Our flights have returned and all of us who were privileged to be part of the Diocesan Pilgrimage have much to be thankful for. The days in Lourdes pass very quickly. They were grace-filled days. We were privileged this year to lead the Blessed Sacrament Procession and the Torchlight Procession. Once in a lifetime experiences. The 109 young people who were part of our pilgrimage; their 17 Youth Leaders, coming from parishes right across the diocese were a credit to their parishes, their school communities, their families. I want to say thanks to the parishes who helped to make possible the young people’s involvement with the pilgrimage. The standing ovation given to the young people and their leaders said it all for me at our Closing Ceremony. The sick or ‘assisted pilgrims’ who travelled with us are to be thanked for their presence, their patience and their perseverance, sometimes facing huge illness. We were humbled to have you on our pilgrimage.
Once the Opening Mass was celebrated at the Grotto and customary group photograph and smaller ones taken on the Basilica Steps, Lourdes had begun. We were all embarking on a journey with Our Lady reflecting this year on the theme: “Blessed are the poor, for the Kingdom of God is theirs” (Luke 6:20). The more personal moments at the Lourdes Baths; the ‘doing’ of the High Stations; taking part in the Holy Hour; receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, all have special memories for different pilgrims. We return from Lourdes emboldened all the more to live the message of Lourdes in our local parish community.
We travel to Lourdes not as tourists but as pilgrims. Each of us carrying his or her story. The Grotto is very special. It’s the first and last place you visit on pilgrimage. Organising a Pilgrimage is a mammoth task for a group and a diocesan pilgrimage brings complexities of a different scale. I very much thank our pilgrimage director Fr. Paddy Byrne; the many priests who travelled; our youth directors; our music director Fr. Liam Lawton and accompanist Marian Gaynor; our Master of Ceremonies Fr. David Vard; our Chaplain to the Sick Fr. Tom Little; our nurses Mary Brennan & Mary Doyle. and our Head Brandcardier Sean O’Neill who was always on hand at every turn to ensure nothing was omitted. Most of all I thank you, the priests, the people of the diocese who supported our Diocesan Pilgrimage in every way possible. It is deeply appreciated and all of you were remembered in our prayers.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.
St. Bernadette, pray for us.