Hundreds of people attended the inaugural Catholic Grandparents Pilgrimage in Aylesford Priory on Saturday July 16th 2011.  The event, though dampened by some inclement weather, failed to dampen the spirits of pilgrims on what many people described as an inspirational and uplifting day.  The event was organized by an inter-diocesan committee from the Archdiocese of Arundel and Brighton, Southwalk and the Diocese of Brentwood, in association with the Catholic Grandparents Association. 

The day was one of faith and fun and included various activities for children from face-painting, bouncy castles, football and tennis to the versatile talents of children’s entertainment from Graham and Funforce while Brentwood Youth Service organised a quiz.    

Catherine Wiley, founder of the Catholic Grandparents Association, led a workshop, as did Jane Andrews of the Cabrini Society and Paschal Uche, who welcomed Pope Benedict at Westminster last year on behalf of the Catholic youth of the UK. Their talks all focused on the important role grandparents play in both family life and ‘passing on the faith’.

During the day there were also opportunities to spend quiet prayer time with the Blessed Sacrament and for receiving the sacrament of reconciliation.  All children were offered a rosary and prayer sheet.  In addition, there was a continuous film show of the resource ‘Home is a Holy Place’ along with a number of other resources in support of both marriage and family which were provided by all three dioceses.

The day concluded with the Celebration of Mass at the main shrine led by Bishop John Hine, who has recently been appointed Patron of the Catholic Grandparents Association in England.  During his homily he spoke of the fact that it is only in relatively recent times that grandchildren have really been able to know their grandparents.  He spoke of the important and essential role that they continue to play in family life.  At the end of the Mass he led the release of many balloons, to which a number of children and others had attached prayers and intentions for their own grandparents.  Building on the success of this event, planning has now already begun for next year’s pilgrimage!

Many thanks to Phil Butcher,
Director – Commission for Justice and Social Responsibility
Marriage and Family Life Diocesan Coordinator
Diocese of Brentwood