The Feast of Sts. Ann and Joachim Now has New Significance

Sylvania Pines
July 9, 2021
August 2, 2021
Sylvania Pines
July 9, 2021
August 2, 2021

By Sister Nancy Ann Surma, OSF

I’ve had a thing about St. Ann, the mother of the Mary, since I was a child.  My name is a diminutive form of Anne or Ann.  My parents must not have been aware of that since my middle name is “Ann.”  My father was the one who selected my name.  The “Nancy” came from a Frank Sinatra song popular at the time of my birth, “Nancy (With the Laughing Face).”  The “Ann” came because that was my mother’s name.  The feast day of St. Ann is July 26, and I loved to celebrate it with my mother.

When I was growing up, the feast day of Mary’s father, Joachim, was celebrated on August 16.  With the revision of the General Roman Calendar in 1969, his feast was moved and joined with that of St. Ann on July 26.  I resented that change, in part because when we prayed the office on that day, the proper for a Holy Man was used.   I was upset St. Ann wasn’t getting her due.

Pope Francis has helped me reconcile celebrating both saints together, as this year he proclaimed the fourth Sunday in July to coincide with the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne as World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.  The first celebration will be on July 25 with the theme “I am with you always” from the Gospel of Matthew.  The Pope says in his message that “This is the promise the Lord made to his disciples before he ascended into heaven.  They are the words that he repeats to you today, dear grandfathers, grandmothers and dear elderly friends. ‘I am with you always’ are also the words that I, as Bishop of Rome and an elderly person like yourselves, would like to address to you on this first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly.  The whole Church is close to you—to us—and cares about you, loves you and does not want to leave you alone!”

Given my ministry in CHI Living Communities, the subsidiary of CommonSpirit Health that provides a range of care and housing for the elderly, this new celebration is especially dear.  It is a day to remind all of us that the elderly have important gifts to offer by the witness of their lives and the power of their prayers.  With this reminder, I will gladly celebrate both Ann and Joachim on their feast day.

Giotto di BondoneSt. Joachim and St. Ann meeting at the Golden Gate, in the Scrovegni Chapel,


Sister Nancy Ann Surma

Health and Human Services

Sister Nancy is a native of Detroit and was taught in grade school by the Sylvania Franciscans. Her early years were spent teaching and administering at the junior high and high school level. Life took a turn, as it so often does, and she served as administrator in four different Catholic colleges and universities, earning a doctorate in higher education administration along the way. She currently serves as the Vice President of Mission Integration for CHI Living Communities, a part of CommonSpirit Health. CHI offers seniors numerous safe and convenient living options deeply rooted in a Catholic heritage offering a healing ministry for people of all faiths.

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Sister Mary Thill
6 years ago

I enjoyed meeting the wonderful folks you brought to Sylvania…an almost impromptu pizza party at Greccio their first night.
They sure gave me hope for the future for the Mission and place of the laity in our health care system.
Welcome aboard!

Sister Irenaeus
6 years ago

Dear Sister Nancy, Thank you for this wonderful sharing. Thank you, all of our Sisters and our Lay partners for your dedicated love, support and service to our elderly, infirmed and aging persons. I truly believe our work will never cease;, our Franciscan Spirit and values continue to live in those who carry on our work. You continue to inspire, lead and guide our partners in Mission with us. The words and thoughts of Aram were very moving. We Sisters and Religious have an awesome calling and our work is humbly acknowledged by those who work with us and see… Read more »

Sister Maria Pacelli
6 years ago

Thanks for sharing this experience with us, Nancy. I ‘m happy to hear that so many lay ministers are involved in mission integration, too. Keep up the good work!

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