“My experience of Lourdes as a first timer was an overwhelming feeling of welcome: I didn’t feel like I was an outsider. I came to Lourdes not really knowing what to expect, and was a person who thought work was the be all and end all. Leaving Lourdes was emotional to say the least. But I know I wouldn’t have felt the peace I feel now had I not gone to Lourdes.”

The Diocese of Brentwood organises pilgrimages to Lourdes and Walsingham every year – and joins with other denominations on the Bradwell Pilgrimage as well.

28 May – Walsingham

Bishop Alan writes: “I look forward to leading the Diocesan Pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham on 28 May to call upon the prayers of Mary, Mother of Mercy. We will have the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, pray at the Stations of Mercy and enter the Door of Mercy as well as Mass at the Basilica of the Annunciation and Vespers and Benediction in the Priory grounds.”

14th-19th August – Lourdes

Past director of the Lourdes Pilgrimage, Fr Dominic Howarth writes: “The Diocese of Brentwood first travelled as a distinct Diocesan group in 1990. Westminster did the same, as the inspiration for this had come from a conversation between Bishop Thomas and Cardinal Hume. The Brentwood Catholic Youth Service had already travelled as a small group for several years; in those days about 30 young people travelled, and it is a great testimony to the work of the BCYS over decades that 250 young people and leaders travelled in 2015 to serve those who need additional assistance to enjoy Lourdes. Around 500 pilgrims included parish groups from Benfleet, Ilford, Basildon, Colchester and Lexden, the fantastic Catholic Fellowship group with Fr Bob Hamill, and the BCYS cohort. The week is a magnificent example of faith in action, with those needing assistance constantly remarking on the cheerfulness, joy, generosity of heart and all-round willingness of the young people. In turn, those of different generations shared their stories of wartime and 1950’s Britain, a world without iPhones or facebook. What unites all the generations is faith, and powerful times of prayer at the Grotto, Mass, Reconciliation, Anointing, Processions, and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament were interwoven with social times where talents – especially musical talent – were wonderfully shared.”

Fr Paul Keane is the Pilgrimage Director in 2016, and the Diocesan Pilgrimage this year includes the celebration of the Assumption. Everyone is welcome, and those with medical needs are supported by a doctor and nursing team. More details and 2015 photos at www.brentwoodlourdes.org