Well, it’s fair to say that the 24 hour coach journey was worth it! Our pilgrimage to Lourdes was a completely unforgettable experience for all of us, from spending free time getting to meet new people or having the opportunity to spend some quiet time in prayer during the night visits to the grotto. Every moment was so special and cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world.
Personally, my journey to Lourdes began with my mum telling me that it would be good for me to go, however, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I wanted to go as well. As soon as we arrived and were immersed in the town, it was apparent to me that the upcoming week was going to be like nothing I had ever experienced before. Despite our fatigue after the mammoth journey, we met our pilgrims for the first time. For the next week, we got to know them so well and had the opportunity to create many memories that will last forever not only for our pilgrims but for us too.
While we had time in Lourdes socialising (or perusing the numerous ‘tat shops’!), We also spent time celebrating Mass and other services which was also greatly valued not only by the young people but also the pilgrims. In particular, the services were an opportunity to reflect and think about others and the support we could offer to them. Furthermore, they helped all to realise how joyful we all were being back together and especially together in Lourdes for those who have been longing to return during the pandemic. The services came in all shapes, sizes and included the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Sacrament of the Sick, and ranged from being just our Diocese attending a Mass or service to the International Mass, where everyone who was in Lourdes attended and this was broadcast throughout the world!
Once the services had finished, and we had returned our pilgrims to their hotels, we had plenty of opportunities to meet and speak to people that we wouldn’t normally have the chance to, such as at mealtimes or at the social night run by the Hallam Youth Leaders. This ranged from students and staff both from Notre Dame and other Hallam schools, to other pilgrims, clergy and even Bishop Ralph!
During our week in Lourdes, I forged friendships that I will never let go of, met people I will never forget and laughed more than I thought possible!
For me, what stood out so significantly was how at ease everyone on pilgrimage felt. I feel as though this is because Lourdes is such a special place of healing that we can completely let go of troubles that afflict us and feel relaxed in the compassion of others and the very present goodness of God. My personal highlight from the trip was the grotto visits at night because we had the opportunity to reflect, feel the love of God and those around us, realise the magnificence of what took place there with St Bernadette in 1858 and thank others for making the pilgrimage so special – the latter of which made a lot of us, including myself, very emotional!
By the end of my week in Lourdes, I felt as though everyone involved in the Diocesan pilgrimage had been moved and transformed. We were all reluctant to leave Lourdes and hang to say ‘goodbye’ to our pilgrims was difficult, given how long we had spent our time together and the moments we had shared along the way. We worked hard though and sleeping on the coach surrounded by our new friends on the way back home proved to be a lot easier than on the way there!
I already REALLY want to go back, and I hope that my experience will convince some of you how amazing the Lourdes pilgrimage will be for you if you decide to go in the future.
Article written by Liam Y12