Hay casi exactamente doce años, por la oración de una abuela, nació la Asociación de Abuelos
Católicos (Catholic Grandparents Association, CGA). Catherine Wiley, abuela con diez nietos, se
encontraba rezando en el Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora de Walsingham, en Inglaterra, en la
fiesta de la Natividad de Nuestra Señora. Su oración era bien sencilla: preguntaba qué podría ofrecer
como regalo a la Madre de nuestro Señor una madre y abuela como ella. Encontró sorprendente
encontrar esta respuesta: honrar a los padres de la Virgen, san Joaquín y santa Ana, los abuelos de
Jesús. Haría peregrinaciones de los santuarios marianos en reconocimiento de la importancia de los
padres de Santa María y de todos los abuelos, ayudándoles así en su vocación.
Please see English Version below:
Catholic Grandparents Association
Just over twelve years ago, from the prayer of a grandmother, Catholic Grandparents Association (CGA) was born. It happened that Catherine Wiley, a grandmother of 10, was praying at the National Shrine to Our Lady in Walsingham, England, on the Feast of our Lady’s Birthday. Her simple prayer was what could she, a mother and grandmother, offer as a present to the Mother of our Lord. The answer came in way that surprised her. It was to honour our Lady’s Parents, St Joachim and St Anne, the Grandparents of Jesus. The call was to make pilgrimages to Marian Shrines in recognition of the importance Mary’s Parents and grandparents everywhere and thus, to support the vocation of grandparents.
Since then, built on the central mission and purpose of supporting grandparents in “keeping prayer at the heart of the family and passing on the faith”, CGA has grown to become a truly International association. CGA has Statutes endorsed by Archbishop Michael Neary, of Tuam, Ireland. Catherine therefore, often says that CGA was conceived in Walsingham and born in Ireland. Working in conjunction with the Pontifical Council of the Family as a Private Association of the Faithful, CGA has further developed its structure and issued a set of guidelines, which will enable CGA, under the auspice of Local Bishops, to become an intrinsic part of parish life.
Over the years, CGA has received the support of three successive Popes. In 2002 St John Paul ll and 2007 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVl blessed the Grandparents Pilgrimages. In 2008, at the request of Catherine, Pope Benedict wrote a special Prayer for Grandparents. Since the beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis has spoken often, referring to the impact that his own grandmother Rosa had on his faith life, about the importance of grandparents in the family, in the Church and in society. During his Address at World Youth Day, in Rio, in 2013, Pope Francis said “How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society! How important it is to have intergenerational exchanges and dialogue, especially within the context of the family, where the elderly transmit the experience and wisdom of their lives.” It was on this day, the 26th July, that Pope Francis also wished everyone a “Happy Grandparents Day”, firmly establishing this day as the one where we can focus on the role that St Joachim and St Anne, Mary’s Parents and the Grandparents of Jesus, had in the life of the Holy Family. In the Prayer for Grandparents, Pope Benedict calls all grandparents, “Strong pillars of Gospel faith, guardians of noble domestic ideals, living treasuries of sound religious traditions and teachers of wisdom and courage”.
The spirituality of CGA derives from the 4th Commandment, to “Honour your father and mother”, which, by God’s will, binds grandparents in everlasting parental relationship with their own children who have become parents themselves. In his letter to CGA on the Feast of the Holy Family, in 2013, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, reminds us that “by virtue of their own human and spiritual experience, grandparents become preeminent collaborators of parents in their primary and principle right and duty to educate their children”.
Today, we see grandparents taking on an ever increasing role in the family. Thankfully, grandparents are now, in general, living longer, are healthier, possibly more financially secure, and have a strong and firm faith which has been honed and developed over the years. However, they also share the many concerns that an increasingly secular society and the breakdown of marriage has brought. Speaking recently, Catherine reminds us that “we cannot be the generation who allows the faith to die out”. We know that the future of the Church and society passes by way of the family. That which strengthens the family will inevitably strengthen society. The relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is a special relationship which is built on love and often quite different from the parental relationship. This can afford many opportunities for gentle conversations which can plant seeds of faith and nurture them to flourish. Children love stories and none more than the ones that their grandparents can tell.
However, it would be wrong to suggest that all family life is idyllic. Often families are separated by distance and family breakdowns. This is particularly hard because often grandparents have no specific rights in law to see their grandchildren. In one such example, a couple lost their son in a car accident, their daughter-in-law remarried and all contact with their grandchildren was severed. However, following an initiative developed by CGA of “Grandparents Day in Schools”, where children invite their grandparents to school for the day, reconciliation in the family took place and these grandparents can now see their grandson on a regular and natural basis.
The growth of CGA has been, by any standard, fast. Over the past three years CGA has established groups and contacts in many countries, including Australia, Ireland, England and Wales, Gibraltar, Spain, Malta, the Philippines and the United States. At the launch of CGA in Australia, Cardinal George Pell said, “I commend your diligence and work in fostering this program that strives to support Grandparents in the spirit of St. Joachim and St. Anne… I endorse CGA’s mission of helping grandparents pass on the faith and keeping prayer at the heart of the family life.”
Many people have said that because they are not actually grandparents, that this association is therefore, not for them. This is quite far from the truth and membership is open to all the baptised who, by their strong familial connections, become “Grandparents at Heart”. This includes great aunts, great uncles and many others. All members are connected by the desire to do the very best for grandchildren.
CGA has developed along three simple lines, group and individual prayer, contact with schools and pilgrimages to shrines and holy places.
Individual prayer groups have developed, which always include Pope Benedict’s Prayer for Grandparents. This also allows time for individual sharing and mutual support. Often there is a social side to this as well, as we realise that it is normally the little conversations, usually over a cup of tea or coffee, that enable difficult issues to be raised.
Our links with schools are twofold. We encourage grandparents days in schools -where one can experience a sense of connection between grandparents and their own grandchildren, and witness the support that grandparents give- and we organise also prayer appeals. One such appeal recently attracted over 10,000 individual prayers from grandchildren.
Pilgrimages have grown significantly and on the weekend of 14th September 2014, at the Shrine to Our Lady in Knock, Ireland, we welcomed over 12,000 grandparents and grandchildren. These gatherings become a powerful witness to the value and worth of the vocation of grandparents everywhere.
In the future, CGA will continue to consolidate, develop and spread its mission and purpose, of “keeping prayer at the heart of the family and to pass on the faith”. Simple to say, but very often difficult to put into practice. Speaking at the recent pilgrimage, Catherine said, “I am often asked how can we do this, how can we effectively pass on the faith to successive generations. I have thought about this deeply and the answer always comes back to being able to teach your grandchildren to pray. Grace before meals, night prayers, the Holy Rosary, are all ways that we can ensure that we continue to build up the Church on earth and ensure that our grandchildren will be able to, in the future, play their part in passing on both our heritage and our faith”.
CGA – Director for International Outreach
 Cf. St. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, n.75.