Captain of Christian Formation - Reflections on Lourdes

Captain of Christian Formation - Reflections on Lourdes

Our Lourdes Pilgrimage takes place every year and is led by Mrs McWilliams, the College’s Outreach Coordinator, for pupils in S5 and S6. The definition of a pilgrimage is a journey with a purpose in which we move closer to God. It is also a time to grow in self-knowledge and awareness in others’ needs. I was given the opportunity to go to Lourdes earlier this year in June. The Lourdes Pilgrimage group was made of twenty-seven other pupils from St Aloysius’, six members of staff, Fr Eric Studt SJ and Fr Simon Bishop SJ, and most importantly our twelve young guests from Abercorn Secondary School, which is one of our neighbouring schools that looks after young people with additional support needs.

I put my name forward for Lourdes because I wanted to help other young people who are less fortunate than myself and take the opportunity to give these young people an experience they will never forget, but also to develop my own skills such as patience for others and being more aware of other’s needs. While we were in Lourdes we got to visit so many places. We visited the Grotto which is the site of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Saint Bernadette in 1858. Here Mary called on Bernadette to dig the ground nearby from which came a spring of healing properties, which is still active to this day as there are seventeen pools for pilgrims to bathe in. These pools provide healing and comfort to all pilgrims. The grotto also has a statue of Our Lady where she appeared and is the focal point of the sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. The grotto is also very symbolic to our faith as Mary is an important motherly figure to us all.

We enjoyed a day at the beach where we all came together and had a lot of fun swimming in the sea. We had another day up in the mountains in a beautiful place called Gavarnie where we went on a walk to see the spectacular scenery, played some football in the park, danced and had lunch, then we all celebrated mass in the Church at Gavarnie. Another day consisted of us visiting a beautiful park that had a big pond in the middle of it and we had a lovely picnic all together and took in everything around us. The group also enjoyed a sports day that consisted of lots of fun races with just the right amount of competitive spirit.

Was I nervous about going to Lourdes? Definitely, because I was a bit wary of being around so many new faces and also even being around loads of people I wouldn’t normally speak to everyday, but these anxieties disappeared as soon as the whole group was together due to the special atmosphere that was present around us. I was also nervous about having the big responsibility of caring for another person and making their Lourdes experience as special as it could possibly be. The thing I enjoyed most about Lourdes was the various activities we all participated in during the day but particularly at night as we would have quiz nights and movie nights. These were very special memories for everyone as we would all have a great laugh together and being able to spend the nights in a big group was very comforting for all. My best memory has got to be the last night when we had a talent show, as there were so many hidden talents from lots of our guests and our own pupils and staff. Then it was time to say goodnight for the final time which ended in most, if not all, of us in tears because none of us wanted to go home.

What I have taken from my Lourdes experience is to be more thankful for all I have in my life and how fortunate I am to be able to get up and get on with the day as I am, but also to be more aware of other people’s feelings and emotions. I would definitely recommend Lourdes to anyone who is thinking about doing it later on in their St Aloysius’ journey as it is honestly the experience of a lifetime, and you would definitely be missing out on an amazing opportunity.

- Katherine S. (S6), Captain of Christian Formation