until the day of her death from cancer in her 80’s. 
“She was tough on the inside (but) so warm and sweet to us. It was that toughness that had helped her survive indomitable odds during her separation from Grandpa and all through the Depression and raising all of her six kids. Her faith was very important to her, and she attended Mass faithfully at Holy Angels until her death.  
“I would give anything to see and hear her again. ... I miss her dearly, especially now that I am 80 going on 81 and soon to join her.”
Father Robert Jones
“My grandparents on my mother’s side lived in Dyersville, Iowa (now famous for the Field of Dreams).  “They attended the beautiful St. Francis Xavier Basilica where my parents were married.  
“My grandma, Marie Jaeger, suffered with rheumatoid arthritis, which disfigured her joints and gave her a fair amount of pain. Despite this difficult affliction, she was quite the servant. I always remember the big dinners at her home, and all the work she did for her family, all the while she dealt with this very real pain.  
“My grandfather, Julius Jaeger, was extremely handy. He made a number of things for my grandmother to try to make her life easier. He also included her on all types of activities like fishing, (and that) was something. 
“He would wheel her wheelchair right down to the edge of the fishing pond and then clamp on the brake. What an image: my grandmother right there by the edge of the water in her wheelchair, enjoying all the fun. It often looked like she was about to fall in, but she never did, thankfully.
“I admire their courage, their faith, their grit, and their joyful example of loving service to one another and the larger community.”
Father Tim Piasecki
“Tia Abuela, literally, aunt grandmother (is) Spanish for great aunt. But, because my actual grandmother died before I was born, my two aunts, Gen and Evelyn, took her place as grandmothers to me. 
“They disciplined me when I needed it and praised me when I deserved it. They encouraged my vocation. They were my tias and my abuelas. 
“Grandma Wagner died eight years before I was born. She wanted religious life, but her parents persuaded her to marry. 
“When I showed interest in the priesthood, my family told me that Grandma Wagner had passed her vocation on to me, first born of her grandchild-ren.”
Father Christopher Kuhn
“My mother shared a short reminiscence with me about my grandpa and my grandmother, Jimmy and Frances Burke. At some point when they lived in Des Moines, they became Oblates of St. Benedict. ... 
“As a girl, my mother remembers waking up every morning and listening to her mother and father praying the Psalms together and a few prayers that were encouraged for Oblates to do. This daily witness of prayer was a powerful thing for my mother to experience at home. 
“My grandparents owned a used furniture store in Des Moines, Iowa. My mother remembers a month when very little furniture sold and the bills were coming due. 
“My grandpa, Jimmy Burke, was sitting at his desk writing checks when my mother, Kathye, asked him what he was doing. He lifted her onto his knee and showed her — he was writing checks to various charities. He explained to her that they had had a bad month at the store and he was making an act of faith. 
“He believed the Lord would send him some business so that the checks he was writing would not bounce! She remembers him calling it ‘priming the pump!’ 
“My grandparents had a beautiful, simple belief that their faith and trust in God through actions of charity would be rewarded by our faithful and loving God. I believe it is important to share such stories of faith with our children and grandchildren, so that their witness is not lost.”
Father Thomas Doyle
“My mother’s parents were Sam and Priscilla Cassaro.
“My Nanu, Sam, was a permanent deacon here in the diocese. He baptized me at St. Anthony (of Padua) Church in Rockford after I was born (and) set me on the road of life, holiness, and vocation. In 2007, he vested me as a deacon at the Cathedral of St. Peter. The next year, after my priestly ordination, he served as deacon at one of my Masses of Thanksgiving.  
“I think that God placed him in my life to show me the possibilities and joys of living a life of service to God. I saw in him a model of service and authority.  He passed away Aug. 27, 2009, and I concelebrated his funeral.
“My Nana, Priscilla, like many grandmas, was a prayer warrior. When I would stay at her house, I would wake up in the morning and see her sitting at the kitchen table, saying her prayers. She would regularly host the Pilgrim Virgin statue at her home, and I would go over and join in praying the rosary.
“ I am pretty sure that I made my first ever visit to the Poor Clares with her, which was not unusual as she lived across the street from the monastery and attended Mass there frequently. I saw in her many virtues, but especially humility and patience.  She passed away just about a year ago, August 1, 2020, and I celebrated her funeral.
“One last memory of them: the three of us once had the honor of representing the Holy Family at the St. Joseph Altar at St. Anthony’s. In some sense, that is how I will remember them both: my Nanu as a man in the mold of St. Joseph, my Nana in the mold of the Blessed Mother.
“My father’s mother was named Ellie Adams. Grandma Ellie did not have as much of an impact in my vocational formation as Nana and Nanu. In fact, she did not become a Catholic until much later in life and died before I entered the seminary. 
“But I remember her for other reasons. She was the matriarch of a large family, with many children and grandchildren of different personalities and interests. No matter what, though, she loved them all as her own.  I saw in her what it meant to love and accept others for who they are, and to help unite them into a family.”
