Sian Sievwright reports on the 2018 pilgrimage:
The 2018 Pilgrimage to Lourdes marks my 6th year as a Youth Volunteer with Dunkeld. My first pilgrimage was when I was the ripe youthful age of 16. I was still in high school about to go into my 6th year. I am now 22, have a degree and I am about to start my career as a History teacher. The reason I mention this is because Lourdes and Our Lady have played a huge role in who and where I am today. It is as if Lourdes presses my restart button every year. By the end of pilgrimage, I have always overcome a life hurdle or been given the strength to push through. This year was slightly different for me.
Lourdes is an exceptional place. I make friends with amazing young people who willingly give up their own time to help our friends in the hospital. We all get to share special moments with our friends and this year I found out one of our friends was distantly related to me. This was a particularly special moment for me this year. Those who come on Pilgrimage with us become part of the ever expanding Dunkeld family. How amazing is that!! We laugh, smile, cry and reflect with each other which can be a very emotional and overwhelming experience for some, including myself. Yet you never feel alone. You will always have someone to talk to and share special moments with.
This is why this year I was so grateful and content. At some point whilst on pilgrimage I go to the grotto late at night. It is a completely different place at night. You could hear a pin drop it is that quiet. It is the perfect time to reflect. Usually I get very emotional as in the previous years I have asked Our Lady for help and strength to overcome my worries. This year I had a completely different experience.
I had been given a single rose earlier in the evening and I was not sure what to do with it, so I held on to it. Once I got down to the grotto that evening I started saying my prayers and then it came it me. I wanted to say thank you to Our Lady and St Bernadette. With the rose I said a prayer of thanks telling Our Lady how grateful I was. Grateful for my job, grateful for all the experiences I have ever had in Lourdes and grateful that she had called me back time and time again. I then went up to the grotto and placed it by the spring of water St Bernadette had dug up 160 years ago.
I slowly walked around the grotto and as I was doing so I was overwhelmed with the feeling of calmness and serenity. I turned to face Our Lady and then this lovely Italian couple started playing a guitar and singing the most beautiful, mellow tune I have ever heard. At that moment I burst into floods of tears, not of sadness, of happiness. In that moment I could not be more grateful for what I had. Lourdes will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Photos thanks to Elizabeth Barbour: