IN THE NEWS

A wonderful Video account of the Week - Made by Colette Sharp.

This year was the first time before setting off on our pilgrimage that we had been given a Novena to say for the nine days preceding our departure. We began the prayers on Wednesday 19th June. Each day began with a reflection and two scripture readings and closed with an Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be. We could pray it alone or by bearing in mind the many other pilgrims praying with us. During the pilgrimage we were given a badge each day with a line from the Our Father printed on it, enabling us to reflect on the thought that day. The theme for the pilgrimage this year, which was given by the Sanctuary, was ‘come here in procession’. Procession and pilgrimage mean the same word in the local dialect that Our Lady would have used to speak with Bernadette.

On Friday 28th June several parishioners from St. Bede’s joined the annual pilgrimage to Lourdes. They were Kath Jones, Christine Calvert, Margaret Sleight, Avril Soley, Julie and Arthur Barras and Colette Sharp. Lily Hopper [Christine’s Granddaughter] travelled with the youth by coach and ferry. We were taken to Leeds airport from the Brecks by a coach arranged by Mandy Drown. This was a terrific help and saved parking up whilst away. The Steering group meet regularly to plan the pilgrimage and much time is given to the seating arrangements for the most efficient way to load the plane. Many wheelchair pilgrims require extra time for boarding the aircraft via the ambulift and willing helpers are on standby to help them into their seats. We landed in Lourdes at 5p.m. Various coaches along with the mobility coach were waiting for us. The staff at Lourdes airport are very efficient and experienced at unloading the plane. It can take quite a while to unload pilgrims in wheelchairs and transfer them to the mobility coach, but pilgrims remain cheerful and grateful for any assistance. Helpers are assigned to various tasks to assist with the smooth transition to the hotels. There are many hotels in Lourdes and Hallam uses the hotels alongside the River Gave and overlooking the Pyrenees – absolutely delightful.

Following the first evening meal the assisted pilgrims met the youth who would be responsible for caring for them and pushing them around Lourdes

for the next few days. The youth attend our Catholic Senior schools – St. Bernard’s, All Saints, Mount St. Mary’s, St. Pius, McAuley, Holy Trinity Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s Chesterfield. It is heartwarming how quickly the pilgrims and students bond together and many keep in touch with each other for years following the pilgrimage.

Our opening Mass was on the Saturday morning in St. Bernadette’s Chapel and was live-streamed. All the helpers are invited to have their hands blessed to assist them in their duties throughout the week. A group photograph was taken by our official photographer. This year because of the rain it was taken in the church rather than on the Rosary Basilica steps.

In the afternoon a Holy Hour with adoration was held in St. Joseph’s chapel – a most moving service for everyone. For the benefit of new Pilgrims – Thomas took them on a walking tour of the major parts of Lourdes. This was always undertaken by Fr. Tolan and affectionately known as Tolan’s Tours – it might now be known as Thomas’s Tours!

Every evening there is a torchlight procession and on our first evening we had the privilege of participating with many of our youth guiding pilgrims in the Domain. Quite a task in the rainy, cold evening. Everyone was supplied with a candle and as the dark night approaches the glow from all the candle makes an impressive sight.

Sunday morning we met at St. Bernadette’s church for the water gesture. This replaced going into the baths. We gathered with water, taken from the spring and washed our hands and faces. As we do so – we bring to God the intentions of our hearts where we need Him to cleanse and heal us. Following this gesture, we had Mass with anointing of the sick. A very moving, emotional Mass. A Priest blesses the forehead and hands of the sick with holy oil – the perfume pervades the air and our wonderful choral volunteers sing hymns throughout the anointing. In the afternoon the Hallam Diocesan candle was carried in procession around the hotels - then left to burn on the Prairie in the chapel of lights along with many other candles – large and small. During our pilgrimage we have two Anglican Eucharist services and many of us attend to share with other faiths and receive a blessing.

My favourite part of the pilgrimage took place after this – it is the Blessed Sacrament procession. This procession is now held in the underground Basilica because of extreme heat or rain. 20,000 people can attend this event. Weather permitting the Blessed Sacrament is processed from the Prairie into the underground where many pilgrims are waiting for the Lord to arrive. This is all displayed on the huge indoor screens. Some of the Doctors and Nurses are permitted to walk behind the Blessed Sacrament as the Monstrance is carried around the area and all pilgrims are blessed. Despite the huge number of pilgrims there is an awesome silence during Adoration – a most powerful, overwhelming few moments. When I first came to Lourdes, this procession was always held outside around the Domain. When the Monstrance was carried past the Pilgrims – I was staggered at the respect and devotion shown as many people dropped to their knees in adoration. A vivid image that has stayed in my mind for 28 years.

Later that evening at 23.00 hours there is the opportunity to visit the Grotto for those who wish to do so. I am told it is a special, quiet, prayerful time and the Pilgrims that attend certainly enjoy the experience.

Monday 1st July, we had Mass at the Grotto. Sometimes we have to share with another pilgrimage but this year we had this special time just for ourselves. It had been raining earlier that morning but the sun came out in time for our Mass. We are most fortunate to have a wonderful group of Musicians from around the Diocese who play at every service and greatly enhance our celebrations.

At the end of the Mass we had the privilege of walking through the Grotto to view the spring that Our lady had asked Bernadette to find. When I first went to Lourdes twenty-eight years ago – it was possible to get really close to the spring and touch the water and linger a while to pray but sadly today it is behind glass and if Lourdes is busy - one is hurried along as many Pilgrims queue to gaze at the spring.

In the afternoon there is a visit to the Lac de Lourdes depending on the weather. Coaches and the mobility coach ferry pilgrims to the lake. I have

never been but am told the scenery is beautiful and the youth entertain everyone with their singing and dancing. A jolly afternoon.

I never wish to leave Lourdes town and usually spend the afternoon in the Blessed Sacrament chapel and attend the afternoon procession. Later that evening we held our service of Reconciliation. Everyone has the opportunity to receive this Sacrament. Part of the opening prayer was ‘where sin has divided and scattered may your love make us one again – where sin has brought weakness may your power heal and strengthen’.

Tuesday July 2nd was an early start for anyone wishing to go to the High Stations of the Cross. The Stations are depicted with life size statues and are awesome. The first time I walked these Stations I was so sad after the one depicting the Crucifixion but after coming down the hillside and seeing the last Station of the Resurrection - I was uplifted as it is a huge round stone that is rolled away from the tomb to give us hope and joy. The path is steep and uneven so really only suitable for the able bodied.

The Low Stations are in a magnificent setting along side the River Gave and are suitable for wheelchairs. The Stations are white marble and hotel groups walk around them and pray the prayers at each Station. Maria De Faykod sculptured these Stations. Sadly, after many years of working with marble she has developed an allergy to the marble and also suffers from arthritis in her hands. Following the Stations there is another Anglican Eucharistic service. Mass on the theme was in the afternoon today in the Rosary Basilica. The sound is much improved in the Basilica. Over the years I have watched the restoration of the stunning mosaics depicting the mysteries of the Rosary all around the interior Basilica walls. The Hotel Alba held a social evening hosted by the Hallam Youth for anyone wishing to attend. A lively happy occasion enjoyed by all.

The Chapel of Adoration is open every day and is a beautiful chapel – so quiet and peaceful and conducive to prayer.

Each Sunday and Wednesday there is an International Mass in St. Pius Basilica. Thousands of pilgrims from all around the world attend this Mass. The atmosphere is amazing with so many people singing and praying – praising the Lord. There was an excellent visiting choir today and a superb

Flautist. Distribution of Holy Communion is perfectly exercised and watching the procession of flags at the beginning and the end of Mass is a delight especially when our Hallam banner comes into view.

Later in the afternoon we hold our Thanksgiving Liturgy. We reflect on the past six days and ask ourselves how has my pilgrimage impacted on my life and my faith? We thank God for all the graces we have received.

Our last day in Lourdes- we were delighted to have Mass before we departed for the airport. Everyone had a packed lunch at the airport and this helped to pass the time before our flight. It was extremely windy back in Leeds. The Pilot did well to land safely. This year all helpers could share an app to enable messages to be forwarded to everyone. This was a very popular idea and many helpers wish to continue with it to keep in touch.

The Lourdes reunion will take place in St. Bernard’s school on Sunday 22nd September with Holy Mass at noon.

The dates for the 2025 pilgrimage are Friday 27th June to Thursday 3rd July. Thanks be to God.

The Hallam Lourdes Pilgrimage- 2024