Gifts of faith for grads and dads

It’s that time of year again, when ties for dad are in abundance and there’s a graduation cap on just about everything from gift cards to stuffed animals for the pre-K to the college grad. But before buying that tie, writing a gift check or spending money on department store gift cards that will be used and forgotten, consider giving an inspirational gift to that special dad or graduate that will provide a lasting reminder not only of the occasion, but also of their faith.

    “Events [such as graduation and Father’s Day] provide a perfect opportunity to give a gift of faith,” explained Katrina Skinner, store manager of Sacred Melody Gifts in Syracuse.
   At Touch of Grace in Oswego, store manager Tricia Buck agrees that the message a gift carries can turn ordinary gifts into forever keepsakes. “I always try and suggest gifts like bibles because [the giver] can sign their name inside. I still have my bible that I received back in 1984 from my parents. It’s the type of gift you keep forever.”

   Buck and her boss, storeowner Bernadette Crisafulli, feel gifts with a message also have stronger impact than gifts of cash. “If I give you money for an occasion, it’s gone quickly,” stated Crisafulli. “But if I give you a gift with a message, it is something you will always remember me by.”

   Rosemary Costa, director of the Franciscan Place in Destiny USA also believes inspirational gifts are a wise choice as they are traditionally treasured by recipients. “Inspirational gifts will always be kept,” stated Costa. “The gift reminds the recipient of the giver and also to keep a prayerful mind and attitude.” Costa points to music and trinket boxes as gifts with staying power. “For graduates we have inspirational music boxes that play hymns such as ‘Jesus Loves Me’ or ‘Amazing Grace,’” stated Costa. “People look for that kind of gift because it will be kept forever and reminds us who we are as Catholics. Every time we see the gift it can bring us back to our faith and we can remember that Jesus is always with us.”

   This year for high school and college graduates, popular gifts are photo frames, rosaries, bibles, key chains, crosses, trinket boxes, jewelry, religious medals, prayer cards, water bottles and even cell phone cases. These gifts are made even more special by being personalized explains Skinner, with the graduate’s name or with a favorite line of scripture, such as Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you.”

   “That piece of scripture speaks to the very heart of what is important to young people,looking toward the future,” stated Skinner. “When you engrave those words on a picture frame of friends and family or on a cell phone case, we are reminded that God is so much greater than we are, and when we trust in him our lives have focus.”

   Books, devotional music and prayer cards are also smart choices says Cara Bernardo, owner of Ava Maria Catholic Shop in Johnson City. “When parents or godparents come in for graduation gifts I tend to direct them to devotional books, crosses, prayer cards or crucifixes for dorm rooms,” stated Bernardo. “We also sell a lot of prayer cards, especially those of St. Thomas Aquinas, the patron saint of scholars.” An interesting phenomenon for Bernardo is that college students often come in to the shop themselves to purchase crosses for their dorm rooms or visor clips for their cars. “I think inspirational gifts are so popular because it recalls the grounding of a person in their faith,” stated Bernardo. “These days it’s so easy to get caught up in the secular and something small, like a rosary hanging on the side of a dorm room bed, calls to mind for that person to say a little prayer and remember Jesus during the day.”

   For the younger graduate, Skinner and Costa state there are plenty of choices. Stuffed animals, games, toys and gift cards are always popular, but Skinner suggests adding an inspirational gift to a small toy or gift card can make the gift truly memorable. “Gift cards are easy to give,” explains Skinner, “but if you give a gift card, add an inspirational greeting card and a small inspirational gift — the cost is not expensive and has high impact. It can literally sow the seeds of faith for the future. If nothing else, it will remind the child to focus on God.”

Make a dad glad

   For fathers, inspirational gifts are a smart choice to remind them of the importance of their role within the family. Traditional gifts such as a medal or statue of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of the family, inspirational book or mugs will offer a special dad a chance to focus on his importance in his family and within his faith. “I think an inspirational gift cements the family more because they reflect on what’s important in life,” stated Sharon Woloszyn, manager of the Immaculate Conception Inspirational Gift Store in Ithaca. “An inspirational gift says more than, ‘Let’s celebrate dad by going out to eat.’ It speaks of spending time together and the importance of relationships. A dad can look at something from his daughter or son and reflect on what they mean to him and what he means to them.”

   Woloszyn suggests fathers might enjoy boxes with inspirational sayings such as the Serenity Prayer that can hold their keys or pens and business card holders made from marble mined in Jerusalem. “We even have a book called Real Men Pray the Rosary,” stated Woloszyn.

   For young gift givers, Skinner suggests children can give dad an activity book that they fill out together or by themselves, describing memories they shared or celebrations that have been important to both father and child. “An inspirational gift not only celebrates relationships, it celebrates the importance of faith in the family,” stated Skinner.

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