Fifty five youngsters at Holy Family, Dagenham made their first Holy Communion recently – and helped send a pilgrim to Lourdes at the same time. As part of their preparation, parish priest Fr Stephen Myers talked about caring – for things and for other people. “At the first session, I gave them a plant to nurture, which they had to bring with them on their Communion day. And for the last three years I have also given candidates a HCPT collection box, as a symbol of caring, and encouraged them to put what they could into it over the course of instruction.”
He adds: “While some of the plants that came back seemed to have changed genus, this year, for the first time, we collected enough to send a disadvantaged or disabled child to Lourdes. It was a wonderful effort by the children, who collected £800 between them.”
Isaac Harvey from Essex-based HCPT group 206 came along to collect the cheque and to tell the children about how, as a youngster, he travelled with group 206 to Lourdes, and the difference it made to his life.
“HCPT is a very appropriate charity for the youngsters,” says Fr Stephen, “as it is about doing things for children like themselves and giving them a life-changing experience. It was started on the principle that although the pilgrims were disabled, they were not sick and therefore should not go into hospitals but hotels in Lourdes. And many young Catholics from the Diocese go on HCPT pilgrimages to help support those disabled and disadvantaged young people.”
Moreover, HCPT is a cause close to Fr Stephen’s heart: “When I first went in 1982 with Fr Pat Sammon, I made up my mind to become a priest – and here I am still going strong.” And for Isaac it has also had a long-lasting effect: “He is a very adventurous young man,” says Fr Stephen, “and I have just seen on Facebook that he is now at World Youth Day in Krakow.”