21 July 2021, The Tablet

The art of the grandparent

Older people and the Church

The art of the grandparent

Catherine Wiley, standing, pictured at Knock in Ireland in 2017
Photo: CNS, Sarah Mac Donald


When Pope Francis celebrates the Mass in Rome on Sunday that will mark the Church’s first ‘World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly’, the socially-distanced congregation will include a 74-year-old grandmother of ten who was instrumental in bringing this to fruition

Catherine Wiley, founder of the Catholic Grandparents Association (CGA), first proposed that the Church institute a day for grandparents in 2012, in her address at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. Why shouldn’t grandparents be honoured by the Church in the same way as young people are with World Youth Day? Then in 2017, the CGA formally asked Pope Francis to set aside a day in the Church’s calendar that would recognise the contribution grandparents make to families, society and the faith. The request was made at the annual National Grandparents’ Pilgrimage to Knock Shrine, attended by over 5,000 grandparents, and had the blessing of the CGA’s patron, Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam.

When Pope Francis announced on 31 January this year that the Church was going to devote 25 July each year to grandparents and the elderly, Wiley recalls: “I turned to my husband Stewart and said, ‘Mission accomplished’. I can die happy now! I can’t express the sheer joy and emotion that I felt.” She is particularly pleased that the day is being marked just ahead of the Feast Day of Saints Joachim and Anne, the mother and father of Mary and the grandparents of Jesus, on 26 July.

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