Trip to Lourdes
by Cicely, Olivia, Mimi and Georgia
During the holidays, some of the current Upper VI girls enjoyed an inspirational trip to Lourdes with the Order of Malta Volunteers (OMV) to help with the Hospital Pilgrims. They were accompanied by one of our governors, Sr Gemma Simmonds, CJ. Here is a diary of their time there and you can find more pictures on the following link:
After a 24-hour coach journey (first-year rite of passage) we ensured the Saint Frai hospital, used by the OMV, was ready for the 50 Hospital Pilgrims (HPs) that were arriving. Upon arrival, we helped the exhausted HPs settle into their rooms and then to bed.
After an early start for wake-up duty we got the HPs ready for our first Mass, where our (the helpers) hands were blessed by the OMV clergy. Those on relief duty entertained the HPs for the early afternoon – taking them shopping, on walks or just chatting, before donning our procession wear (Ankle-length black skirts and OMV armbands attached to lab coats) and heading out to the Domain for our first procession. Several of the Équipes had group meals, which was a great chance to get to know your fellow helpers and discuss your teams’ upcoming duties. We headed to night prayers in the Domain before a heavy night’s sleep.
The busiest day! It was all-hands on deck to make sure the HPs were ready for the beautiful Mass in the trees – a service on a hill above Lourdes, over-looking the city. We had a speedy packed-lunch there, followed by group photos for all the different schools ahead of a coach trip to Lac de Lourdes. Once there, most HPs and helpers changed and embraced the glacier-fed lake. It was then time for the usual supper, putting to bed and night prayer routine.
Once again in procession uniform, we made our way to the Basilica for the whole Pilgrimage photograph via the grotto, where helpers and HPs were able to touch the walls of the sacred place where Our Lady first appeared to Saint Bernadette. Next was the Reconciliation Mass which was a wonderful time for quiet reflection and prayer. The Marian procession took place in the evening, on which we sung Ave Maria and Salve Regina with hundreds of other pilgrims.
Our last full day was filled with emotion. We stopped opposite the bathes on our way to a charming chapel, in order to wash our hands and faces with Blessed Holy Water. The Laying of Hands Mass ensued: we all sat on the floor clustered around HPs and we put our hands on them as the Priests blessed them individually and prayed for healing. It was the most touching and memorable part of the week. In contrast, the evening was filled with laughter and applause as the HPs sung, danced, read poetry, told jokes and generally entertained us all.
We went to the underground chapel for a final Mass before saying goodbye to all the HPs and getting them on their way to the airport. All in all it was an incredibly amazing week. Although tiring and hard work (both physically and mentally), we were left feeling only immensely grateful and humbled. We are all looking forward to going back next year.