Father Gerald Kobbeman 
“My grandmother, Emma Kobbeman, married my grandfather, Henry Sebastian Kobbeman, Feb. 5, 1908, when she was 18 years old. They had five children; my father, Harry Kobbeman, was their third. 
“Grandma’s husband died of a ruptured appendix in 1932. Grandma pulled herself together and managed to stay on the family farm south of Tampico. 
“I remember the fun we had with Grandma when I was in grade school, riding in my cousin’s Thunderbird, being pulled in the snow on a saucer attached to a rope attached to the horn of a saddle. 
“She did not want to miss occasions of fun with her grandchildren. I think one of her favorites was playing canasta with her grandchildren, and believe me, we had to work hard to beat her. She did not lose games so as not to hurt our feelings. 
“I have 10 siblings and when Grandma Kobbeman would visit, she would say, ‘Henry, Bill, Jerry, Jim, whatever your name is, get over here.’
“Grandma Kobbeman was good and faithful at attending Mass. I was 30 years old when Grandma died, and I had the privilege of celebrating her funeral Mass at St. Mary in Tampico, the church where she brought her children to be baptized, and where she regularly attended Mass. Her body rests in St. Mary Cemetery, with a number of her children and family members.
“I am grateful to Grandma Kobbeman for maintaining her commitment to the faith while rearing her children without her husband.”
Father Randy Fronek
“Unfortunately both sets of my grandparents passed away when I was only 3 years old, so I only have fuzzy memories of my one grandmother. 
“But I had a second cousin, who wound up living until she was 104, and she never had any children in her marriage.  She wished that we would have her as our adopted-grandmother, and we promptly agreed.  
“I remember once when she went on vacation with us — we were driving in the car, the 10 hours to visit our cousins in Kansas for the summer, and adopted-grandmother Anna was in the back seat with two of her adopted grandchildren while mom and dad rode in the front seat with one of her adopted grand-children. When my youngest brother sat up front first on the trip, grandmother noted how mom and dad doted on him, and she thought — surely this is the favorite, because he is the baby in the family.  Then when I rode up front after the first oasis stop — grandmother Anna thought — no, this one is the favorite for look how they treat him special.  Finally, when my older brother sat upfront for the last leg of the trip, grandmother had to admit that mom and dad loved us all equally.  
“When you have many siblings, the tendancy is to think that mom and dad love another more than they love you — it is just natural to think that way.  But when adopted-grandmother Anna related to our cousins in Kansas what she had discovered about our family on the trip — I think my brothers and I realized how special was our parent’s love for all of us.”
Father John McFadden
“My grandparents showed me how important family is. They showed me how important to get together every year for Christmas and other holidays and, even more so, every time we were together as family, how important it is to all come to Sunday Mass. We would always go, all the aunts uncles, and cousins. 
“I call my grandparents a couple times a year and spend time with them for Christmas (and) Easter every year. I’ll start saying Mass for them soon when I see them. 
“They’re so incredibly proud and happy to have me as a priest and another cousin on his way.”
Father Andrew Mulcahey
“My paternal grandparents died when I was young, so I have no memory of them.
“My maternal grandparents, Alfred and Esther Johnson, were both strongly Catholic. Alfred (is) a convert from Lutheranism. 
“My grandmother everyday would pray a rosary so that one of her sons would be called to the priesthood and one of her daughters be called to religious life as a nun. It never happened, but she never gave up. 
“Eventually God rewarded her prayer by calling two of her grandsons, Father Timothy and myself, to the priesthood. 
“I am convinced that we have persevered in this calling to this day by her continued prayers.”
Father Jonathan Bakkelund
“My grandma Max taught me to say the rosary, to light a candle when in need, and she always took me to Mass with her when I visited. Her devotion to her faith has always stuck with me.”
Father Tim Seigel
“Grandma Murray lived a few blocks from where I grew up in Marion, Iowa. From the time I was about 11, I used to mow her lawn every summer. 
“At first, I lugged Dad’s mower across the bustling business section. Sometimes I would tow it behind me as I rode my bike. When I was 13 and had a paper route, I bought my own Sears lawn mower and made even more money with it. 
“Grandma, of course, was always free of charge, but she always had an ice-cold Mountain Dew for me. 
“In those youthful years there were times I would complain to grandma about arguments with my sisters, or my grades, or other monumental complaints that I thought were ruining my life. 
“She would listen very well, and with a sincerity that always made me feel better. When I was done, she would say, ‘Offer it up Tim Tom. Offer it up. Now, why don’t you go mow the lawn.’ 
“Even though my middle name was Joseph, I loved it when she called me Tim Tom. I loved how she repeated the words ‘offer it up’ twice. 
“For an egotistical child like me, she was reminding me about the suffering of Christ on the cross revealed in the suffering of others. I will always treasure that memory.”


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