Ella (centre) and Paris-Ayo (right) explain why they are going to Lourdes with the Youth Service this year:-
This summer, after finishing my gap year at Castlerigg Manor, I am travelling with the Lancaster diocese, along with other young people from surrounding schools and parishes, to Lourdes. I have never been before and am looking forward to learning more about this special place in the run up to our trip.
Before now I have never really had the opportunity to go to Lourdes, my high school didn’t go every year and I missed out when they did go, but it is definitely something I have always wanted to do. I have had a very Catholic upbringing from my mum, catholic primary and secondary education, and have heard a lot about Lourdes from family, teachers and friends, all speaking very fondly of the Holy place, the amazing experiences people have there and how it has been a significant turning point in a lot of people’s faiths.
I didn’t know too much about Lourdes before I signed up but I always knew that part of our pilgrimage to Lourdes is to assist the sick and that this trip is more for them than us, this is one of the main things that appealed to me about the pilgrimage. I have given this year to serving God through the youth and I am so blessed to now have this opportunity to serve the sick, I am a big believer in that through serving others we are ultimately serving God.
I also knew I would get to see some amazing places like the Grotto where Our Lady appeared to Bernadette, but apart from that I was pretty clueless. In some ways it made me more excited because there was so much to discover but I feel at a big disadvantage having never been to Lourdes before because it is a really special place for Catholics and as I said a huge milestone in many faith journeys.
Only this past weekend on our Lourdes Prep retreat did I really find out how much we do and get to experience in Lourdes, including torchlight processions, bathing in Bernadette’s spring, visiting the Basilica on many occasions, St Bernadette’s walk, international mass in the underground basilica, sacrament of the sick for our sick pilgrims (VIP’s) and of course free time with the VIP’s from our Diocese. I have met a few young people that will be travelling with us on our 24hr coach trip, and am so inspired at the huge numbers of young people that spend a week out of their summer to assist the sick, something a lot of their peers wouldn’t usually do.
If you would like to support me, I am currently fundraising to be able to go on this amazing trip, and my crowdfunding page is: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ella-lourdes
O Dear White Rose,
Whose petals enfold our hearts,
Draw us to the centre of your sweetness, Jesus.
After taking part in the preparation weekend for our upcoming pilgrimage to Lourdes, it has reminded me of the amazing experience I had back in 2015, making me even more excited for being there again in the summer. To me, Lourdes is a place full of hope and shows us what true faith is, to see thousands of people all on their own personal pilgrimages come together to share in their faith and the love of Christ is indescribable. When I signed up for the Lourdes pilgrimage back in 2015, initially I was extremely nervous as I didn’t feel I had a true understanding of what Lourdes was and I felt that my understanding of my faith was nothing compared to the people around me. However, shortly after arriving in Lourdes I realised that this wasn’t important anymore. It was about opening up my heart to Christ, understanding the love Mary our mother has for us and helping others to enter into this experience.
There are so many moments from this pilgrimage that have had a great impact on my faith. One was an experience I had at the Grotto, the place of which Our Lady appeared to Bernadette. I felt as though so far I had been struggling to really enter into the experience, but in that moment I truly felt as though she was with me and was showing me she was there with us every moment of our pilgrimage to comfort and reassure us.
I was lucky enough to be able to both assist and spend time with some of the most amazing and inspiring pilgrims from our diocese, who really helped to make the experience so memorable for me. One afternoon, after assisting a Lady to the basilica in the domain, we took some time to explore and spent time in adoration and praying the rosary in the Eucharistic tent. This will always be so important to me as it showed how faith truly brought people together. It showed me that people of different ages, genders and nationalities were all able to join in prayer because of this sacred site and Our Lady.
After meeting the young people, I will be traveling to Lourdes with, I am even more excited for what this pilgrimage will bring. I have enjoyed my gap year here at Castlerigg so much and I believe this experience will help me to carry on exploring and sharing my faith after finishing my year here.
Lourdes is a truly beautiful and incredible place and no matter where you may be on your faith journey, or what your understanding is of Lourdes, I would strongly encourage anyone to take the opportunity to visit this remarkable place.
God Bless, Paris