by Sister Eva-Maria Ackerman
My paternal grandmother Mitzi Ackerman never knew how to throw a pity party.
Instead, with her at the head of the table, our family gatherings in her dining room were marked by laughter and song, yodeling and storytelling, home-cooked food and ice-cold German beer. There was never any want of fun!
Born in 1896 in Vienna, my grandmother emigrated to the United States in her early 20s at the end of World War I, shortly after the death of her parents. Her father died of pneumonia and her mother, as Grandma described it, succumbed a year later to a broken heart. From that point on, she was determined to have a new outlook on life, an optimistic and confident one, not allowing herself to be so overwhelmed by life’s challenges as to surrender her trust and joy.
Arriving in the United States, she settled in Galveston, Texas, where she met and married my Swiss chef grandfather, Louis. Together, they had five children, the youngest of whom was my father. With my grandfather’s sudden death, Grandma became a widow and sole breadwinner of the family.
Working in the homes of wealthy families and planting a garden at home, she provided for the many needs of her family, including sending my dad to a Catholic high school. It was her courage, determination, faith-filled perseverance — and sense of humor — that she passed on to the generations of Ackermans to come.
Recently, I was reminded of my remarkable grandmother during the Dec. 8 Grandparents Day at St. James Academy in Lenexa where I work part time in the advancement office.
My task that day was to welcome those grandmas and grandpas at the door of the gym where their grandchildren would come and escort them to the Immaculate Conception holy day Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
As I greeted them, I thought about the great influence those men and women must have in the formation of their children’s children. Surely joy pervaded their family gatherings and one-on-one encounters between the generations. I witnessed the excitement of the grandchildren who went into the gym and searched for their loved ones in a “sea of gray.”
Most beautiful of all was their participation in the holy sacrifice of the Mass on the beautiful Marian solemnity.
As Pope Benedict once wrote, “Look with love on grandparents the world over. . . . May they continue to be for their families strong pillars of Gospel faith, guardians of noble domestic ideals, living treasuries of sound religious traditions. Make them teachers of wisdom and courage, so that they may pass on to future generations the fruits of their mature human and spiritual experience.”