A search is under way to find the country’s most enduring pairs and hear from them firsthand just what they believe keeps a marriage going through good times and bad.
The six couples who have celebrated the most wedding anniversaries will be invited to be special guests at the annual National Grandparents Pilgrimage to Knock, where they will be accommodated in a local hotel on September 14.
They’ll also be invited to renew their wedding vows — or create new ones if they can’t quite remember the original wording from decades ago — and they’ll get a special blessing from the Papal Nuncio John Charles Brown.
The idea comes from the Catholic Grandparents Association, which was set up here in 2009 and is now fast spreading across parishes in this country and to Catholic dioceses worldwide.
Founder Catherine Wiley, herself a grandmother of 10 from Castlebar, Co Mayo, said she believed it was important to celebrate the importance of marriage, particularly at a time when divorce was on the increase.
“We have always honoured the oldest grandparents at the pilgrimage, but this year we thought it would be interesting to see who are the longest married people in the country and what advice they would give other couples,” she said.
“We already have one couple who are 74 years married so that might be hard to beat, but we’d be delighted to hear from all couples who are at least 60 years married and have a few lines from them on what is it they think is the reason for their enduring marriage.
“There are bound to be some similarities in the answers but there will probably be some thoughts that hadn’t occurred to most of us before and we’ll be sharing the answers with the public once we compile them.”
The CGA evolved from the first grandparents’ pilgrimage, which Ms Wiley organised in 2003 in England, where she and husband Stewart met, married, ran a successful business and raised their family before returning to Mayo in 2005.
It is officially recognised by the Catholic Church and has had the blessing of Popes Benedict and Francis.
Anyone wishing to nominate a couple, or themselves, to be included among Ireland’s most enduring couples can contact the association on 098 24877 or catholic firstname.lastname@example.org