"Thank you and all the kind people for the wonderful organisation of the pilgrimage to Lourdes. Everything went perfectly. … The young people were happy and helpful – a credit to their leaders and their families. … Bishop Alan spoke to everyone. … I was greatly inspired by the International Mass – this was a most beautiful service. So many Bishops and Priests, the Blessed Sacrament offered to all present, and the singing that raised the roof!"
"I would like to express my gratitude to all the young people. I felt so humble – they are just wonderful people and all were well mannered. Also thank you to all the caring people who have looked after us. It was a most wonderful trip to Lourdes. Thank you."
"Thank you so much for the most wonderful time spent in Lourdes. I have come home feeling so spiritually uplifted, and full of peace. … One of the highlights for me was the total dedication, enthusiasm and hard work from the BCYS. When I looked over my balcony on the 8th floor, and saw a sea of blue T shirts coming down the road on their way to help the pilgrims, I felt really proud of them all. You don't see that side of Essex on TOWIE!!!! They truly are an inspiration and a wonderful reflection of your work and dedication with them. I look forward to more trips to Lourdes in the future."
"We are a married couple in our eighties. Mary went to Lourdes in 1958. She met Terry later that year and we were married in1960. Mary had wanted to go to Lourdes again for many years and take Terry with her. The opportunity arose this year and bookings were made. A week before departure Mary was incapacitated by knee and leg problems. It was touch and go whether we would make it. We did, however, with wheelchair assistance at airports. Then at our hotel in Lourdes we were introduced to BCYS. Our problems were over!"
"Mary was taken by wheelchair to all the main events by BCYS in a cheerful and competent manner. With Terry trying to keep up with them. The young BCYS members were kept amused by tales of 1958; Marian Year Pilgrimage with Cardinal Heenan from Tyneside; steam trains, ferries, French trains for 19 hours and slatted wooden seats! The BCYS members in turn kept us happy and safe at all times."
"We would like to express our sincere thanks to all involved with the Pilgrimage especially BCYS for their invaluable assistance."
"I had a wonderful week at Lourdes. I felt at peace and uplifted through the week. It was wonderful to see the youth helping the less able. It made my heart feel glad: there is so much said about the youth of today but those I met were very helpful and worked hard all the week. All in all a wonderous experience for me as someone who hasn't been to Lourdes before. It was good to have a chance to meet and talk to Bishop Alan too. I thank you all for your hard work."
"It has been a mind blowing experience, exhausting too, but well worth it. … My experience of Lourdes as a first timer, was an overwhelming feeling of welcome, I didn't feel like I was an outsider. … I came to Lourdes not really knowing what to expect, and was a person who thought work was the be all and end all. … Leaving Lourdes was emotional to say the least. But the peace I feel now, I know I wouldn't have felt, had I not have gone to Lourdes. I'm very grateful for this experience. If I can go to Lourdes again I will."
Summer 2014 marked the 25th Pilgrimage since Brentwood began travelling as a Diocese to Lourdes, and we marked the year with great joy & exuberance, dedicated service, and powerful faith. We were the largest group that had ever travelled from Brentwood Diocese - 473 in all, aged everywhere from 8 to 92, and including around 170 young people aged 15-18, accompanied by more than eighty leaders, most aged 19-23. There was a hard working Doctor, a dedicated nursing team, a superb team of helpers, a team of musicians who provided beautiful accompaniment for every Mass and Liturgy, along with twelve Diocesan Priests and two Deacons. In every way, for those of all ages, for those who need assistance and for those who are able to offer it, this was a well-supported pilgrimage, with many wonderful opportunities.
In his final homily, Bishop Alan said that he was "blown away" by it all - such an experience of joy and service, faith, courage and hope. He spoke powerfully about how it had been more and more evident throughout the week just how much we all needed each other; pilgrims needed the energy of the young to be able to move around Lourdes, and the young also grew in receiving both the wisdom and the affirmation of those they were assisting.
The week included great processions - the Marian procession by candle-light, and the procession with the Blessed Sacrament joined by thousands of pilgrims from across the world. More intimately, we celebrated the Sacraments of Anointing and Reconciliation, as well as Masses together. At the Mass in the Grotto we joined with the Welsh National Pilgrimage (the "Gavin and Stacey Mass") for a celebration that was both joyful and deeply moving. Our day out took us to Gavarnie, in the Pyrenees, with splendid weather and breathtaking views.
Tributes have poured in over the 48 hours between returning home and writing this article. One pilgrim wrote, "Thank you to the young - they are such wonderful people. Thank you to everyone who has cared for us - it has been a wonderful trip to Lourdes." Another wrote, "My experience of Lourdes as a first timer was an overwhelming feeling of welcome: I didn't feel like I was an outsider. I came to Lourdes not really knowing what to expect, and was a person who thought work was the be all and end all. Leaving Lourdes was emotional to say the least. But the peace I feel now, I know I wouldn't have felt, had I not have gone to Lourdes."
The trip was summed up by another first timer, who said: "I have come home feeling so spiritually uplifted, and full of peace. One of the highlights for me was the total dedication, enthusiasm and hard work from the BCYS. When I looked over my balcony on the 8th floor, and saw a sea of blue T shirts coming down the road on their way to help the pilgrims, I felt really proud of them all. You don't see that side of Essex on TOWIE! They truly are an inspiration and a wonderful reflection of all those who work with them."
"Notice the difference," Bishop Alan said in his final homily, quoting St Ignatius, "Notice the difference." He meant, notice what had stirred our hearts and spirits in Lourdes - the peace, the faith, the cheerfulness, the kindness. Notice how we felt - about ourselves, about our faith, about those who we had met on the journey. There is no doubt that the week in Lourdes had refreshed hearts and minds, along with new discoveries about what it means to serve and to be served, in the light of Christ. In noticing it, we bring it home.
To all those who travelled with us this year, thank you for all that you brought to the pilgrimage. To those who have read this and want to come in 2015, we will be travelling in the last week in July and all the details will be in your parish by mid October. You'll also find more photos and memories about Lourdes 2014 on the website shortly.
Fr Dominic Howarth
We'll be posting photos and testimonies from the 2014 pilgrimage here around mid-August. Check back soon.
Last updated at 8.58PM on Monday, 25 August, 2014.