I am delighted to have been asked to be a part of the first National Grandparents Pilgrimage. I am not a grandmother myself yet but I had a very close relationship with my own grandmother Nellie Sheerin.
She came to Amsterdam with me, and my mother, when I travelled to Amsterdam for the Eurovision in 1970.
She had a very big influence on me – the things she told me, the little pearls of wisdom she passed onto me. Although she died over 15 years ago, at the age of 96, she is still very vivid in my memory and I am very aware of the importance of the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.
My grandmother was such a positive person. She was always there for my mother and for us. She raised 13 in hard times in a two-up, two-down house in Derry. She visited America for the first time in 1993, at the age of 93, when I sang in New Orleans during a visit to that city by Pope John Paul 11. She had great energy and love all through her life.
When Catherine Wiley contacted me about the pilgrimage for grandparents, my first thought was it was such an inspired idea. It is timely because we live in pressurised times. There is great pressure on so many parents – financial pressure, time pressure, and many other pressures. In many cases, both parents have to work to keep going.
Many families depend on grandparents to get by. I read some years ago that ‘grandparents rock the cradle’, and it’s so true.
I sincerely hope this pilgrimage will give grandparents a sense of the esteem in which they are held. Nothing makes people feel stronger than a sense of community, a feeling that you have something to contribute. This Pilgrimage is a way of informing grandparents that we are aware of the key role they play in the family, and that we appreciate them very much. It will empower and motivate them.
Grandparents are in a privileged position in that they are there from the very start. The trust that builds up between grandparents and their grandchildren is a real treasure.
I think the Family Prayer Appeal is a wonderful idea, too, and sits perfectly with the pilgrimage. A prayer for your grandparents is such a beautiful gift from a family. In life, we often let the moment pass, and regret later that we didn’t say what we felt. By writing a prayer for their grandparents to coincide with this pilgrimage, grandchildren can make their feelings know. They can say thanks. It is a precious opportunity that I hope is seized by many young people all over Ireland.
My advice to them would be: “Don’t let the moment pass. Write your prayer today so that your grandparents know how grateful you are for all they have done for you.”
Grandparents cement families. They pass on the faith. They pass on wisdom and knowledge. They hold families together. We are now getting a chance to make our gratitude known.
I urge grandparents all over Ireland to attend the pilgrimage on Saturday, September 22nd. We can make this a very special day and ensure that grandparents in Ireland are never taken for granted.