There are many fruits that can come out of a pilgrimage. This past June in Dublin was no exception. You begin the journey anticipating one thing and find along the way all sorts of blessings that were unanticipated, “wow” moments that were never on your radar when you first began.
One of the great fruits that I found at the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin this past June was to learn more about the Catholic Grandparents Association.
For many of us, grandparents have been inspiring, steady anchors in our families through the ups and downs, models to whom we look for example, advice and wisdom. We saw the love that the youth of the world had for Blessed Pope John Paul II, himself a grandfatherly figure, initiating the international World Youth Days and numerous other gatherings for young people.
Motivated by a love for her faith and a desire to raise the profile of the opportunity that existed for a more defined “grandparent ministry”, Catherine Wiley, (pictured at left below) a grandparent in Ireland, decided to take action by organizing a pilgrimage specifically for grandparents in 2002 in gratitude to Sts. Joachim & Anne (Grandparents of Jesus) for all that they’ve done to pass on the faith.
By 2006, the pilgrimage in Knock, Ireland (blessed by Pope Benedict) had grown to attract more than 14,000 participants. It was a powerful statement from these wise and faithful men and women who have given so many years to their families and their faith.
Today, there are numerous pilgrimages throughout the world for Catholic Grandparents, including events in the United States, England, Germany, Tanzania and Australia to name a few. Could a Canadian initiative be in the offing? It would be a real blessing for the church in our nation to have such a presence and coordinated ministry.
The pilgrimages include efforts to connect with local schools, encouraging students to compose prayers of thanksgiving for their grandparents that are then presented at the large Eucharistic Celebration, the summit of the pilgrimage experience.
Catherine had the opportunity to present a workshop with participants at the IEC and was also interviewed during one of our many plenary session breaks. Her workshop was a highlight for many attending the congress with a standing ovation and hundreds of inquiries to the organization in the days that followed.
Catherine also shared her personal story of writing to Pope Benedict XVI asking for a universal prayer for Grandparents. An excerpt from her presentation:
“Seven years ago, I wrote to our Holy Father in desperation and begged him to write a universal prayer for Grandparents because as a Grandmother, even though I was a practising Catholic, I felt I was failing my family. I felt unable to pass on my faith, because some members of my family were scorning and rejecting it. I felt hurt and excluded.
Nobody believed that the Pope would ever write the prayer. I never doubted it. My mission was to ensure that he saw the request (not an easy task as you can imagine). I knew, absolutely, that once he did, he would not hesitate, and when he did, he summed it up perfectly.”
you were born of the Virgin Mary,
the daughter of Saints Joachim and Anne.
Look with love on Grandparents the world over.
Protect them! They are a source of enrichment
for families, for the Church and for all of society.
Support them! As they grow older,
may they continue to be for their families
strong pillars of Gospel faith,
guardians of noble domestic ideals,
living treasuries of sound religious traditions.
Make them teachers of wisdom and courage,
that they may pass on to future generations the fruits
of their mature human and spiritual experience.
help families and society
to value the presence and roles of Grandparents.
May they never be ignored or excluded,
but always encounter respect and love.
Help them to live serenely and to feel welcomed
in all the years of life which you give them.
Mary, Mother of all the living,
keep Grandparents constantly in your care,
accompany them on their earthly Pilgrimage,
and by your prayers, grant that all families
may one day be reunited in our heavenly homeland,
where you await all humanity
for the great embrace of live without end. Amen
“You can see why our Holy Father has become known as the champion of Grandparents – the Grandparents’ Pope. He understands.
Grandparents desperately needed this prayer to help restore their confidence and strengthen their faith. They need to be reassured that the Church is aware of their plight and is there to help them. And they need to be given the courage and support to proclaim their faith, to fulfil their sacred obligation of passing on the faith. Grandparents are the natural Evangelisers embedded in the heart of the family.
After receiving the Holy Father’s Prayer for Grandparents, we founded the Catholic Grandparents Association to fulfil the great need that the people of Ireland themselves said they needed.”
Our grandparents have so much to offer our church and families. It’s already happening in quiet ways throughout our Archdiocese, country and global church community. However, there is an opportunity to channel the energy, gifts and talents with initiatives like the Catholic Grandparents Association to spark a flame in those who may not be engaged, to encourage prayer from grandparents for children and vice versa, to help energize those in our parishes who may be looking for that additional spark to launch their involvement.
Kudos to Catherine Wiley and all those involved in this initiative worldwide. Pope Benedict XVI has been a strong supporter of the group’s work and by penning a special prayer for grandparents, he’s reminded us all that they must never be forgotten or excluded, rather, embraced and loved, pillars of our faith community.
So for all those thinking that pilgrimage is just for the young, look over your shoulder. You might see Grams or Gramps on your heels. When you do, stop, wait and take the journey together. Because after all, we are family!