Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Jubilee Pilgrimage to Lourdes

An eclectic mix of students from three universities, their mothers, and friends met at Stansted airport in the early hours of the morning for the flight to Pau (Pyrenees) and onward to Lourdes. Sisters Cecily and Mary were among them as their chaplains.

The three and a half days at Lourdes were deeply grace-filled as the students plunged enthusiastically into the many and varied prayer experiences that is so unique to Lourdes – the International Mass, the Blessing of the sick, the Candle – light rosary procession, the Jubilee Way, Confession, the Baths and the Way of the Cross, the late night masses and adoration at the grotto, not forgetting responding to the many requests to light candles there. The atmosphere at Lourdes somehow just lends itself to faith and liturgy – so charged is the sanctuary with peace, prayer and gentle kindliness. The sick on stretchers and wheelchairs and the disabled who were cared for with such tenderness is such a touching sight – the hallmark of Lourdes. Niddi and Sr Mary made a short visit to the hospital and were awed by the generosity of 50 young people from the Cloyne Diocese who accompanied them.

But it was not all prayer and no fun – the last afternoon was an excursion through the Pyrenees to the picturesque snow-capped mountain of Gavarnie. The more energetic students trekked up the slopes to the snow-filled cirque, where they took a tumble, had a snow fight and brought down a huge ball of frozen snow to prove their achievement.

The entire pilgrimage was truly graced by Mary our Blessed Mother who gifted us with so much joy and a deep sense of connecting with her Son.

What students say about their experience at Lourdes:
"In Lourdes you can get the best treatment ever for all kinds of struggles. I felt that I am much closer to God there and I came back as a completely different person full of confidence and optimism which has been given by the grace of Our Lady."
Riyad Nicolas – Royal Academy of Music

“Our Blessed mother is everywhere as she is in Lourdes but there in Lourdes together with the thousands of pilgrims, one can feel her presence in a tangible way. Through the various celebration of the liturgy, one’s soul is raised to a level beyond the ordinary. Truly it was an experience that will go with me for the rest of my life.”
Sebastian Koladiyil – University of Westminster

“I had a truly wonderful time in Lourdes and was humbled by the large crowds paying homage to God and honouring our Lady of Lourdes. I've been touched in the very essence of my spirit by the Care, Love and Sharing that emanates from Lourdes. I hope and pray that the inspiration of what I have experienced will guide me through this passage of my life here on earth. Thank you and the community borne out of our meeting together for being a part of this wonderful experience.”
Suzanne Salami – University of Westminster

Generally speaking, the pilgrimage experience was a prayer and fun-filled experience which I will never hesitate to make again should it come up next year. I use this opportunity to urge university Catholic students residing in London, their friends and non-Catholics to take up this opportunity to experience the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the love of God her son and His power at Lourdes. On a personal note, the experience of Lourdes left me with this calmness of the spirit that after wandering about for so many years now, I have come home to my maker who will forgive all my sins and shoulder my problems. I AM FINALLY AT PEACE WITH GOD!
Ndidi Ogunna – Brunel University

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