Presentation of the promoters of this experience
Gary Aitchison, 79, a permanent deacon. Until 2000, the year of his retirement, he was a professor of Iowa State University’s College of Business.
Kay Aitchison, 78. Until 2001, she was the executive director of the Christian Family Movement.
Mr. and Mrs. Aitchison’s family has five children, four daughters-in-law, and 14 grandchildren.
A course intended for those who want to become their grandchildren’s evangelizers has been developed by a married couple in the United States, Gary and Kay Aitchison, members of the Christian Family Movement. "The program—says the couple—was created to support relations within the family and to value the elderly in the home. Recently we have come to realize how time for being together in the family is gradually reduced, eroded by individualistic commitments and hobbies that do not allow communication or sharing."
This situation creates distance and has a negative impact at the level of transmission of the faith. In fact, because of the lack of time together in their family, many children are no longer adequately educated in the faith. So, how can this ever more widespread problem be remedied? "We believe—says Gary Aitchison—that their grandparents are the best people to fill this vacuum produced by the dynamics of the society. Grandparents, often well rooted in faith, also genuinely care about the welfare of their grandchildren and have much free time to devote to them.
The project “Grandparents Learn to Be Agents of Evangelization,” launched in 1989 within the Christian Family Movement, consists of meetings in small discussion groups (eight to ten grandparents), where the participants are helped to become aware of their potential. Precisely, there are six encounters of an hour and a half to two hours, once a month, organized, on a rotating basis, in the homes of the participants. During these meetings, they explore what it means to be a grandparent, by bringing out the role and developing an attitude of service.
During the first meeting, the vocation of the grandparent and the discernment of God’s call in contemporary family life are explored. At the second encounter, the figure of grandparents in terms of affective models—for their grandchildren—of God’s own love is developed. The third one envisions grandparents as educators, who provide their grandchildren with the knowledge and skills acquired in the course of a lifetime. The fourth meeting focuses on grandparents as witnesses of the faith, showing how they can first of all pray for and with their grandchildren, tell them about the lives of saints, and read Bible stories with them. At the fifth meeting, the grandparents then discover their role as "family historians," a living memory capable of binding one generation to another by means of remembrance. Finally, the last meeting shows to the grandparents the potential wisdom that allows them to become models of virtue and of values for young people by teaching them the art of aging well, with confidence and love for the future.