Mount Anville Secondary School
Lourdes – Day 1, 7th September 2014
Everyone arrived in the airport at 5.30am in uniform ready to get started. We were all straight to work with the pilgrims, hearing about their stories and past adventures. For some it was their first time flying and for others it was their 6th or 7th trip to Lourdes. After an eventful flight sitting with our “V.I.P’s” it was time to head to the Accuille to take on our duties. We met our coordinators who told us what was expected of us, after which everyone attended a welcome mass which was a lovely ceremony where the folk group sang beautifully. Later on we gathered for the prairie which was held outside the Accuille where we preformed our poem for all of the ‘blue shirts’ and watched other schools. It was a great first day and we can’t wait to continue on our adventure.
Lourdes – Day 1, 7th September 2014
After a long, busy day travelling and setting up on Sunday, our trip began bright and early on Monday morning. At 7.45 we reported to the accueil for our various duties, the accueil is the centre where the sick pilgrims stay during their pilgrimage, 3 of us were assigned to look after one of the wards while the other 3 were on flag duty. Ward duties involved being a helping hand to the nurses and volunteers looking after the pilgrims in the ward, this could vary from sweeping the floor and making the beds to having a friendly chat and a cup of tea, flag duty involves carrying the various flags and banner for each ceremony. At 10 along with all the pilgrims we attended the Opening Mass of the week, with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin as our principal celebrant. During his homily he spoke of the magic of Lourdes that sets it apart from other places in the world. One of those aspects is the peaceful silence that is experienced within the gates; this is what really struck us about Lourdes on our first day. In our lives today it is almost impossible to find the same stillness and peace we have experienced. Our day ended very nicely with our night prairie, the theme for this was ‘conversion’ a tricky theme to define but none the less each school that performed did extremely well. After this we moved to a nearby hotel and enjoyed a couple of hours together as school groups and participatied in a table quiz before heading off to our hotels for some much needed sleep!
Loreto Secondary School Bray
Lourdes – Day 2, 9th September 2014
Four of us managed to get up at 6.15am while two of us slept it out! After a rushed breakfast we made our way down to the accueil. There was excitement on the wards as Nationwide we’re filming bright and early. We started to move the sick pilgrims over to the first ceremony of the day – The Penetential Service. This was in the Underground Basilica. Following lunch the pilgrims had free time and shopping.
There was then an opportunity for a photo shoot with Archbishop Martin.
At 4 o clock the Mass of The Announting took place in St Bernadettes Church. This was a very moving experience for all present. Following dinner the Medal Ceremony took place for helpers who had volunteered for a certain number of years. During this time the wards depended on blue shirts as the white shirts were at the ceremony. Some wards had sing songs, some sat on the roof watching the torch light procession. The prairie began at 10.15pm. Our theme tonight was Reconcilliation. This was a nice opportunity for blue shirts to go to confession. We finished our evening by going to the grotto to light candles.
At this stage we are all weary and have sore feet but are looking forward to another exciting day tomorrow!
Saint Killian’s School
Lourdes – Day 4, 10th September 2014
Today we got to have a little rest which meant we got to sleep-on until 7:15am. Once up and running we headed off to refectory where we served breakfast and chatted to the pilgrims about they’re adventures from the day before. After breakfast we headed down to St. Bernadette’s Church for the Youth Mass. The Youth Mass was extremely entertaining and there was great banter, we all particularly enjoyed the version of Emily Sande’s song ‘Wonder’ and we were very fortunate to have had the opportunity to offer many pilgrims the Sign of Peace. After the Mass we had to run with our pilgrims back to the accueil and head to the Basilica to take a photo with the Archbishop, which we hugely appreciated as he has a very busy schedule. We then went back to serve lunch to the pilgrims. After lunch we were split into two groups, half stayed to have a picnic in the Prarie while the rest of us went to Bartrès. Many pilgrims participated in music, poems and even a comedic act, all great fun. In the evening, after dinner, the Dublin Diocesan Team led the Torch of Light Procession and four students from our school got to help with stewarding the event. It was such a great experience and a night we will never forget! After all our hard work that day we headed off to La Solitude Hotel with all the blue and white shirts, it was a great night and a good end to the day because everyone was involved and worked together.
Clongowes Wood College
Lourdes – Day 4, 10th September 2014
The Youth Mass has been described by white-shirts as the highlight of the few days here in Lourdes and it certainly lived up to expectations. With the superb choir leading the hymns in the wonderful setting of St. Bernadettes Church, a great morning was had by blue-shirts and pilgrims alike. In his homily; Archbishop Martin spoke about the role of leadership held by the youth in our world, the ideas that young people bring to the church and the sometimes negative view that the media has regarding young people, but contrasted this with the great example of goodness of young people in Lourdes!
