PORTLAND — Sunday, July 24, is the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, established by Pope Francis to be celebrated annually on the fourth Sunday of July near the liturgical memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus. The theme for this year’s celebration is “In Old Age They Will Still Bear Fruit” (Ps. 92:15), emphasizing how grandparents are a gift both to society and the Church and offering the elderly the challenge of being “artisans of the revolution of tenderness.”

Many Maine churches are planning special gatherings, events, and programming in commemoration of the day.

In Lewiston, the Catholic Grandparents Association has been established to create awareness of the vocation of grandparents and to encourage and support them in their roles. Grandparents include uncles, aunts, godparents, and all those who nurture through love and strong family bonds. All are welcome. The initiative will kick off at the Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul, located on 122 Ash Street, on Tuesday, Aug. 2, following the daily Mass at the Basilica which begins at 7 a.m. The group will then gather on the first Tuesday of each month. For more information, call the parish office at (207) 777-1200 or Brian at (207) 212-6072.

In Portland, a special Mass and procession on the Feast Day of St. Anne, grandmother of Jesus, will be celebrated on Tuesday, July 26, at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph Church on 673 Stevens Avenue in Portland. Those gathered will give thanks for the grandparents in our lives. All are welcome.

In Westbrook, the Sodality of St. Anne at St. Hyacinth Church cordially invites all to an evening of prayer in celebrating the Feast of St. Anne and St. Joachim on Tuesday, July 26, at 6 p.m. in the chapel of the church, located on 268 Brown Street.

To discover if a special gathering is planned for your area, contact your local church. In addition, a plenary indulgence is associated with the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. A plenary indulgence is the “full remission of the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.” Through the sacrament of confession, our sins are forgiven, but some of the worldly effects of those sins may remain. A plenary (full) indulgence completes the healing process. To obtain a plenary indulgence on July 24, an elderly person may participate in a World Day Mass or event, either in person or via television, radio, or online. A non-elderly person can also obtain a plenary indulgence on July 24 by visiting or accompany an elderly person who is alone as a work of mercy.

Also, on July 24 and the eight days following, consider praying a Novena to Saints Anne and Joachim. These two beautiful saints are powerful intercessors for all married couples, expectant mothers, and married couples who are having difficulty conceiving, as well as all who have grown old. You can access an online prayer card from the U.S. Bishops Conference at Novena Card (usccb.org) or sign up to receive daily email reminders from Pray More Novena at: www.praymorenovenas.com/saints-joachim-and-anne-novena/617412.

“For us in the Church, grandparents are often a source of great grace. They help pass on our faith in the love of God,” said Bishop Robert Deeley. “In my conversations with young people, they often speak of what they have learned from their grandparents and how important the influence of their grandparents has been on their own commitment to living their faith. Grandparents and the elderly hold a very special role in the handing on of our faith, including the generous way in which many help with tuition for their grandchildren to attend Catholic schools in Maine. They know the importance of drawing strength and hope from the relationship they have with God in Jesus Christ, and we can truly be grateful for that witness.”

“Dear grandparents, dear elderly persons, we are called to be artisans of the revolution of tenderness in our world! Let us do so by learning to make ever more frequent and better use of the most valuable instrument at our disposal and, indeed, the one best suited to our age: prayer,” said Pope Francis. “The World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly is an opportunity to proclaim once more, with joy, that the Church wants to celebrate together with all those whom the Lord – in the words of the Bible – has ‘filled with days.’  Let us celebrate it together! Let us make sure that no one feels alone on this day.”

For further resources, visit www.usccb.org/topics/marriage-and-family-life-ministries/grandparents-elderly.