It was standing room only at the Basilica of Our Lady of Knock last Sunday for the annual National Grandparents Pilgrimage organised by the Catholic Grandparents Association.  Homilist, Fr Benny MacHale, spoke about the unique relationship between children and their grandparents, describing it as a ‘special bond.’  He said that many children are more affected by what their grandparents say than what their parents say.  He urged grandparents to be aware of the powerful influence they have on grandchildren and to support them and their parents.  “Be aware also that grandparents should never undermine their own sons and daughters who are rearing their children,” he said.

Chief Celebrant, Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam, welcomed the huge crowd for the fifth annual National Grandparents Pilgrimage.  EWTN’s Kathy Sinnott urged pilgrims to focus on the ‘new evangelisation’ – passing on the faith to future generations, quoting from Blessed Pope John Paul 11.  CGA President, Máire Printer, echoed the words of Scripture, stating: ‘It is good for us to be here,’ while CGA Founder, Catherine Wiley, urged people to join the association and assist grandparents to pass on the faith and keep prayer at the heart of family life.  She assured grandparents:  ‘We’re all in it together!  The legacy of the CGA is eternity – leaving a footprint from this world to the next…’          

The CGA was set up to honour the St Joachim and St Anne, grandparents of Jesus and parents of Mary, and to thank grandparents down through the generations for passing on the faith.  Thousands of prayers, written by children all over the country to honour their grandparents, bedecked the sanctuary of the Basilica, prompting many elderly pilgrims present to write prayers for their own deceased grandparents and place them on the sanctuary.

Four generations of the Noonan family from Westport brought the gifts to the altar while children’s prayers for grandparents were carried in procession by Mrs Kathleen Flanagan from Newscastle, Co Down and Adina Keane from Ballyglass, Mayo.   The entrance procession included representatives from the many CGA branches in Ireland and other grandparents pilgrimages across the world, including Scotland, Walsingham, Aylesford, Germany, Nigeria, Tanzania and America. 

It was led by Knock Stewards and Handmaids.  First Communicants carried flowers and petals with Dr Peter and Mary Tiernan, who recently received a Papal honour, carrying the CGA banner.  John Cullen and Séamus Brown led the way with a banner of Our Lady, ahead of a banner of St Joachim and St Anne.

Former Minister and TD, Mary O’Rourke, read a lesson as did the current Mayo Person of the Year, Pat Jennings.  Grandparents and children read the bidding prayers, which included a remembrance for all affected by terrorism, commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  The Pope’s Universal Prayer for Grandparents, written by Pope Benedict at the request of the CGA, was read by Mons Joe Quinn, parish priest of Knock.

A moving Eucharistic blessing at the end of Mass brought many people to their knees, as Mons Joe Quinn led a beautiful reflection, accompanied by organist, Úna Nolan.  Music was provided by Liam Lawton and Anne Marie Gibbons with the Mayo School of Music Choir and Our Lady’s Choir, Castlebar under the capable direction of Finola Higgins-Cosgrove. 

Next year’s annual National Grandparents Pilgrimage in Knock will be held on Sunday, September 9th.