'Grandparents are the anchor of many families - but we don't always recognise that'

The Catholic Grandparents Association is holding its annual pilgrimage to Knock next month (and will feature a performance from Dana).

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THEY’RE ALWAYS THERE, but sometimes we don’t really see them.

Grandparents play a crucial role in many families, but they might not always be properly recognised and appreciated.

A 2015 survey by The Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI found that grandparents are the most popular choice of working parents for providing childcare – the figure stands at 42%, compared to just 20% for both creches and childminders.

In other cases, where a child is put into care, the first port of call is relatives, including grandparents.

And with changes in healthcare increasing life expectancy, grandparents are able to perform roles like this more frequently and for a longer period of time – there’s also the added element that you will simply have more grandparents in Irish society.

Ensuring they are respected and appreciated is one of the aims of the Catholic Grandparents Association (CGA), a charity formally established in 2009.

Its annual pilgrimage to Knock takes place next month, but it is attempting to take it a step further by pushing for a world day of prayer for grandparents.

“The pilgrimage is to honour and thank all grandparents alive and dead,” Catherine Wiley, the organisation’s founder, said.

They’re always there, they’re an anchor to a lot of families, but their enormous contribution isn’t always recognised. They help in homes across the country in so many ways.

Wiley cited her organisation’s annual pilgrimage as proof that the Catholic Church is “alive and well in Ireland”, citing attendance figures of as high as 10,000, mostly of older people but also many accompanied by their children.

This is a crucial aspect of what the CGA does – their main focus is to ”help grandparents pass on the faith and to keep prayer at the heart of family life”.

Wiley said that the Catholic Church has been “hammered in so many ways” in recent decades in Ireland.

Grandparents have never lost the faith. They have stuck with the church through thick and thin; they’ve done all they can to support the church and to support their children.

“How do you pass on the faith? It will be the most essential thing that we can do in our lives, to carry the torch of faith.”

Wiley added that the CGA is looking to expand on the pilgrimage and campaign for a world day of prayer for grandparents, similar to what currently exists for other aspects. They aim for it to held on 26 July, the feast day of Jesus’s grandparents Joachim and Anne.

The pilgrimage is now in its tenth year, and will take place at Knock next month on September 10th at 2.30pm. Dana, who is involved with CGA, will be performing at the event.

According to, the charity had an income of almost €7,000 in 2015, down significantly from the year previous, and an expenditure of more than €9,600. Iona Institute founder David Quinn is listed as one of the CGA’s directors.

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