This year there was 15 pilgrims from the parish of Blessed John Henry Newman who travelled to Lourdes. For the first time we joined the Diocese of Leeds Pilgrimage on Friday 6th July to 12th July.
This year marked the 160th year of the apparitions and 80 years of the Diocese of Leeds Pilgrimage to Lourdes.
There were about 800 pilgrims from the whole Diocese of which there must have been about 450 youth from the schools across the Diocese. You could pick out the youth with their yellow tops.
We travelled with Joe Walsh Tours, who are based in Dublin. We flew from Leeds & Bradford airport on the second of three flights. This was a good way to travel avoiding the journey to Manchester and then to Toulouse and then coach to Lourdes. Leaving home at 6.30am and arriving in our hotel at 2pm for a cold lunch.
We followed the Diocese itinerary which covers the main services, International Mass, Blessed Sacrament Procession, Holy Hour service, Reconciliation service and Torchlight procession.
For the pilgrims in our group who needed assistance in getting about Lourdes the Youth arrived at our hotel to meet the pilgrims and take them to our opening Mass. During this Mass all the Doctors,Nurses, Medical teams and youth received the anointing of hands for helping the pilgrims.
After Mass we had the opportunity to wander around the domain area. There were a few changes from our visit last year. The area where you light your personal candles had been moved across the river from the Grotto area which meant it was quieter near the Grotto. The covered area for the Baths has been rebuilt and the area landscaped. The low Stations of the Cross had been moved to the meadow area which was lovely and more in the shade. Previously the area where they were situated was like a car park.
During the pilgrimage we added our own prayer time saying the Rosary. Many of our group missed the private Masses we had in the past pilgrimages, when we travelled as a parish group, as all were involved with these at some point during the pilgrimage.
The reason behind our decision to changing and travelling with the Diocese was that there were the youth who helped to push those pilgrims that needed assistance.
This was a pilgrimage of another different kind. Never before have I watched football while on pilgrimage. It was of course the World Cup season.
The Diocese, as well as handing a beautiful prayer book with all the services and prayers which were needed, also gave us a neckerchief. This was yellow edged in blue. During our stay, England played Sweden and the neckerchiefs were the same colour as Sweden. Oh dear! Never mind England won that match.
To celebrate the 80th visit to Lourdes there was a party on Sunday evening.
During our time in Lourdes each day there was a "Pilgrims Cafe" which everyone was encouraged to go to and meet other pilgrims.
Our pilgrimage came to an end on Thursday 12th July without attending the final Mass due to flight time. The Bishop said the closing pilgrimage prayers at the Mass at the Grotto the day before and blessed the Diocesan Candle.
We as a parish group lit a parish candle for the intention of the people of our parish and all those who had asked us to pray for them.
Overall there are very mixed feelings of what we will do next year. Either we will go alone or with the Diocese. At our reunion we will discuss this thoroughly before making any decision.