Dear Friends in Christ:
This weekend we celebrate the FIRST-EVER World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. Some of my fondest memories from my childhood involved my grandparents. My mother’s mother and my father’s father were both deceased before I was born, but I had the privilege of having in my life, knowing and loving my mother’s grandmother, my mother’s father, and my father’s mother. Visits to Mémère or Grandpa Harold were numerous, especially since I was the youngest and not yet in school, so I was always able and privileged to go with mom to take them to the doctor, have lunch, and enjoy some ice cream at AC Petersen in West Hartford. And my beloved grandmother (dad’s mom) lived only two streets away from us; her house was the place we would often go to for a visit, to bake cookies, and to enjoy her cooking. (Some of her recipes are in the Parish Pandemic Cookbook, so check it out on our website.) Grandma Romans was the best! She loved having all of us around and loved spending time with us. So many memories of these privileged times with my grandparents come to mind this weekend as we celebrate this First-Ever World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.
On January 31st of this year, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, announced a new celebration in honor of all grandparents and the elderly, who are so important to our communities and to our Church. Pope Francis has also granted a plenary indulgence to grandparents, the elderly, and all those who participate in a solemn celebration of this day as well as to those who spend time (actually or virtually) with an elderly brother or sister in need on this day.
“I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20), is the promise the Lord Jesus made to his disciples before he ascended into heaven. This is a reminder that the Lord Jesus is close to you—dear grandparents and elderly—and close to us—and cares about you, loves you, and does not want to leave you alone! It is fitting that this celebration is instituted this year, as we are emerging from a pandemic that left many feeling isolated and alone. The pandemic struck the elderly in particular and caused many not only to get ill but many more to die or experience the death of a spouse during this difficult time of isolation. The Lord was with us through it all and this celebration today reminds us of this in a very real way. He is aware of all that we went through these many months. He is aware of the feelings we had as we waded the waters of the pandemic. Tradition has it that Saint Joachim, the grandfather of Jesus, felt estranged from those around him because he had no children; his life, like that of his wife Anne, was considered useless. So the Lord sent an angel to console him. Even at the darkest moments, as in these months of pandemic, the Lord continues to send angels to console our loneliness and to remind us of His great promise: “I am with you always.” He says this to you, and he says it to me.
That is the meaning of this Day for grandparents and the elderly, that after a long period of isolation, and as we emerge from this pandemic slowly day-by-day, we pray that each and every one of you receive a visit from an angel who will help you to experience this promise of our Lord Jesus.
To you, grandparents and the elderly, reflect on the words of Pope Francis when he wrote: “Given this, I want to tell you that you are needed in order to help build, in fraternity and social friendship, the world of tomorrow: the world in which we, together with our children and grandchildren, will live once the storm has subsided. All of us must “take an active part in renewing and supporting our troubled societies.” Among the pillars that support this new edifice, there are three that you, better than anyone else, can help to set up. Those three pillars are dreams, memory and prayer. The Lord’s closeness will grant to all, even the frailest among us, the strength needed to embark on a new journey along the path of dreams, memory and prayer.” Yes you help those of us privileged to know you to dream of a world that is infused with peace, you help us to remember those who are important in life and who help to build a more humane and welcoming world, and you, perhaps more than any other group of people, help those around you by your prayer."
To the rest of those reading this, not yet grandparents or elderly, please pray for the grandparents and the elderly of our parish, our community, and the world. Here is a prayer for Grandparents and the Elderly, but it certainly can be said by us all…
I thank you, Lord, for the comfort of Your presence. Even in times of loneliness, you are my hope and my confidence. You have been my rock and my fortress since my youth! I thank you for having given me a family and for having blessed me with a long life. I thank you for moments of joy and difficulty, for the dreams that have already come true in my life and for those that are still ahead of me. I thank you for this time of renewed fruitfulness to which you call me. Increase, O Lord, my faith. Make me a channel of your peace. Teach me to embrace those who suffer more than me, to never stop dreaming, and to tell of your wonders to new generations. Protect and guide Pope Francis and the Church, that the light of the Gospel might reach the ends of the earth. Send your Spirit, O Lord, to renew the world, that the storm of the pandemic might be calmed, the poor consoled, and wars ended. Sustain me in weakness, and help me to live life to the full in each moment that you give me, in the certainty that you are with me every day, even until the end of the age.
The Catholic Mission Cooperative Appeal for 2021…was supposed to be taken this past weekend but due to the road race here in town we have delayed it. NEXT WEEKEND, July 31 and August 1, we will take up a Second Collection for the Diocese of Same in Tanzania, Africa.
The Catholic Diocese of Same extends over two Districts of SAME and MWANGA. It is situated in the North-eastern part of Tanzania, south of Mount Kilimanjaro. A large part of the Diocese is surrounded by the Pare Mountains. These mountains are densely populated, inhabited mostly by small scale farmers (mainly the Pare people), whereas the surrounding plains are inhabited by pastoralists (mainly the Maasai people). The plains are very dry and semi-arid, thus, a severe lack of water is a common phenomenon in Same and Mwanga. The Diocese covers 10,800 sq. kms. and has twenty nine (29) Parishes and fifty Outstations.
