This September, more than 12,000 grandmothers and grandfathers are expected to gather in the tiny village of Knock in County Mayo. They will be there thanks to the efforts of Catherine Wiley, the founder of the Catholic Grandparents Association.
Wiley is an unlikely granny. In person, she is so stylish, youthful and energetic that at first I wonder if she might not be the founder of the Glamorous Grandmothers Association.
But as soon as we get chatting, her commitment to faith is obvious. “Our purpose at Knock, and in all that we do, is to help grandparents keep prayer at the heart of family life and thus, pass on the faith,” says the 71-year-old grandmother of six grandchildren and four step-grandchildren.
In Knock’s historic setting, grannies and grandpas from around the world will pray, find kindred souls and celebrate their role in saving the faith for future generations. It will be the 15th and largest annual pilgrimage that Wiley has organised.
The association explores issues that concern the modern Catholic grandparent in the concrete realities of the lives of many families. How to pass on the faith when there’s divorce in the family? How to cope when the in-laws see faith differently? What to do if grandchildren are not baptised or if your children have become disenchanted with the faith?
“It often seems that the faith of our forefathers is hanging in the balance, especially in the Western world,” says Wiley, with a seriousness in her voice that belies her warmth and friendliness.
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