Lourdes student reflections 2023

During the Easter holidays, some of our Sixth Form students travelled to Lourdes to support disadvantaged students on Pilgrimage.  This is truly the highlight of their school career for many students, and several past students have returned year on year.  Below are the thoughts of this year’s helpers:

Suzie McKenzie

Lourdes has, yet again, not failed to disappoint. From quite reflections to the most enthusiastic sing-a-longs ever – this trip is a fantastic opportunity for many reasons. Firstly, it is because of the children you will meet & help with. You truly become everything in their eyes & I’m so lucky to have experienced this & the brightest smiles ever from children who usually would avoid eye contact at any chance. Helping with these children has taught me so much & I truly believe they have helped me more than I have them. Secondly, Lourdes is amazing because of the people you go with & meet along the way. It may sound cliché but you truly develop a bond with these people that lasts a long while. Do NOT pass up on this opportunity. It is the best thing I have ever ever been part of in my entire time at STM.

Louise Bennett

Visiting Lourdes this year this an amazing experience I will never forget. Being able to spend time with family groups was fantastic as I could help children to enjoy it & it made me happy to see them enjoy themselves. Seeing the family groups experience everything & seeing how special it was for them made it even more special for me as it helped me understand why Lourdes is so important. Coming for a second time helped me understand why Lourdes is such a special place that leaves people with a feeling that can only be experienced there.

Laura Nelson

FABULOUS! It was just… wow. If people asked me to tell them what my favourite experience was, I would say every single minute because even in the sad times the people around me made that unforgettable too. When I was sad or moody, they were able to make me laugh (which can be hard to do). I now love every single one of those crazy lunatics even more than before. Every Mass & liturgy was so moving, they went from excitement, singing & dancing to peaceful & reflective. I especially loved the Trust Mass as it brought all my mixed emotions through the week together & created something beautiful. The sight when Mr Murray told me to turn around in the torchlight procession was magnificent. I will hold a mental image of that moment forever. The kids & leaders of Group 36 were amazing & I am so glad I got to share my Lourdes experience with them. They all made it that bit better. I know that my sister will be so glad to got to understand her love for Lourdes & I’m so happy I can now share that with her. I could go on & on but to sum everything up, my friends in 714 singing & dancing with me was indescribable. They all ‘have a friend in me.’

Olivia Clarke

Lourdes is an experience you can’t miss. It’s amazing & different from any other place in the world. Lourdes was the best time of my life. It’s filled with laughter, singing & jokes. There is nothing like it & nothing better. For me Lourdes built my confidence & gave me an opportunity to take part in something extraordinary & thrilling. It’s a great way to escape life’s problems & have more fun than you’ve ever had. I loved every minute of it & will definitely go back again.

Melania Di Meo

I am confident that Lourdes has been the most incredible thing that I’ve experienced. It has the most indescribable vibe where you can sing, shout & dance without any fear of embarrassment or judgement. Last week the idea of loudly singing & dancing in public or yelling chants in the middle of a busy street was my worst nightmare. However, from the 1st day with Group 36, the sing-a-long with Carmel, to the final HCPT Mass I have embraced the madness & it has been so much fun. There is also the most amazing feeling of unity between everyone in Lourdes & not just our regional groups but also all the teenagers from multiple different countries that I met at the youth gathering. It seems that for 1 week we are all a community no matter how different we are. The bonds that have grown between everyone in Group 714 have simply been fantastic. There are so many inside jokes & references we now have that no one in 6th form or the common room will ever understand. When I signed up to Lourdes in October it was for me a once in a lifetime experience – but now the week is over I’m desperate to come back! Thank you for this opportunity.

