July 16, 2021

‘My heart of stone softened’

Grandmother’s unexpected gift changes a woman, leading her back to God and joy

At left, Cheri Bush treasures the impact that her grandparents, Tom and Virginia Hannon, have had on her life and her faith. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

At left, Cheri Bush treasures the impact that her grandparents, Tom and Virginia Hannon, have had on her life and her faith. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

(Editor’s note: Pope Francis has proclaimed July 25 as the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, recognizing the tremendous impact this group has on the lives of grandchildren, families and younger people. With that impact in mind, The Criterion invited readers to share their stories about how their grandparents—or another older person—have influenced their life, marriage, family and faith. Here are several of their stories.)

First of two parts

By John Shaughnessy

The unexpected and unwanted gift from her grandmother came at a “particularly dark time” in life for Cheri Bush.

She was 24 then, working on a master’s degree at Purdue University, but any promise of the future was overwhelmed by her pain in the present.

“I found myself in a particularly dark time, living away from Indianapolis for the first time and knowing no one,” she recalls. “I was lonely, scared and away from the Church.

“In fact, I felt that I had let God down with some of my life choices and had wrecked his plan for my life. I did not know how to find my way back to a relationship with him, and I could not even pray.”

During that low point, she received a letter and a gift in the mail from her grandmother, Virginia Hannon. Her grandmother was a labor-and-delivery nurse who had been there when Bush was born. Now her grandmother was there for her again in this time of despair, encouraging her to do one thing: pray the rosary. She even enclosed what Bush describes as “a beautifully illustrated booklet on ‘How to Pray the Rosary.’ ”

Bush’s reaction to the booklet and the rosary request was immediate—and dismissive.

“I rolled my eyes thinking about the rote prayers said over and over and the boredom that I would experience. I set it aside,” she recalls. “But one night, in desperation, I decided to look through it. I found that I’d forgotten most of the mysteries of the rosary. I was intrigued about how to meditate on the mysteries while saying the prayers. I realized that I’d never learned how to properly pray the rosary.”

As those thoughts raced through her mind, she also thought of her grandmother. She imagined her grandmother praying with her as she began to pray the rosary for the first time in a long time. It was the beginning of a transformation for her.

“Over time, my heart of stone softened. I wondered if God would still love me even though I’d ‘messed everything up.’ A new friend and her husband were attending

St. Thomas Aquinas Parish at Purdue and invited me to go to church with them. The priests there were young, funny and could speak directly to us college students. The music was terrific. I began attending Mass on Sundays on a regular basis, which led to daily Mass attendance and joining the choir and the youth ministry team.”

Her connection and commitment to the Church has continued ever since. Bush has served as a parish youth minister, a catechist, a cantor and a lector. A member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis, she also serves now as the director of mission advancement for Catholic Charities in the archdiocese.

The dark time of her life has been replaced by a joy that shines in her smile.

“Turns out, I hadn’t messed everything up,” she says. “I am so grateful to Grandma for her faith and the invitation to pray the rosary that she shared with me almost 30 years ago.” †

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