PDT Staff Writer
“New Hope for Families,” is the theme of the Sacred Heart Family Mission this week at St. Mary and Holy Redeemer churches in Portsmouth. Gloria Anson of Syracuse, N.Y., founder of the Sacred Heart Family Mission, and Fr. Bill Gaffney, of Long Branch, N.J. are in town to share with families and parishes, what they say is the need for the enthronement of Jesus Christ in the home, and specifically, in the family.
“Everybody comes from a family,” Anson said. “And this is about the sacred heart of Jesus, and his wanting to be welcomed into their homes because there are so many homes today that are void of Jesus in their midst. And through the enthronement of the sacred heart, that’s our purpose and goal: to talk about Jesus and how he loves the family, and wants very much — whatever makes up the family — to come into the family and make a difference.”
Anson said, when a home has an image of the sacred heart of Jesus, that he will bless every home that image is exposed. That image is on display at both churches.
“The family carries that out by having an image in a prominent place in their home,” Anson said. “And it sets up an atmosphere right there in your own home that wasn’t there before.”
Anson will tell her personal story concerning the Sacred Heart Family Mission tonight (Tuesday) and tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 7 p.m. at Holy Redeemer Church, 1325 Gallia St. in Portsmouth.
“All I know is that we were what we call the ‘All-American family,’” Anson said. “I went to church and got involved in all the church activities, so I had my God, and (her husband) Jack had his God, and golf was a part of it, and then my kids had their God because I sent them off to a Catholic school to find out about it. We had a nice bible when you entered the door. It was a good show - we never read it, so we were the all-American Catholic family. The thing of it was, we never prayed together as a family. We said grace, but we never came together to pray.”
She said there is a lot more to her story and invited people to attend the programs and hear how it all came about.
“I just felt the enthronement was from God,” Anson said. “People asked - ‘how do you know it’s from God?’ and no one had ever asked me that before. And I thought - ‘how do I know?’ and then I said, ‘wait a minute. I have this place right here (pointing at her heart), that is my knowing place. I just know that I know.”
Anson said the children in the family are an important part of the mission.
“So, in other words, when we have the mission service, we involved the children,” Gaffney said. “How do we involve them? First of all, teenagers lead the prayers. The priest doesn’t do it. The teenagers do it. Then the children come up and together sing a hymn to Jesus. And then they turn around and they give a child’s blessing to the adults.”
Gaffney said the blessing is, “We bless you. We bless you with our innocence. We bless you with our goodness. We bless you with our simple face. We show you what it means to be a child of God. All we ask is that you love us and lead us to Jesus. We love you very very much.”
Gaffney said the whole idea is based on Jesus becoming a person. “He’s the God-man,” Gaffney said.
Since it’s beginning in the heart of Gloria Anson, the mission has traveled around the world. According to the Sacred Heart Apostolate, Inc. - “The Sacred Heart Mission addresses the greatest crisis in the church today - the breakdown of family life. The purpose of the mission is to build a civilization of love by having the family centered in Christ. It is not about fostering devotion but about recognizing the loving kingship of the Heart of Jesus in the home in the everydayness of family life. It leads the people to experience the words of Jesus: ‘I am with you,’ leading the family to a deeper faith and love. It is about the awareness of the living presence of Jesus right there in the home.”
Julie Vanhoose, one of the local organizers, said there is a core team of about 35 people from both churches putting the program together.
“They came together - beautiful,” Vanhoose said. “Each one had their own job, and everyone followed through beautifully. And, of course, we have one pastor - Fr. Adam Streitenberger is the pastor. It’s for the whole deanery, but the two parishes sponsored it.”
Amy Hassel was in a rush, returning from vacation, when she gathered up her children, Sophia, 11, and Ava, going on 10, and took them to Sunday’s program at St. Mary Church.
“They kind of fought me all the way down (to the church), but now they can’t wait to go back,” Hassel said. “For the kids to say that, I was really moved. It was a wonderful experience.”
Vanhoose emphasized the importance of the mission for the whole family.
“When we leave is when the mission really begins, with the parish,” Anson said. “When certain people feel called to carry the mission into home after home after home.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.