On Sunday 26th July some 170 pilgrims from across the Dioceses of Cardiff and Menevia gathered at Cardiff airport for the annual Welsh National Pilgrimage to a small town at the foot of the Pyrenees in France. Lourdes is synonymous with healing, both physical and spiritual, ever since Our Lady appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.
Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff and Bishop Tom Burns of Menevia led the pilgrimage with the aid of clergy from both Dioceses, and co-ordinated under the watchful care of Miss Fran Mainwaring acting as Director of the Pilgrimage for the first time.
Mass at Massabielle
The formal opening of the 2015 pilgrimage took place on Monday 27th July in a shared Mass Diocese of Westminster at the Grotto where Our Lady appeared. Cardinal Vincent Nichols presided whilst our own Archbishop George gave the homily. Archbishop George reflected on how in Lourdes the work of evangelisation comes alive in the mutual encounter between the sick and their helpers. No matter who we are, sick or able, the spirit of Lourdes fosters a real encounter with the Lord through very basic human interactions. The full text of the homily may be found at http://www.rcadc.co.uk/Homilies/Abp_Stack/Homily_Lourdes2015.pdf
A Testament to Wales
The spirit of Lourdes was certainly captured in the small army of Youth who gave up time from their summer holiday to aid the assisted pilgrims. They worked extremely hard to ensure the pilgrims were able to attend all of the events and were suitably cared for in the hospital. Every year people are amazed by the generosity of spirit and happy faces of the Welsh Youth to Lourdes, even after working the dreaded night shift! They are a testimony to all our Young People and the extraordinary capacity they have to achieve great work.
Don’t rain on our parade
Highlights of the pilgrimage included leading the English and Welsh contingent during the Torchlight Procession; an excellent water service by Seminarians Laurence, Matt and Nick; and of course the end of pilgrimage party with its open mic.
Despite the inclement whether, the pilgrimage was able to complete all of the items on the itinerary, even moving the Stations of the Cross indoors with the use of some imagination. When it rains in Lourdes, it truly rains, but the pilgrimage was a great success and pilgrims returned to Wales with many fond memories.
One abiding memory has to be when Wales lead the charge in what is hopefully going to be a new traditio in Lourdes. It is normal during the torchlight procession for the pilgrims to lift their lighted candles in the air during the singing of the ‘Ave’ from the Lourdes hymn, Team Wales went one step further when our banner bearer, Alex, didn’t want to be left out of the action, so he raised the banner as high as he could. By the end of the procession all banner bearers were doing the same!
See you next year?
There are many memories that could be shared of a very successful 2015 Welsh National Pilgrimage to Lourdes, but Lourdes needs to be experienced to appreciate the stories. If you have never been to this special little town in France, or you have been away for some time, why not consider coming with us next year! Keep an eye open in your local church for more information, or contact Fran Mainwaring (Pilgrimage Director) for more information by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org