In January, Pope Francis instituted a World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, to be celebrated each year on the fourth Sunday in July, near the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus. 

“Grandparents are often forgotten,” the pope said in his announcement. “We forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on” their knowledge and gifts. 

The elderly “remind us that old age is a gift, and that grandparents are the link between the different generations, to pass on to the young the experience of life,” Pope Francis said. 

Parishioners attend Christ the King's celebration. (JohnMichael Filippone)

At Christ the King Church in Los Angeles, there was no chance of forgetting the gifts of the elderly — the parish marked the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly on July 25 with a special Mass and blessing.  

“Many times the elderly are forgotten because we value productivity and success,” Father Juan Ochoa, pastor of Christ the King Church, said at the parish celebration. “When people are older and retired we forget to recognize that they are a great treasure to society.” 

In a year where older people were often isolated from friends and family during the COVID-19 pandemic, the reopening of churches and this day of recognition seemed to be perfectly timed. 

Deacon Ricardo Villacorta addresses parishioners at the celebration. (JohnMichael Filippone)

“We did our best to connect with everyone, including the elderly people, by streaming Masses, but also by calling them,” Father Chidi Ekpendu said. The Christ the King pastoral team reached out to anyone “who felt lonely and needed assistance.

“Now, many of our parishioners are coming back … and they say that they enjoy it because it gives them a sense of community and fellowship,” Father Ekpendu, who lives in residence at the parish, said. 

At the parish celebration, grandparents, and elderly parishioners received a special blessing, thanking them for their witness to the faith and their dedication to their community. 

“For many of us, the people who taught us to pray the rosary, Hail Mary, and to go to Mass were our grandparents,” Father Ochoa said. “The role that grandparents play in passing on the faith is as evangelizers.” 

Maria Elena Burgos, a member of Christ the King Church’s pastoral team, welcomes parishioners and explains the pope’s proclamation for World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. (JohnMichael Filippone)

The grandparents in attendance were quick to agree. “As a family, we pray together and do the rosary,” said Emma Olivares. She called Pope Francis’ day for the elderly “another blessing.” 

“Now that we have grandkids, we have more time to guide them with our faith,” Rosalind and Eugene Diego explained. “It is the best time of our lives, to be elderly and to be a grandparent.”