What I Have Seen and Heard
Published: December 8, 2005
The word itself sounds quite specialized, but it’s really quite ancient and very simple in its implication: intergenerational. It means that people find things to do and share together that involve the young and the old and those in between.
Intergenerational is really just another word for family! Most people will suggest that there are fewer intergenerational opportunities today than there were when they were kids. I enjoyed several intergenerational activities within the past few weeks, and they were just wonderful.
The Atlanta Chinese Catholic Association invited me to celebrate Mass and to enjoy a Thanksgiving reception with them at All Saints Church. It was intergenerational to the max! This association of people of Chinese heritage includes more than 120 households and gathers each Sunday afternoon to celebrate their Faith and the richness of their cultural legacy at All Saints. Archbishop Donoghue began the custom of being their special guest on the Thanksgiving Day weekend. I am happy to continue that tradition.
Even though my Mandarin and Cantonese are limited to say the least, my joy of being with this wonderful community is intense. Some people suggest that there are more than 30 million Catholics living in China and if the government were to permit missionary pastoral presence, those numbers would be much higher. That is why the Holy See is deeply committed to continuing the conversations for improving relations between Rome and Beijing.
I told the assembly that I was privileged in August 2004 to visit the Orient for the first time and to have a chance to stay in Hong Kong for three days. It was there that I saw firsthand the great potential for missionary outreach that lies just off the Hong Kong coast in mainland China. We are fortunate to have this association of Chinese Catholics here in Atlanta. They remind us of the great gifts that the people of this vast and diverse country hold for the entire world.
After Mass, there was a banquet that included not only turkey but also a number of native dishes. The best part of the entire evening for me was the entertainment provided by the children. There were musicians playing both classical pieces as well as Chinese musical selections played on native instruments. There were dancers, both little ones and young adults. The teenagers were, well teenagers, and they did several skits that included a liberal interpretation of some biblical passages.
The entertainment delighted the older people who watched and listened as these youngsters demonstrated their understanding of their cultural heritage. The little ones sat around the perimeter of the stage area and watched with noticeable attention to all of the proceedings. The entire evening was concluded with a touching sung prayer that gave thanks for their Faith and friendship. Everyone shared in the wonderful events of the evening—a real intergenerational moment.
I had another such moment last Saturday as I participated in the First Reconciliation ceremony for the youngsters at our Cathedral parish. These children were receiving the sacrament of Penance for the first time. Some of their proud parents also received the Sacrament. That was a very important witness for their children as the parents confirmed by their very actions the importance of this sacrament for all the Church. Youngsters need such examples of Faith to encourage them to make Confession a regular part of their lives in the Church.
While it is touching and heartwarming to see the little ones advance in their Faith, we all know that without the participation and encouragement from their parents, they might not realize that this first time event must be followed by other celebrations of the sacrament as they grow in Christ. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an intergenerational ritual since we all need the Lord’s mercy throughout our lives—no matter how old we might be! Even archbishops and priests need to remember that we are part of the family in this regard!