The theme for the pilgrimage was “Merciful like the Father” and so it was fitting that after the Opening Mass on Sunday, the entire pilgrimage processed out of the Rosary Basilica, through the Esplanade to the “Door of Mercy” installed by the Sanctuary near St Michael’s Gate. Everyone – pilgrims (around 90 of whom used wheelchairs in Lourdes), doctors, nurses, helpers, youth helpers and youth leaders – passed through the Door of Mercy as a sign that at the start of the pilgrimage we were opening our hearts to the Lord, and to his Mercy.
On Monday, 27 June, the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (Patron of the Diocese), Bishop Ralph was principal celebrant at our Mass at the Grotto where we gave thanks for, and prayed for the Diocese of Hallam, on our feast day. Later that day, we gathered for our Reconciliation Service, and that night pilgrims from the Diocese took part in the Torchlight Procession.
For many, one of the highlights of the pilgrimage was the Mass with the Anointing of the Sick, which we celebrated on Tuesday morning. Pilgrims who are sick, or in need of a wheelchair during the week due to the distances involved, form a special bond with the youth helpers who help them during the pilgrimage. The youth helpers stood with their pilgrim as they were anointed.
The pilgrimage programme is evenly balanced and designed to give time for relaxation for pilgrims. That also helps ensure that the youth helpers have their own time to reflect and pray – at night prayer, or at the Grotto at night – or at their own services. On Tuesday afternoon Bishop Ralph joined the “Yellow T-Shirts” in their own Stations of the Cross, followed by a liturgy at the Youth Village up in the hills above the Sanctuary.
You can see videos from the services and liturgies that took place on Wednesday, 29 June, including the International Mass in the morning, Rosary from the Grotto, which was led by one of the permanent Chaplains, assisted by Bishop Ralph and Fr Pat O’Connor, and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, presided over by Bishop Ralph, through the links on the Pilgrimage’s Facebook Page (Hallam Lourdes Pilgrimage) or on Twitter – @HallamLourdes.
At the end of the pilgrimage Fr Pat O’Connor stepped down as Pilgrimage Director, after 9 years. The Bishop presented a gift to Fr Pat from the pilgrimage and paid tribute to him, thanking him for overseeing all the organisation and planning in that time which has made the pilgrimage so successful. He reminded us that Fr Pat had taken over the role from Fr Gerry Harney who had served as Pilgrimage Director for 27 years (since the formation of the diocese in 1980) – so he understood he had “big shoes to fill”, and had done a magnificent job.
Fr Pat will still be very much part of the pilgrimage and will continue to join us each year, and he is an Honorary Chaplain of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in recognition of his commitment and dedication to Lourdes.
At the social evening on Wednesday night a huge cake was brought out to mark Fr Pat’s retirement – much to his surprise – and a presentation made to him from the youth. And then a second cake was brought out to the surprise of Bishop Ralph, to celebrate his 40th Anniversary of Ordination (just 10 days early!)
The overwhelming feedback from those who joined the pilgrimage this year was that it was a wonderful experience. Many pilgrims were inspired by seeing the youth helpers in action in Lourdes, and the way in which they care for the pilgrim they’ve been allocated. The support of the High Schools around the Diocese in enabling their students to join the pilgrimage is very much appreciated.
Photographs courtesy of Photo Durand
Everyone is welcome to the Lourdes Reunion on Friday, 11 November 2016 at The McAuley School (Upper Site), Cantley Lane, Doncaster, DN3 3QF, commencing with Mass at 7.30pm.
The 2017 Hallam Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes will take place from Sunday, 2 July to Friday, 7 July, by plane from Doncaster Sheffield Airport. Further details will be available early in the New Year.
To register your interest please contact Rose Shay on 07724 650066, or telephone 01302 247910, or email email@example.com. Pilgrims who travelled this year will automatically be sent a booking form.