On Thursday 6 July 28 Year 10 students, Mr Tunnecliff, Miss Goode and Mrs Woliter (former teacher and Governor) joined the Diocese of Leeds in their annual pilgrimage to Lourdes. What lay ahead was a packed programme of events centred around helping and caring for the sick and elderly pilgrims of the diocese.
Throughout the week we gathered as a whole diocese for Mass and other activities centred around the key areas of significance in Lourdes. The Torchlight Procession is a highlight for many, everyone proceeds around the domain singing and praying, trying to manage keeping their candle lit and their paper lantern from burning!
The students were a little apprehensive but also excited about meeting their pilgrims. Students were grouped into fours and paired with a pilgrim to take them to all the events throughout the week. One student commented, “I loved taking care of the pilgrims and helping them have a great time while they were there.” Another student said, “The pilgrims were extremely fun to be with and I realised that they are just like us, same attitude, character, they are just less able than us.”
Often people will travel to Lourdes many times in their life. What makes each pilgrimage different and special are the people you meet and spend time with. A student commented, “Lourdes was a beautiful experience, that allowed me to meet new people and make new friends, you get to share memories with different people which is simply amazing.”
Several schools from the diocese travelled to Lourdes, and many new friendships were made. One student commented, “The best thing about Lourdes for me was being able to make new friendships and grow the friendships that I already had. I also loved taking care of the pilgrims and helping them have a great time while they were there.”
The days were often long with many challenges. One minute you are walking up a steep hill pushing your pilgrim, the next you are carrying containers of holy water back to your hotel for other pilgrims. “Even though it was tough to get through all the days, it taught me things that I knew I had but I hadn’t found yet.”
On our long journey back to school we reflected on how Lourdes had affected and changed us as people. One student reflected, “Lourdes has been a life-changing experience for me; I now feel more confident about myself and more confident of the choices I make. To add, my faith has developed drastically and I feel like my connection with God has strengthened as a result.” We were forced out of our comfort zone but through these struggles we learnt more about our inner strength and how we can help others.
If you are reading this and you’re thinking about going on the Lourdes trip next year or when you get to Year 10 one of the student’s advice is: “go for it, no matter how religious you are! It is a fantastic opportunity to not only learn more about your faith, but who you are as a person, how well you work in a team and how much you persevere each day. Also, don’t judge a book by its cover – Lourdes may seem like one of those trips which is only religious but there is a lot that is hidden underneath the surface – the amount of extracurricular you do, the amount of time you spend with your friends and as a youth, how much you learn from helping your pilgrim and the amount of time invested by the team (Ryan, Jessica, Katie) to make sure that your Lourdes experience is as unforgettable and as memorable as possible.”