From Sunday, 30 June to Friday, 5 July, 440 pilgrims took part in the 2019 Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes, led by Bishop Ralph. This included around 200 travelling as part of the “Hallam Youth” section of the pilgrimage, from every High School in the Diocese.
Many pilgrims have commented that this was a very special pilgrimage.
At the Opening Mass on Sunday, every pilgrim received a bookmark on the theme of the year, “Blessed are the Poor”, which helped us all focus on each day. Every pilgrim also received a wristband with “#LivingLourdes” and #Hallam” printed on it. This festival style wristband was a sign of unity – people of all ages and from each corner of the Diocese together on pilgrimage. It also served as a reminder to all of us that our pilgrimage does not end on the last day – we must continue to live out what we experienced in Lourdes on our return home.
Some of the highlights of the week were the Grotto Mass on Monday morning, with the Diocese of Galway, the Reconciliation Service on Monday afternoon led by Fr Gus O’Reilly, and the very powerful Holy Hour on Tuesday evening, led by Fr Bernard O’Brien.
There were some new initiatives introduced for this year’s pilgrimage which proved to be very successful. One was to gather the entire pilgrimage up at the Lac de Lourdes on Tuesday afternoon, a glacial lake a short coach journey from the hotels. The purpose of this was entirely social, to help bond as a group, which is an important aspect of any pilgrimage. Phil Hall, who helped lead the music at our Masses and liturgies in Lourdes, sang some well-known favourites, and then a number of pilgrims took to the microphone to entertain us – ranging from some hugely talented Youth Helpers to some experienced singers in their late 80s. The afternoon was a wonderful opportunity to relax, to mix, and to make and renew friendships.
Another new initiative was the Water Liturgy for the entire pilgrimage on Wednesday afternoon. Bishop John Rawsthorne reflected on the importance of water in our lives, both physically (for hydration, etc) and spiritually – through our Baptism. Recalling the instruction from Our Lady to St Bernadette, “Go and wash…at the Spring”, each pilgrim had the opportunity to make a gesture with Lourdes water by washing their hands in a bowl, assisted by an adult Helper and two Youth Helpers.
As the pilgrimage started to draw to a close, on Thursday afternoon we had the opportunity during our Thanksgiving Liturgy to find the people who had made a difference during our pilgrimage journey and say a short prayer of thanks. After that liturgy, our pilgrimage candle was lit opposite the Grotto for the intentions of the Diocese and pilgrims were invited to make their own private visit later that evening, or the next morning, to say a short prayer for our Diocese.
As we gathered for our Closing Mass on Friday, a large screen in St Bernadette’s Church showed a short video that started out with names appearing on the screen, one by one. These gradually built up with the first name of every pilgrim eventually appearing on the screen, to then reveal all our names…showing that we are held in the palm of God’s hands, as we’d heard in our reading “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16).
God has you in the palm of his hand (Isaiah 49:16)
In his homily, Fr Lee Marshall encouraged all pilgrims to, “Dare to continue this journey of becoming yourself.” Bringing together our reflections on the theme, where each of us had been asked to look at what “poverty” … “a problem or difficulty” exists in our own lives, Fr Lee concluded by saying, “Don’t accept your weakness – embrace it”.
Next Year’s Pilgrimage
Our pilgrimage dates for 2020 are Sunday, 28 June to Friday, 3 July.
Photographs and illustration courtesy of Photo Durand – Lourdes and Diocese of Hallam