During the summer months, most of you — parishioners in our diocese — found a letter from Chris and Liz Smith in the mail asking you to support a new ministry: Catholic Grandparents for Life. The invitation letter outlined a simple plan to help encourage grandparents to share the faith and the message of life with their families and communities.
Just as your letter arrived unexpectedly, the idea for the program came to Chris and Liz seemingly out of the blue. The idea for the ministry, Chris said, “came by the prompting of the Holy Spirit.”
Chris felt prodded to do something with grandparents and the pro-life movement. “It kept coming to my mind,” Chris said. “I would keep telling Liz about it, and over time she became more interested in the potential project. We knew that the Catholic Church teaches that God values every single human life from creation to death. That teaching has never wavered.”
The inspiration of the Holy Spirit in their lives fostered a desire to move into the pro-life arena. “One thing we want to get across is that we are just average people who had enough prompting to finally move forward,” Chris said.
Chris and Liz want this to be a Catholic effort, and so they brought the idea straight to Bishop Thomas Daly. Now, Chris was no stranger to the diocese and its inner workings. Many will remember Chris for his work as development director at the diocese under Bishop William Skylstad. Chris was one of many who helped the diocese navigate the choppy waters of fundraising during the bankruptcy process.
Even with his relationship with the Chancery, the decision to reach out to Bishop Daly for this project was born out of a trust in God that is clear in both Chris and Liz. The couple discussed their idea with the bishop, trusting he would have advice on whether to move forward.
When Chris left his position at the Chancery in 2011, it was not for a quiet retirement or a new job, but for the battle of his life. Chris was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia in 2011. Those who know Chris and Liz speak about their resilience and reliance on God throughout this period. Chris said when he was diagnosed, he and Liz began to use the Caring Bridge website (a blogging and communication tool for those with difficult medical situations to communicate with their families and friends about their treatment). Not long after his diagnosis, he wrote a post called “Why me?” Chris explained, “I was 58 when I got sick. I just realized — when you get a diagnosis so serious, and with a very poor prognosis — that I already had a beautiful life, and I was thankful for it. Nobody wants to get that news, nobody wants to die, but I had a grateful heart for my 58 years. And I thanked God for the time I’d already been given. Chris’ doctor did not have the best news for him when he asked if he would make it through one year. But Chris said, “It just struck me, I guess, of the miracle of life, God’s gift.” After a life-giving stem cell transplant from his brother Steve, Chris remains in remission and his health has continued to improve. He often reminds people, “Every day is a good day!” Since 2011, Chris and Liz have welcomed six grandchildren, with another expected in January – each a beautiful gift from God. They want to share their Catholic faith with each of them as well as the importance of the pro-life message.
Trust in God is clear in Chris and Liz today. When asked how their experience of Chris’ illness and recovery has impacted this project, Chris said, “For whatever reason, it wasn’t my time. We both believe that everyone has a gift and an opportunity to serve others. Chances are it won’t ever be huge, but if it does a little bit of good in a few lives — that is great.”
Both Chris and Liz want grandparents (and non-grandparents) to understand that this is not just their own personal project. They want to see grandparents joining them, making a difference in their church and in the community. “Grandparents have so much to offer in terms of setting an example of a strong Catholic faith and sharing it with others,” Chris said. “We need to remember that.”
Liz and Chris hope that grandparents and non-grandparents will take up the call and join them in promoting a culture of life in their parish and to share their faith with those they love.
Excerpted from the letter sent to all diocesan households:
Hello Catholic Grandparents,
Often when we speak with other Catholic grandparents throughout the Diocese of Spokane, they express their concern about the “culture of death” we are facing today. We often hear, “I wish I could do more to help change today’s culture, but I feel powerless.”
Now there is a way that we can be proud of our Catholic faith and show our support for the “dignity of life from creation to death.” Prayer has prompted us to begin a grass-roots ministry to promote LIFE! We began by approaching Bishop Thomas Daly with this idea. He was open to the idea and said, “If it is truly of the Holy Spirit, it will succeed.” He gave us permission to proceed in collaboration with the Diocese of Spokane. The idea is simple! We have designed and printed bumper stickers (see below) that will be made available to all Catholic grandparents in our diocese. We have also created a billboard design: one is located on North Division near Northtown Mall, one is located in Walla Walla and another in Latah on Highway 27. We have plans for more! The effects of our evangelization, through prayer, advertisement media and speaking to others, are placed under the mantle of OUR HOLY MOTHER MARY. Please pray about this opportunity!
May God bless you and your family.
Chris & Liz Smith
Sacred Heart, Tekoa
Diocese of Spokane
To support this new ministry in sharing the faith, please send your donation to Catholic Grandparents for Life c/o Catholic Diocese of Spokane, PO Box 1453, Spokane, WA 99210-1453
Not a grandparent? Please let us know. If you feel strongly about the ministry, and would like to donate or volunteer, please reach out. Thank you!
If you are unable to contribute at this time, simply email email@example.com and they will send you a free bumper sticker.