Jessica Evans

I decided that I wanted to travel to Lourdes ever since I 1st heard about it in Year 10. RE was & still is my favourite subject in school. Before this trip, I had never been on a plane before in my life – I was terrified. However, I knew I had to do it & I’m so glad I did. The thrill of being in a different country made me so happy. I can’t put into words how I felt during every Mass, every day with the family groups, every dance, even while walking through the pouring rain was, I content, with no worries apart from what incredible meal hotel Paradis had for us, & going to sleep in a bed with a square pillow. Every day was like a fever dream, filled with positivity. Even on my days when I was extremely home-sick I comforted & cared for. I’d strongly recommend travelling to Lourdes – because I know that this trip will for sure stick with me for life! P.S. Let Mr Merchant be your target xxx

Ruby Crowe

I was quite apprehensive about going to Lourdes because I am not that religious, but I signed up regardless because I knew it was an opportunity I would regret not taking. Once I saw Mr Murray’s little happy face & hat, I knew that I had made the right choice. Going to Lourdes is an experience that you cannot compare to anything else but in the best possible way. I went into the pilgrimage knowing pretty much nothing about what I was getting myself into – but in my opinion this was the best way to do it because it meant I was always learning something instead of thinking ‘I already knew that.’ It was really heart warming & quite emotional to watch both strangers & friends disconnect from their problems & just genuinely enjoy themselves. From holding a little girl’s hand in the zoo because she was scared of the monkeys; to dancing with random Portuguese women & the elderly in wheelchairs – each memory I made in Lourdes will stay with me forever, & I will always remember the week I spent there. I’m already looking forward to next time I can go!

Meg Giles

The best way to describe Lourdes is FABULOUS! The 1st time we walked through St Michael’s gates & saw the main Basilica was breath taking. All the people who were there on pilgrimage together sharing their faith was magical.

Once of the best moments for me was the torchlight procession. I had the honour of carrying the national HCPT banner with 5 other girls in 714. As we were at the front of the procession, we didn’t know just how many HCPT members were there – so when we turned around to lead the way back into the amin domain & saw thousands of other pilgrims walking behind us with candles singing Ave Maria was pure magic.

As a group we became closer & now share unique & special memories – from dancing like lunatics in the middle of the streets together to all crying together.

A highlight for me was working with family groups especially 41 (spot on). We helped the leaders in making sure that everyone was where they needed to be, & helping children who may struggle in day-to-day activities. We now consider each other to be a small family together after spending most days together sharing experiences.

Marina Fayez

Lourdes was a fabulous experience – one which I will never forget. At 1st I was apprehensive about going to Lourdes as it was step out of my comfort zone & didn’t know what to expect. However, what I didn’t know is that this trip would change my life forever.

For the 1st couple of days, we were put into different family groups in order to support them. After a few hours together, we felt very comfortable around them & I now think of them as my extended family. The children expressed so much love & the leaders were incredibly welcoming from the 1st time we spoke to them to the last. They never failed to make us feel included & I will never forget the pure smiles on everyone’s faces. We participated in lots of activities with them, from going on a tour around Lourdes to spraying endless water from water guns on the train. The last day was sentimental & intimate. Group 41 – we’ll miss you.

Spending time with 714 was a crucial part of the journey. Our bond is now unbreakable. I’ve never had a relationship quite like it. From dancing our hearts out in the middle of the night, to comforting each other during emotional times, I can truly say I appreciate them all so much. My heart was filled with joy every day. At the beginning of the trip, I saw myself as quite timid, but by the end I was a whole new person. I believe that my group has helped me flourish & grow, & I couldn’t ask for anymore.

This pilgrimage has also deepened my religious perspective, as seeing God’s love & purity via the actions of other people has made me understand the unconditional love Jesus & has allowed my faith to be strengthened. Walking through the Grotto was an emotional experience & I’ll never forget the torchlight procession. Me & 3 others were invited to lead the procession carrying tall candles. After 10 minutes I decided to look back where there was a view of millions of people behind us. It was magical & I’ve never seen people so united in their faith.

Overall, Lourdes as an incredible time. It was a privilege to be part of it & sharing the experiences. I can’t wait to return back. There is no doubt about it.

Group 714 YOU are all SPECIAL & we LOVE you deep down in our hearts.