By Lydia O’Kane
On Sunday morning, 25 July, Holy Mass is scheduled to be celebrated in St Peter’s Basilica to mark the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.
Among those present will be those carrying out pastoral work supporting the elderly, as well as grandparents and their grandchildren.
Grandparents, the elderly and the faithful will also be able to obtain a Plenary Indulgence.
One of the many people attending the celebration will be Catherine Wiley, founder of the Catholic Grandparents Association, whose mission it is “to help Grandparents pass on the faith and keep prayer at the heart of family life”.
Over the last twenty years the association has grown and Grandparent pilgrimages are now held in countries including the UK, Ireland, Scotland, Malta, Canada, and the United States.
An answer to prayers
For the grandmother of ten, this inaugural day is an answer to many prayers and persistence over the years, and she says that this occasion “is not just for us, it’s for all the grandparents in the world to come in recognition of the incredible contribution they’ve made.”
Over the past year a half, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented grandparents and the elderly with many challenges, including long periods in lockdown being unable to see their grandchildren and other loved ones.
“There’s never been a harder time for grandparents,” Wiley notes, adding that they’ve had to “stand by helplessly and watch their families struggle.”
“So many parents had to stay at home to educate their children; they couldn’t visit their grandparents, their grandparents couldn’t get out to see them.” This is why, she says, this World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is the “ultimate gift” for them “in just appreciation and an acknowledgment of what they can do and what they are prepared to do for their families.”
Asked about what her own grandchildren think about this inaugural day, Wiley says her grandson is very enthusiastic, remarking, “what would we do without our Grandparents?”
Parishes in countries around the world are being encouraged to mark this new World Day, and the founder of the Catholic Grandparents Association points out that there have also been a number of initiatives including tree planting.
“They’re planting trees all over the world in memory of Grandparents and they’re using the trees to remember Grandparents throughout the year.”
She also says that Pope Benedict’s 2008 prayer for Grandparents “has been a great favourite,” and memorial candles are being lit.
“When all is said and done", Wiley emphasizes, “the theme, I will always be with you, which is the theme Pope Francis has chosen; if you could find a mission statement for us… it would be that, Grandparents I will be with you always, because they are before they’re born right through our own lives until we leave them and then when we’re up in heaven praying for them to join us”