The Catholic Parish of
Saint John Henry Newman

 Covering most of East Leeds

Parish Magazine - Nov/Dec 2004

Page 4 of 21 Read 715 Times

"Listen & Learn"

Parish Pilgrimage to Lourdes -
20th - 24th September 2004
48 people, majority from our parish but some friends from neighbouring Parishes, Halifax, and again as far away as Ireland and London set off on Monday 20th September for the 4th Parish Pilgrimage to Lourdes. Everyone has had the opportunity to have an input to this article. We wish to share our experiences and feelings with everyone by way of the following diary of our pilgrimage.


- We had a smooth set off from St Theresaís, our Godsons coach loaded up by 5.30am before it poured with rain. At Manchester airport the queues were long and those of us who could help were allocated someone to guide to the gate in time to board our 9-15am flight to Lourdes. This year we took with us 5 wheelchairs and collected a further 8 chairs in Lourdes. I informed my travelling companions (mum & aunt) that I would be with a lady who they immediately recognised from their village in Ireland. They hadnít seen each other for forty years and there began a lovely reunion. We arrived at The Hotel Paradis about 1pm where lunch had been saved for us. After rearranging some of the rooms, we assembled in the hotel lounge which, was to be our meeting place for the duration of the pilgrimage and together made our way to the Crowned Virgin statue in the Domain. An atmosphere of joy, enthusiasm and friendship was obvious as we started our pilgrimage. Fr Phil led us in our opening prayer, which included thanksgiving for a safe & happy journey. We also prayed for all those for whom we had promised to pray. We then visited the Grotto. "This was my first visit to Lourdes and I found the Grotto where Our Lady appeared to St Bernadette quite emotional. I felt it was not a statue on the rock but Our Lady herself. A feeling I will carry home with me." At 5.45pm our opening group Mass was celebrated at the Saint Fria chapel. In his challenging homily Fr Phil focussed on the theme of our pilgrimage "Listen & Learn". He encouraged us to dispel our negative feelings to listen with our hearts, imagining Christ asking us how we really feel. Then we would experience, more deeply, the presence of Christ in ourselves and in each other and learn more of Godís unconditional love for each one and be better able to take that love to others. After our evening meal some of the group took part in the torchlight procession while others tried to recover from the early start that morning.


- We had a little later start this morning as we met at the Crowned statue of Our Lady for the usual group photo. (This can be seen in the church porch.) After this, our group went to the chapel of St Maximilian Kolbe for Mass, which was celebrated by Fr Phil. During lunch Colin sold his now familiar quiz to everyone for 2euros. The funds will go to the Lourdes fund for next year. This proved to be a real ice-breaker. After lunch we met in the hotel lounge to walk back down to the Domain behind our banner of St Theresa & Our Lady of Lourdes for the low Stations of the Cross on the far side of the meadow. Fr Phil explained each Station in turn using his own words. "I think this helped us to understand them a little bit more." After a short break we met up again to walk behind our banner in the Blessed Sacrament Procession. The Blessed Sacrament is carried each day from the Tent of Adoration on the meadow to the underground Basilica for Benediction and blessing of the sick. It was during this service we first saw a group of handicapped children and their carerís from Liverpool. "If I have to choose a favourite part of the pilgrimage it was the blessing of the sick in the underground basilica. For me that was a truly moving experience. The music was heavenly and the singing was something else". After evening dinner some of the group met to walk in the torchlight procession again behind our banner. Later in the evening people relaxed in the different cafes and bars to reflect on another excellent day. "Before retiring to bed I was very touched as I sat mediating in front of the Grotto at midnight. It was like Our Lady was really there with all those candles, very uplifting."


- This morning was free time. Some visited Batres, others went to the International Mass in the basilica, some of us queued for the baths, while others took the time to relax and wonder around Lourdes town. After lunch we visited as a group the City of St Perre (new name). Here we had a tour of the site, which is situated on a hill. This certainly showed what the wheel chair pushers are made of. The highlight of this visit for many was the open air setting where Mass was celebrated. "I canít describe the feeling I got, I shall think of Lourdes for the rest of my days". After our evening meal which 2 pilgrims cracked open a bottle of champagne to celebrate a fantastic pilgrimage, some of use walked in the torchlight procession. When returning to our usual cafť there appeared to be a party in full swing. To our surprise it was the children and their carers from Liverpool. Did they know how to party. 3 of the male helpers dressed as nuns from "Sister Act". Their costumes made of black bin liners and faces painted. We did offer 3 of our own nunís if they wanted the real thing. The groupís jumbalance had broken down on the way to Lourdes and they were not sure when they would be going home. The hat was passed round our group, which raised some needed funds for them.

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Published Mon 27th Dec 2004 18:21:50

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