Irish grandmother inspires the world

A Co. Mayo grandmother who ran Ireland’s first-ever National Grandparents’ Pilgrimage last year has inspired church leaders in countries around the world to run similar pilgrimages, following her address to a high-powered Vatican Council last week.

Catherine Wiley, a native of Castlebar who lives in Murrisk, outside Westport, said she was “very moved and humbled” by the reaction when she delivered a paper at a Plenary Session of the Pontifical Council last week.

“It was a moving experience and a wonderful opportunity to highlight some of the difficulties and challenges that grandparents are currently facing both in the family and in the Church. I felt privileged,” said Catherine, who was one of almost 300 delegates from all over the world to attend the Plenary Session.

“The big message that came through was that the grandparents of Ireland had led the way with last year’s Pilgrimage in Knock Shrine, and a number of senior church figures I spoke to are now planning to run their own grandparents’ pilgrimages,” said Catherine, who was one of almost 300 delegates from all over the world to attend the Plenary Session.

“I had an audience with Pope Benedict XV1 and we remain hopeful that he will write a prayer for specifically for grandparents. That would be a great boost to our efforts to celebrate the role grandparents play in the family, and to encourage them in their work of holding families together and transmitting the faith.

“Grandparents are indispensable to family life. They are our collective memories, they are a symbol of life and history, and the Plenary Session concluded that grandparents are not properly appreciated. That’s why our pilgrimage can be such a powerful instrument for good.”

“The Vatican Council Plenary Session was addressed by former Italian Prime Minister Julio Andreotti. In her address, Catherine spoke at length about how she believes grandparents are “without doubt the most valuable asset in the church, and need to be supported and encouraged in every way. They are pivotal in the family as transmitters of the faith.”

Over 5,000 people attended the inaugural pilgrimage in Knock Shrine last September, where Dana was the guest speaker, and now plans are at an advanced stage for this year’s event on Sunday, September 14th. The keynote speaker will be well-known religious affairs writer David Quinn, with Fr Liam Lawton as guest singer.

A National Grandparents’ in School Day is also in the pipeline and details will be announced in the near future.

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