Lourdes Pilgrimage 2017
5th September 2017
Fr John Cooke, our Lourdes Pilgrimage Director
The Pastoral Theme for our Pilgrimage to Lourdes this year, set by the Sanctuary authorities, was this wonderful line from the Magnificat ‘The Almighty has done great things for me’.
Those who travelled with us to Lourdes will know this to be a fact. Our pilgrimage is more than just a journey and a visit to a ‘place’, it is very much an encounter between a people of faith and God - through Our Lady & St Bernadette. For our pilgrims during that week in August, the Lord does great things indeed! We are grateful for all the blessings we receive.
Mary allowed herself to be an instrument and gave her fiat to the Angel at the Annunciation. Bernadette similarly likened herself to a broom ‘and when you finish using a broom, you put it back in the cupboard’. They both allowed the Lord to do great things for them and through them, for a greater good. This is how our pilgrimage works. We come together, we work together, we pray together. We eat, drink and socialise together. We may come as an individual but we leave as an eclectic family of sorts!
To come to Lourdes on your own, or on the periphery as a spectator, and not allow yourself to be moved to take part in our time of fraternity means you are in some way blocking the Lord who desperately wants to work through you. God desires to do great things for you and through you. That is the blessing of Lourdes.
Our doctors, our nurses and our volunteer helpers (our rollers, handmaids & brancardiers, our musicians, our group leaders, our clergy etc...) give of their time, they give of their talents and they give of their treasure (i.e. their fare & their holiday) and they generously allow themselves to be used by God to facilitate this week of grace for those in need. They spend all their time & energy putting our Assisted Pilgrims at the heart of all that occurs - from the moment we meet at the airport, to the moment we return. The highlight of our Pilgrimage is the Anointing of the Sick, a very moving occasion as we have got to know each other, our stories, our burdens and our hopes. Our Assisted Pilgrims are very simply our priority and it is in giving of ourselves in this unique service that we learn something about life, something about ourselves and in turn we receive so much back.
I would urge everyone to give Lourdes a chance. I would urge you to consider to travel with a group who has the infrastructure to take those who are sick, disabled and dying (as not all smaller groups who travel can do this). I would also urge you to come with an open heart, an open mind and a generous spirit. If you’d like to be a helper for the week, do get in touch to allow us to do the necessary DBS checks & training.
Please take a scroll through a few of our memories of the week on the photographs. And please do follow our Facebook page too to see a ‘diary’ of our pilgrimage (Portsmouth Diocese Lourdes Pilgrimage) and to keep in touch through the year – especially with application details/cut offs and so on. If you’d like us to come to your parish to offer a presentation about our Pilgrimage week, then please e-mail the Pilgrimage Director, Fr John Cooke.
Finally, a competition! You may see from our photos, that our Diocesan banner is getting a bit ‘tired’, and we’d like to have a new one that uses a fabric that means we could discard the rather dated plastic cover. Are you artistic & creative? Could you help to design a new banner for our Diocese? It needs to have a Marian theme, and be based on our Diocesan colour of ‘blue’ and to include on it our Bishop’s crest, and the words ‘Portsmouth Diocese’ or ‘Diocese of Portsmouth’. It is used in all our processions and big celebrations. Please submit your designs by Friday 8th December either on e-mail or in the post to: Fr John Cooke, Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes, 67 Purewell, Christchurch, Dorset, BH23 1EH. If your design is selected by the Bishop and the Trustees, we will give you £150 towards a fare for 2018 to come to Lourdes and see it in action!
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us! St Bernadette, pray for us!