Today, one thing that stood out for me was something very heart-warming indeed. I was outside with my pilgrim and we were chatting. He told me his life story, about the good times and the bad, I prefer not to say the gentleman’s name but he told me that he had six months to live and went on to give me advice that I’ll never forget about how to live a happy life, I connected with this man in a way that words can hardly describe, it was by far the most interesting experience that I’ve had here in Lourdes
James Collins Caffrey
Coming towards the end of our second last day in Lourdes, one couldn’t help but feel somewhat nostalgic about the place despite the small amount of time spent here. However these feelings had to be put aside for this evening for the duration of the candlelight procession. As a steward the duties involved the organisation of the pilgrims for transit and clearing a course for our pilgrims through the busy crowds. There was a look of contentment and tranquillity on the faces of the pilgrims, it was that feeling of knowing that i was doing something good that kept me motivated to work as hard as i could and if you asked me to do it again, I’d do it in a heartbeat
Today we didn’t have to get up as early so it was great to get the little rest. After breakfast, we made our way across to the accueil where we met the other helpers; and after a little breakfast there, we brought our pilgrims over to the church of St. Bernadette in the voitures. I had the privilege of accompanying Martin from my ward over. This Youth Mass was my favourite service of the trip so far. Fr. Paul and Brother Sean’s homily was clever, funny and invigorating. The highlight was the amazing choir that got everyone to sing along:
Alex O Sullivan
Today we went to the Youth Mass, it was particularly memorable as the music was fantastic. In the afternoon, we all went to the healing baths after the picnic and the sing along. The apprehension that i had about the baths soon dissipated. It was a great experience in a spiritual sense but also cooled us off from the hot French sun!
Later on, when things cooled down a bit, i got a chance to speak to a few men up in St. Annes A, Martin and Dermot, it was great just to chat with them and to share our stories so i look forward to chatting with them again tomorrow
Lourdes – Day 4/5, 14th September 2014
This afternoon I brought one of the pilgrims from my ward out to the shops. He had lots of presents to buy for his friends and family and we had great fun picking them out. After he had gotten everything he wanted we were both in need of a break so we sat down for a while and had a cup of tea while I listened to him tell me about his family. One of the parts of the pilgrimage that I enjoyed the most was the connection that I made with the pilgrims in my ward.
Today we attended the Farewell Mass for all involved in the pilgrimage. The six of us from our school had to be there early to hand out the Mass leaflets. When we got into the church it was absolutely roasting and one of our members took a little snooze and missed the Sign of Peace! Apart from the heat it was a really lovely Mass with amazing singing and the Archbishop took a few minutes to thank everyone who had worked so hard this week before saying the closing prayer. It’s really sad to think it was our last one but it was a really lovely note to end on!
In the afternoon we all met downstairs outside the Acceuil and then brought our pilgrims to the grotto. This is where St. Bernadette had her apparitions. We were able to walk through the grotto and touch the wall and leave our petitions. It meant a lot to the pilgrims to be able to do this and just be here, it was a very touching experience.
Each school group acted out one of the Stations of the Cross for the pilgrim group. My school was acting out Jesus meets the women. There was a narrator as we acted. I think it meant a lot to the pilgrims to see it and I think they really enjoyed it.
We ended our last day in Lourdes with a sing song on the roof. All the helpers and pilgrims gathered together in the lounge for a night filled with singing and dancing. It was amazing to be contributing to the pilgrim’s enjoyment and it seemed to be a really fulfilling and happy experience for them all. The atmosphere in the transit lounge was incredible and there wasn’t one serious face to be seen. There were some tears however, as this was when we said goodbye to our pilgrims and prepared for our return to Ireland. It was really emotional leaving the pilgrims in their wards knowing we weren’t going to see many of them again. We have so many great memories to take home with us and we know we’ll never forget the pilgrims we met in Lourdes 2014.
The last full day at Lourdes was one of the most special out of the four days. At this stage we all felt comfortable with each other and really enjoyed one another’s company. At the start of the day we brought the pilgrims down to watch the Stations of the Cross acted by blue shirts. It was nice for them to see us performing in a different environment and they really seemed to like it. After the Stations were over some of us got the chance to drag the heavy voitures up to the top of town, but all was worth it seeing the smiles on the pilgrims’ faces as they spotted something nice in the shop. The visit to the grotto was a lovely way to spend the afternoon with the sun shining down on us. The atmosphere at the Farewell Mass was moving, looking around at all the blue shirts, white shirts and pilgrims beaming as they sang along to all the hymns. The past 5 days have been the most incredible few days of my life – from meeting incredible people and hearing all their stories to the sing song in the Hotel la Solitude. Without a doubt we will all be sending our applications in again next March with the hope we can come again next year!
More to follow……..