Members of a Saint Family at East & West Catholic Elementary School pray with their “spiritual grandparent.”


Students, spiritual grandparents pray, gather and grow in faith together

Students at East & West Catholic Elementary School in Hartington are often seen at daily Mass waving to their “spiritual grandparents,” stopping to say hello and sometimes giving them a quick hug. The scene is repeated often, thanks to an effort by the school to bring students and parishioners at Holy Trinity Parish together to pray, share their faith and get to know one another.

“We reached out to people in our community who no longer have children at our school or who may long to build a relationship with the youth of our parish,” said Sonya Schroeder, the school’s principal. “Seeing the love they have for the faith and our students proves the success that this program is having and will have as we continue to build upon it in the years to come.”

The idea to recruit “spiritual grandparents” began as part of the Saint Family program at the school. The goal of saint families is to encourage students to spend time together in groups praying and talking about their faith. The hope is that students will become comfortable talking about their faith and grow in their love for Jesus.

So, it made sense to widen the circle of these saint families to include members of the parish.

Spiritual grandparents recently met with the students in their families to share stories about what life was like as a Catholic when they were growing up.

“Some shared how Mass was celebrated differently when they were younger,” Schroeder said. “For instance, Mass was said in Latin and the priest faced the High Altar. Some brought in pictures to share, some brought in memorabilia such as their First Communion dress, etc. The stories were priceless, and the students enjoyed their time and the relationships they are building.”

Students look at some items their “spiritual grandparents” have saved since childhood.

She said each time they meet, parishioners ask when they “get to come again.” And it isn’t just the spiritual grandparents who look forward to their time together.

Alex is in sixth grade and said it is “cool to hear their stories about their life when they were a kid and how life was so different. They talked about how girls were not allowed to serve Mass but were expected to sing in the choir. The boys had to memorize things in order to be a Mass server.”

Thanks to a grant from the Catholic Futures Foundation of Northeast Nebraska, Schroeder said that each Saint Family now has a box with religious supplies they use when they meet. The materials include rosaries and saint cards of the patron saint of each family.


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