The vision and mission of the diocese dates back to the first Diocesan Synod in 1987-91 which came up with a philosophy of “integral development” of the people by giving attention to both the spiritual and material well-being of the Diocese and the social milieu where the people live. Thus, the Diocese embarked on setting up structures which would render its pastoral and developmental network operational and implantable, regardless of race, color, tribe or religion.
The Diocese has 84 Priests: 73 Diocesan Priests, 7 Religious Missionary Priests, 4 Diocesan Priests of Diocese of Mangalore - India, 17 Religious Brothers, 148 Religious Sisters and 140 Catechists. However, not all the Priests live and work in the Diocese. Some of them are working in the Tanzania Episcopal Conference Institutions, namely, teaching in the Inter-Diocesan Major Seminaries and St. Augustine University of Tanzania. Likewise, some of them are studying in Rome. We have 30 parishes, most of which are served by one Priest living alone.
Typically a priest would come to visit our parish, but due to COVID regulations this is not possible...Instead Father Mansuetus Kimbwe Setonga sent a note to our parish family. Here are some excerpts:
Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 80% of the population practicing rural subsistence farming. Tanzania has a population of 57 million people, 15 million of whom live in absolute poverty, earning less than $1.00 a day. The standard of living of the people in the Diocese of Same is below that of most Tanzanians. There are 623,000 people in the Diocese, of which 45% are Christian, 45% Muslim, and 10% follow traditional, African religions. Catholics are 74,104.
One of the serious problems facing the people of Same is poor health. In Mvungwe Village, people walk on foot for more than eight hours to reach a medical clinic. Due to the lack of clinics in the village, many newborn babies, children and women die from malaria, respiratory infections, pregnancy complications and diarrhea.
This year the living situation of our people in Mvungwe Village and the Diocese of Same at large is getting worse due to COVID-19 restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of the Corona virus. Due to poverty, many people have no money to purchase facemasks or sanitizer and have no access to the hospitals for a checkup.
I would like to share with you a true story of what happened when I visited Mvungwe, one of my out-stations/small parish. As I was preaching; a lady at the back of the church raised her hand and cried out: “Father, Father I have a problem!” I asked myself, what could be the problem? She kept on crying; “Father I have a problem!” I stopped preaching and asked her what was her problem? She said, “my daughter is sick, my daughter is dying, I want you please to take my daughter to Same Hospital”. Same Hospital is about ten miles away. I told her that after Mass I will take her daughter to the hospital. After Mass I asked her where was her home? She said just one mile from the church. I put her in the car, driving towards her home. I drove the car until there was no road. We were in the middle of the jungle! I told her I could not drive any further. She asked me to wait there. She went further on to her place and asked her family to bring the poor girl on a stretcher to the car. As I was waiting, another lady appeared and told me she was pregnant, and the baby was due. She needed my help. I told her I did not know anything about childbirth and that in school I only studied to celebrate Mass, not to deliver babies! Then I got a new idea. I told her let me go around, I might see someone to help you. As I was going around the jungle, I saw a woman carrying firewood. I called her as she saw me running to her in the jungle, she was running faster than myself. I kept calling and calling until she stopped and asked what she could do for me! I asked her to come and help a lady to deliver a baby. She came. After ten minutes I heard…. a baby crying! By then I was hiding alone in the bush to give her some privacy. Then the lady called me and said, “Father come out, the baby is born.” In African culture when a baby is born women cry out with joy three times if it is a baby girl. Uloooo, Uloooo, Uloooo! The lady asked me to join her to cry four times because this was a baby boy. Then the lady told me that the mother and the baby are weak, and I have to rush them to the hospital. I put them in the car driving them to the hospital ten miles. Remember I forgot completely about the dying daughter due to this new crisis! When I told my Bishop about this true story, the Bishop said, “I think it is high time now to help these poor people to build a clinic so we can save the life of many people”. My Bishop wrote a letter to your Bishop asking him to assign us some parishes to raise some money to help us build a clinic at Mvungwe Parish in order to save the lives of many people. Your Bishop gave us this wonderful parish to come and ask for donations in order to build a clinic at Mvungwe Parish. Your donations will make a big difference in the life of our people. Those who were to die because they did not have access to the hospital will not die because of your donations. What a joy!!!! So, my dear sisters and brothers in Christ, I am asking you a favor to donate some funds in order to build a clinic for these poor people. Thank you in advance for your generosity and love for my people.
PLEASE be as generous as you are able NEXT WEEKEND to the SECOND COLLECTION to assist our brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Same meet this very real need for their people. We may not be able to travel there to make a difference as missionaries, but we can make a difference by our generosity and by our prayers for them.
As always remember to pray for our parish families and ask God’s blessings as we build His kingdom here. Please know that I am praying for you, and I ask for your prayers for me, that together through the intercession of Saint Bridget of Sweden, our Patroness, and united in the Eucharist, we will reflect the presence of Jesus to the world.