Around 300 pilgrims, clergy and young people from Brentwood Catholic Youth Service travelled to Lourdes this year, led by Bishop Alan and other clergy including Canon Bob Hamill and Fr David Pearce. Mgr Kevin Hale, Fr Graham Smith and Fr Mark Reilly travelled with groups from their parishes to meet up with the Diocesan Pilgrimage. Fr Michael Barwick and Youth Director Claire Bailey travelled with the BCYS cohort.
After a wet start during the Grotto Mass, which was celebrated with Lancaster Diocese, the weather improved. Fr Paul Keane, Pilgrimage Director, gave the homily (23.07.24 – Lourdes Opening Mass) at the first Mass, inspired by Lourdes’ theme for this year: ‘to build a chapel’. Later in the week Bishop Alan said a Mass for the anointing of the sick and there was a torchlight procession.
The BCYS members assisted the elderly and infirm, particularly those in wheelchairs, to get to Masses and services, to visit the shops and cafes of the beautiful French town, as well as joining them for social time together. For many pilgrims, it is one of the few times they are able to leave their house.
For the young people the week also included a retreat, reconciliation service, the chance to visit the baths, a trip to the stunning mountain town of Gavarnie (part of a UNESCO World Heritage site), social nights and a party, alongside the Lourdes Torchlight Procession and Blessed Sacrament Procession.
First-timer Finley said: “This is my first year going to Lourdes and I have been pleasantly surprised by my experience, I left home slightly narrow minded on how my experience would be but I soon realised that this was not how my week away would go! From spending time with the elderly and less able in our diocese to making new friends for life, Lourdes truly is a magical place that I wish for everyone to experience.”
Fr Paul Keane, Pilgrimage Director, said: “This shrine – loved by many – is especially precious to the Diocese of Brentwood as Our Lady of Lourdes is our patroness. We were all ages in this year’s pilgrimage, with the Diocesan Youth Service doing sterling work to support those who needed assistance. That despite illness or frailty we can go is only possible because of the generosity of the doctors and nurses who accompany us. We are especially grateful to Patrick Parsons, who has been our senior nurse for some dozen years.
“The theme for Lourdes this year was the instruction that Our Lady gave to St Bernadette for the clergy: ‘Tell the priests to build a chapel here’. It reminds us that pilgrimages can be significant in a Catholic’s life because Heaven invites us to grow closer to the Lord by travelling to places established for prayer, healing, and fellowship. Lourdes is such a place. I warmly invite you to come to next year’s pilgrimage, which will once more take place at the end of July.”