Catherine Wiley grew up in County Mayo, one of a family of 10. She knew only one of her own grandparents, but she was “very close to him, although he died before I was six”.
“He read Bible stories to me,” she recalls. “My first image of prayer was our family rosary, everyone kneeling down in the golden light of the tilly lamps and candles. My grandfather made me feel very special. He had that gift. There were 10 of us, and we all thought we were his favourite.”
Like many of her generation, Catherine left Ireland aged 15 to go to England in search of work: “It was quite a culture shock. I arrived with no idea where I would stay or where I would work. I got my first job in Wall’s bacon factory by lying about my age. The factory arranged digs for me. I was a very enthusiastic worker and soon was promoted.
“At first, I was a typical Irish immigrant, going to Irish dances and Mass on Sunday, But before long I fell away from the practice of the faith. Later, I began doing PR for Island Records, just as the Swinging Sixties were kicking off in London.”
At 21 she met the love of her life, Stewart. “It was love at first sight,” she says. “He came through a doorway and was transfixed. He asked me to marry him the next day.
“After our first child arrived, I began to seriously re-examine my religious commitment. After our child was baptised a Catholic I began to attend Mass every week in London.”
The newlyweds began a travel business that soon became remarkably successful.
“At first we operated tours around the Greek islands,” she says, “but soon we branched into children’s camps, which proved very successful and spread across the UK.”
Life in London was hectic and the couple decided to buy a weekend retreat. By chance, they ended up going to see a farmhouse in Walsingham. Read more
- Catholic Herald
- Image: The Catholic Grandparents Association
- For more information: The Catholic Grandparents Association
News category: Features.