Parish welcomes ‘grand’ guests for Grandparents Day liturgy

GARY – Families of all shapes and sizes were the focus of a special ‘Grand’ Family Day celebration on Sept. 10 at Ss. Monica and Luke.
Taking advantage of National Grandparents Day, which is also when the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly instituted by Pope Francis is observed in the United States, parishioners invited children, grandchildren and other relatives and friends to join them for a special liturgy and luncheon.
“In this parish, many children have moved to other cities, so this is an opportunity for families to get together,” said Father Michael Surufka, OFM, pastor. “We’re an older congregation, and while children may have been raised in the parish, they no longer live here. Parishioners were encouraged to invite their families to a homecoming as a way to stay connected in the church.”
“I used to come to church with my parents, Ronald and Vivian Morton, and St. Monica was my grandparents’ parish, so I’m a third-generation parishioner,” said Roxanne Morton, a choir member who now attends with her 12-year-old son, Royal Morton, a seventh grader at Bailly Middle School in Gary. “It’s important to remember the history we have.”
Kay Roos, a Ss. Monica and Luke parishioner, was happy to see members of her extended family at the Grandparents Day liturgy in addition to her daughter, parishioner Verlie Suggs, the parish’s longtime soup kitchen director. “She’s been downstairs cooking for the luncheon,” Roos said proudly.
Roos was holding hands with her grandson, Noble Sullivan, a tech company writer who came from Grand Rapids, Mich., to share the day with his grandmother. “Our grandparents instill family values and take care of us our entire lives,” he said, “so it’s important to celebrate them not just today, but every day. I’ve been coming to this church my whole life.”
“I celebrate them every day,” said Roos of her four children, 12 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. “I’m blessed to have my family around me, and I don’t wait for a particular day to celebrate them.”
Likewise, Kia Sutherland attends Mass at Ss. Monica and Luke each time she comes from her Chicago home to visit her parents, Richard and Grandis Broughton, of Gary, as she did on Grandparents Day with her son, Grant Sutherland. She was honored, she added, to serve as lector for the ‘Grand’ Family liturgy.
In welcoming the congregation, Father Surufka noted that “Children, grandchildren and grandparents are here as we gather as one family of God. Our lives are meant to be of service to one another. For this one hour, we are with one another with God.”
In his homily, Father Surufka returned to the theme of family. “All of us are one family, locked in by the goodness of Jesus Christ. He calls us to be family.
“When Jesus said, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt.12:48-50), he was saying that all of you are his mother and brother and sister,” added the pastor.
“Family is central to our grasp of the Christian faith,” added Father Surufka. “In today’s reading from Ezekiel, Jesus puts a prophet in charge of the ‘house’ of Israel, because each house will get an example (to follow) from the head of the household.
“And in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells you that if your brother wrongs you, you should go to your brother ‘to try to win him over,’ and if unsuccessful, take two others, and if still unsuccessful, ‘Go to the church,’ which means the community. Whenever you are hurt, it affects not just you, but everyone in your circle.
“Our relationships with one another are the exact places where we need Jesus and he needs us,” Father Surufka explained. “If you go through all of this and it still doesn’t work (to convince your brother to correct his sin), then treat him with mercy – like Jesus says of the Gentiles and tax collectors, to whom he showed mercy. The call to forgiveness keeps families moving on.
Father Surufka pointed out that “we are the ones who put obstacles in the way of us and God, and Jesus is waiting for us to tell him (about our sin) and ask for mercy,” much like a parent who knows their child has damaged the garage door by running the car into it, but waits for the child to confess and ask for forgiveness.
During the Mass, Father Surufka also continued a new tradition that was established last month on St. Monica’s feast day, Aug. 27, by inviting all mothers to place a written intention in a basket next to a small shrine to St. Monica while lighting a candle for a child they are specifically praying for.
This action, he noted, follows the example of the patient saint who prayed for years for her child to turn away from his dissolute life, finally to have her prayers answered by her son, St. Augustine.


Caption: Gathering at Ss. Monica and Luke in Gary for 'Grand' Family Sunday to celebrate Grandparents Day on Sept. 10 are (from left) parishioner Kay Roos of Gary, grandson Noble Sullivan of Grand Rapids, Mich., grand niece Phyllis Hinton and niece Barbara Hinton, whose husband, Phillip Hinton, Roos' nephew, sings in the choir. A number of guests joined their family members for the Mass and luncheon. (Marlene A. Zloza photo)