It really makes you appreciate that we are part of the worldwide family of Christ.

Bishop Alan Williams recently led a 500-strong Diocesan Pilgrimage in Lourdes, just a couple of weeks after his gruelling trip to Poland for World Youth Day. The Lourdes group was made up of 200 adult pilgrims, 50 of whom use wheelchairs, 200 young adults from the Brentwood Catholic Youth Service – who helped assisted pilgrims – the Catholic Fellowship with Fr Bob Hamill and some individual parish groups including one from Leigh on Sea. Fr Paul Keane, pilgrimage director, was accompanied by Fr Dominic Howarth, vocations director Fr Graham Smith, Fr Mark Reilly and deacons Kevin Lyons, Michael Smith and Richard Cerson. Adrian Lowe, a seminarian going to Beda College, Rome in September, and others travelled with BCYS, who had time out during the pilgrimage for their own spiritual development.

During the week, pilgrims celebrated the feast of the Assumption at the International Mass with thousands of Catholics from all over the world.

Later in the week they walked together leading the torchlight procession in Lourdes, ending with Benediction in front of the Basilica.

The pilgrims were led through the Door of Mercy by Bishop Alan and the week ended with a garden party.