Before going to Lourdes, we were all informed that this was in fact not a trip but a pilgrimage. That it would be unlike any trip we’ve ever been on and that we would need to prepare ourselves for it. Many of us revealed during our Away Day Retreat how we feared that we wouldn’t bond with our pilgrims. What if our pilgrims didn’t like us? What if we do something wrong? However, we were also asked what we were looking forward to; we were excited to have a new experience, to meet new people, to strengthen our relationships with each other and develop our independence.
In our preparation meetings, time and time again, we were told that the days were going to be long. I don’t think any of us took into consideration how long ‘long’ actually was. It got to the point that you would question: What? We did that this morning? Can we go to sleep yet?
Despite the seemingly endless days and some early mornings, Lourdes was very rewarding. Among the activities, a group favourite was definitely the Torchlight Procession. It was beautiful, particularly after the sun had set and the flames were visible. The International Mass was unlike anything else; the Underground Basilica was full of people with different nationalities who had gathered together for one thing… to pray.
The garden party was a brilliant time to bond with the other youth from the Leeds Diocese but also to bond with our pilgrims. I know that many of us kept our pilgrims company throughout the day. Little performances were held to entertain the pilgrims; our school performed ‘The Climb’ - a favourite of Miss Brooks!
One of the highlights, which I’m sure many girls will agree with, was seeing the Grotto at night. Earlier on during the day, we wrote prayer intentions for ourselves and our loved ones; many of us got emotional. We lit candles for our prayers and sat in silence. It was a nice, peaceful silence which was needed as the week had been non-stop hard work.
The Baths were also an unforgettable experience for us as we had never done anything like that before. As nervous as we were, we encouraged each other to take the opportunity and just do it. After all, we would have regretted saying no to this amazing, prayerful experience. We were constantly reminded to say ‘yes’ to new opportunities given to us which is honestly the best thing to do whilst in Lourdes – we didn’t regret it.
We could not have asked for better pilgrims. Whenever we were to meet them in the hotel, smiles would always be on their faces, they looked forward to what we had to tell them about our lives and we were equally interested to learn more about theirs.
Whilst in Lourdes, the concerns we had beforehand turned into small nothings. We forgot about our worries and focused on the good things. Staying in a hotel with the other youth from the Leeds Diocese helped some overcome the fear of talking to others and new friendships were made.
Returning from Lourdes, everyone wanted nothing more than to be back. For many, our faith was strengthened not just throughout the Masses but also the atmosphere. We definitely miss the presence of being in Lourdes with the youth. Even though we were only gone for six days, we feel homesick now we are back in England.
We have definitely gained confidence and the feeling of independence. Relationships have formed closer and friendships have been made with people we would not usually speak to.
This is one of the best experiences we have ever had and we would not change any of it. The experience is more than rewarding and we have changed as people. If you get the chance- say ‘YES’ and go to Lourdes - you will not regret it!
Jenna Radic, Year 10
It was an absolute pleasure to go on Pilgrimage with the final year group of ‘St Joseph’s Girls’. They undertook their service selflessly and were a credit to our College community. They said ‘yes’ to every opportunity that Lourdes had to offer; it was our privilege as staff to see them grow in confidence, faith and love as the week progressed. We all had an incredibly rewarding experience that we will never forget.