By Mr Murray
On 31st March 2018 25 Year 12 students & 5 members of staff from St Thomas More RC Academy, North Shields embarked on pilgrimage to Lourdes with HCPT group 714.
Lourdes has been a place of pilgrimage since 1858 and today over five million people visit the town each year. HCPT founder Dr. Michael Strode first visited in 1951 and saw the potential to organise a pilgrimage for disabled children. He founded HCPT in 1956, and it has since revolutionised the way disabled people are able to experience the famous shrine.
‘We are not created by God to live alone. Living in community is an essential expression of who we are.’ With this quote in mind, we arrived in Lourdes as friends; a week later we were one big family.
Our Lady smiled on HCPT this Easter and ensured that her Son’s love radiated across the faces of a thousand brave and very special children. Throughout the pilgrimage we witnessed many ‘little miracles’. For those with faith no explanation is necessary. For those without, none is possible.
The students’ time in Lourdes was split between a variety of service tasks to support the wider pilgrimage, running a play-base to entertain young children in the town and at Hosanna House, as well as having some time for their own quiet reflection in this most holy of places. Four of our students also had the great honour of walking alongside the Blessed Sacrament.
One of the personal highlights for many of our students was the quality time they spent with family groups, where they were welcomed with open arms. There was also time to be together as a St Thomas More community, including walking the way of the cross, singing without inhibitions outside many a cafe and enjoying a wonderful day in the foothills of the Pyrenees, not forgetting all of the amazing Masses & liturgies which were quite simply a joy.
‘Be still for the power of the Lord, is moving in this place’. Each time we heard or sang this line from the third verse of the hymn ‘Be still’ we all felt that power within us and, in the words of some of our students, they ‘never wanted to leave.’
‘Lourdes was the most heart-warming experience of my life. Each day was a rollercoaster of fun and laughter and reflection and spiritual growth. It is impossible to describe the experience without describing the sense of community – everywhere you looked there were warm smiles, loud chants and a loving atmosphere. There is no place for learning like Lourdes.’ Hannah Baldwin.
‘Lourdes was truly the most special journey I have ever had the pleasure of being taken on. It has allowed me to grow as a person and discover new skills. I rediscovered my faith and was at my happiest 24/7. Lourdes really is one of a kind and so are the amazing children I met there.’ Neave Miller.
‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if it does listen to teachers it is because there are witnesses.’ Suffice to say, if what we witnessed in Lourdes is the future of our church, then we should all be filled as St Bernadette was filled with great love and confidence, for the future is bright indeed.
Jesus said, ‘I have come so that they may have life & have it to the full.’
714 let your light shine – YOU ARE SPECIAL.