Lourdes at Easter with the HCPT

Our pilgrimage to Lourdes with HCPT Group 118 Aberdeen was a joyful and exhausting experience for all. There were 9 children and 11 helpers, plus 2 daytime youth helpers. Each child had a named helper whilst the Group leader, group nurse/deputy and chaplain provided support to all. We set off by bus to Glasgow on the 16th April, had a good flight mainly due to one of our children asking the Pilot to fly slowly. Eventually we arrived in Lourdes where we just had time for a late tea and get everyone to sleep.

We were on the third floor of the hotel which was great exercise for all. Our chaplain, Deacon B, lead us before each meal in a grace before meals singing and clapping prayer which the children enjoyed. Breakfast was rice krispies or croissants. Lunch was 4 courses!!! And dinner was 3 courses.  All the outdoor activities gave us a great appetite. We were blessed with lovely sunny weather all week.

MASS: Our Scottish region hosted the Welcome Opening Service for all HCPT groups worldwide on the Monday afternoon. That night the HCPT were invited to celebrate Mass for the first time at the Grotto. Tuesday we shared an outdoor Mass with another group with the Pyrenees as our church walls. Wednesday Bishop T said Mass for us in the Crux Gloriosa Chapel (part of the Basilica) and many of the children said prayers out loud for their families. We had HCPT Trust Mass con-celebrated by many Bishops and Priests on the Thursday which was the highlight of the week and is able to be seen on the internet.  We had face paints applied to both children and helpers’ faces! It took place in the Underground Basilica which holds 12,000 or more pilgrims. The Blessed Sacrament Procession took place late afternoon – where most miracles occur.  Friday’s Mass was celebrated in Hosanna House Chapel with its panoramic views of the Pyrenees.  On the Saturday we had a Scottish region Closing Mass where several bagpipers piped all the Scottish groups along the streets of Lourdes.

During the week we visited: On Monday- The old town where Bernadette had grown up. We also visited the Grotto in the Domaine where Mary appeared to Bernadette when she was a girl. The atmosphere there was very special.  It was fascinating to see the number of pilgrims walking around the Domaine, hearing prayers in different languages.

On Tuesday – Gavarnie, a wee village, high up in the Pyrenees and in the evening we walked in the Torchlight Marian Procession. On Wednesday – The Baths at Lourdes where you are dipped into the healing waters of Lourdes which is freezing and yet you dry instantly and feel energised. We visited the Saint Margaret of Scotland’s statue – which is the only national saint statue in Lourdes. In the evening we hosted a “come to the water” party. This was the theme for the week.

On Thursday morning we had the Trust Mass in the Underground Basilica. There were at least 15 nationalities present in colourful tops, ours is purple.  Many groups had banners and flags –One way for the children to learn geography. There were many children in wheelchairs.  In the afternoon we visited the church where Saint Bernadette was baptised and saw the gigantic baptismal font. Some of us walked around the new carved Stations of the Cross by the river. Later that evening we went to the Scottish Youth Group party and two of our children sang a song to great applause from Group 118.

On Friday –We went to light and leave our group candle at the Grotto where Mary appeared to Saint Bernadette. In the afternoon we visited Hosanna House owned by HCPT with a petting zoo and crafts. On Saturday – the wildlife park with otters, bears, deer, foxes, badgers, wolves and vultures.  Then a bit more shopping and packing.

 We had a farewell ceremony in the hotel with the children and each of them received a certificate highlighting something really good e.g. best smile etc. Each day we would visit a different cafe to have a soft drink and a sing song. There was plenty of friendly competition with the other groups.  We had two Scottish Youth Group Helpers assigned to our group. They were a great hit with the   children and they joined in all our daily activities.

Our favourite hymn “Rise and Shine” was sung after every Mass or ceremony and also in the cafe’s I don’t think the tourists knew what to make of our groups. All the children loved it as there were plenty of actions to go with it. On Sunday we flew back from Lourdes to Glasgow then bus to Aberdeen where all the parents were waiting.

On the Tuesday several of the Scottish Region Nurses went to register with the Association Medicale Internationale de Notre Dame de Lourdes (AMIL) and they were invited to walk with the Medical staff leading the Blessed Sacrament Procession. There is an hour of prayer and sharing on Tuesdays and Saturdays 3.30-4.30pm in the Chapel next to AMIL office for registered members. On Wednesday evening there was an annual meeting of HCPT Doctors and Nurses which was a good networking opportunity.

If anyone is interested in supporting Easter Pilgrimage 2017 by volunteering, donating money or other please go to www.hcpt.org.uk for further information and look for Group 118 Aberdeen. Northeast Scotland has two HCPT groups: Margaret Lamond is Inverness group leader (Group 29) and Brian Lamond has stood down after 2 years as Aberdeen 118 Group Leader.  Hilary Young is to take on this role.  Email group118@hcpt.org.uk  for direct enquiries (note this email is currently under construction). For informal discussions please speak to Margaret Mackie, Tom McGovern, Steve McFarlane or Geraldine Ward at St Francis or Hilary Young or Suzanne Gavin at St Josephs. 

A sincere thanks to all who supported in any way this worthwhile pilgrimage of nine children aged ten to seventeen residing in Aberdeen, experiencing Lourdes as part of the “Purple Family”. Lourdes gave them an experience of being special, cherished, encouraged, listened to, respected and loved, which we know from previous group experience has a positive ripple effect. One Mother said when she was taking her child home from the bus, that she could not believe the positive difference in her child in the 5 minutes she had spent with him. Little miracles do happen.