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 | By Austin Fox

On a great journey with Jesus

The feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the earthly grandparents of Jesus, falls on July 26. The role of grandparent can be significant in the passing on of the faith down the generations. Austin Fox interviewed Stan and Jean Pohl, grandparents to 40 grandchildren.

“So many parents say they just want their kids to be happy and healthy, but whenever I hear that, I can’t help but think, ‘Sure, but I also want them to get to eternity.’ I want them to spend their eternity with God.”

God has a multitude of ways he showers his blessings on families, but there is perhaps no greater blessing for a parent than to see their children stay strong in their Catholic faith throughout their adult lives. For Stan and Jean Pohl (the latter of whom is quoted above) of St. Mary Parish in Westphalia, this is a blessing they’re more thankful for than any other.

Stan and Jean have been married for 54 years and have seven adult children, 40 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, with the Catholic faith remaining strong in all seven of their children’s lives and their respective families.

Currently living a peaceful, faith-filled life in the Westphalia countryside, Stan and Jean’s home epitomizes the ways in which God has blessed the couple. It’s surrounded by farmland and forests, and sits a few hundred yards from the home of their daughter and son-in-law.

Like any other longstanding married couple, Stan and Jean have experienced plenty of ups and downs, but admitted having their kids remain close to God is the biggest blessing he has given them.

“The most important role God gave us as parents is to get our kids to heaven, and we know that’s our role for each other too,” Jean explained. “Both Stan and I had that mindset when we started our family.”

Stan and Jean were both born into strong Catholic households and thanked God for the way their upbringing created a strong foundation for their own marriage. They noted it wasn’t necessarily their words that played the biggest role in ensuring their seven kids remained close to Jesus, but instead their actions.

“We always tried to lead by example,” Stan recalled. “We tried to instill things in our kids by just being good Catholics, and our kids picked up on that.” 

One of the main ways in which Stan and Jean built such a strong connection with God early on was through daily prayer. Though both now lead strong prayer lives, Stan’s helped him grow particularly close to God at an early age, a trait that Jean admitted impacted her own prayer life significantly. Stan developed immense trust in God through prayer, a quality that helped the couple navigate the twists and turns that life presented.

“When you don’t have all the answers, you can only do what you think is best — and that’s to give whatever you’re going through to God,” Stan explained. “You can’t worry yourself sick about things you can’t change. I have found that we can’t even solve some of our own problems, and that’s why we lean on Jesus through prayer. We learned to put things in God’s hands.”

Someone else who aided the couple during some trying times while raising their family was the Blessed Virgin Mary. As is the case with any trial we go through in life, beautiful blessings can come if we turn our sufferings over to the Holy Family. For Stan and Jean, one of their trials resulted in a newfound devotion to Mary.

“One of our sons went through a rough time when he was a teenager, and it broke my heart,” Jean recalled. “I started praying to the Blessed Mother and for the first time, I felt myself able to relate to the pain she went through during Jesus’ Passion — I felt it so deep. I don’t think it’s uncommon for women to rely on the Blessed Mother sooner in life than men, because that’s the role we play as mothers. We see our own children go through difficult situations, but it’s nothing compared to what Mary must have endured.

“I learned to trust her so much during that time because she was the mother who could be with my children when I couldn’t.”

“I ask all my prayer intentions to go through the Wounded Immaculate Heart of our Blessed Mother, and I pray her Seven Sorrows every day,” Stan added. “I don’t think there’s a better way to send requests to our Lord than through her Immaculate Heart.”

Stan and Jean’s closeness with Jesus and Our Blessed Mother have undoubtedly played a role in God’s leading their children to ministry work. All of their children and spouses are involved in various ministries at their respective parishes (four of them at St. Mary), while their son, Craig, works as the Director of New Evangelization for the Diocese of Lansing. Most of their older grandchildren have also been to Steubenville’s Youth Conference at least once, while two have attended World Youth Day.

Watching their children and now many of their grandchildren carry on Jesus’ mission and develop deep relationships of their own with Christ has been the best blessing God has given their family, Stan and Jean said. 

“As long as I can, I pray that our faith and trust will continue to grow,” Stan explained. “This life is an understanding of our walk with God, and his walk with us. We’re so thankful for the blessings God has given our family, especially the support of so many people from St. Mary Parish during what’s been a journey — a great journey — with Jesus.”

Sts. Joachim and Anne, pray for us!