Thursday

Aleena Francis, a 6th year at St Modan’s in Stirling, has written about the final full day in Lourdes of her first trip with DLS. 

Thursday was the most emotional day that I, and I’m sure many others, experienced in the Lourdes trip. In the morning, at 10:30, the entire pilgrimage came together for a final closing meeting Mass. Seeing everyone gathered in the church stirred up feelings of gratefulness and appreciation in me, and it hit me of how much I’ll miss the welcoming atmosphere of the Dunkeld Diocese. 

After Mass, one of the other helpers and I took one of the Accueil pilgrims for an outing in the local area. We ate ice cream and helped her shop. All of us had a great time and I realised that seeing the happiness in the pilgrims is the true reward of this job. 

The day ended with night prayer, at which a lot of tears were shed as everyone came to the realisation that we had come to the end of our pilgrimage. It has been an extraordinary experience for all of us and it has been a privilege working alongside these amazing people.

In my opinion what made Lourdes 2019 so spectacular, other than the beautiful surroundings (and daily gatherings at the Café Jeanne d’Arc!), was the people of the pilgrimage. All of the team leaders were very approachable and, along with the rest of the volunteers, a pleasure to work with. I must say with pride that this pilgrimage was an event in my life that has left its mark in my heart and created memories I’ll treasure forever. ❤️

Wednesday

Ellie Kettrick, who is on her second pilgrimage with DLS, has written about our day on Wednesday:

I think it’s crazy that we’re now in our last few days here. We wait all year to come and then suddenly we’re here, gone and counting the days until next time. 

This morning, most of the split shift group went to the International Mass in the underground Basilica at 9:30. This is a really interesting mass that brings together many people from all over. The mass is said in a few different languages, e.g; French, Spanish, English etc. Due to this, not all the pilgrims find it enjoyable to sit for this length of time. Some stay at the Accueil but some go out to the shops etc. I didn’t go to the International Mass and instead went to the supermarket with a pilgrim and a few others. This was exciting because we stay in the same kind of areas all week. 

This evening we had our party at the Accueil for all the volunteers and Pilgrims. Everyone got dressed up and some of the volunteers sang and danced. This is an amazing way for us to celebrate coming to the end of yet another year and an other brilliant pilgrimage to Lourdes. We have grown and learned so much. 

We also had to say goodbye to our friends from the Xaverian College. It was a pleasure working with them this week. We all loved having them join us and hope they’ve taken a lot away from the experience.

Tuesday

Kirsten Friedman, a student at the University of St Andrews who is on her first trip to Lourdes, reports on the pilgrimage on Tuesday. 

Tuesday was one of our busiest days yet. In the morning we headed up to a little town called Bartrès, about 15 minutes north of Lourdes. St Bernadette lived there for a number of years and we had our morning Mass in the church of St John the Baptist, where she had her Catechism lessons. Again, we were joined by Bishop Stephen at this Mass, who helped administer the Sacrament of the Sick to our assisted pilgrims. 

After Mass, we had a picnic at a nearby café before getting the bus back to Lourdes. It was, as ever, incredibly warm and sunny so a lot of ice cream was consumed! 

The highlight of the trip for me (so far) was the Torchlight procession later that evening, where many different pilgrimages join together to process around the domain with candles, singing hymns in honour of Our Lady and praying the rosary together. Most of our group processed behind the Dunkeld Banner, but some, including me, joined the choir for the procession, which was incredible.

In the choir we were grouped together by the language we speak, and there were many different language groups including English, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, and Russian. The Hail Marys in each decade are started by a few people who are selected from the choir, and I had the honour of leading three of the Hail Marys in English. The view over the domain, looking out at thousands of people holding up candles and praying the rosary together, is something I’ll never forget.

Xaverian College

The last few days have been very busy so we’re a bit behind on our daily updates!  This year, we’ve been joined by a group from Xaverian College in Manchester. They followed a different itinerary to Dunkeld on Monday, and Tia has written about it for us:

The day had come where we finally had the chance to escape from the Dunkeld Diocese (just kidding, we love you all!). We started Monday morning in our favourite place, the Accueil, with the bright and bubbly faces of Dunkeld and the pilgrims, getting ready for morning Mass. It is always amazing to see how people come together to help one another and we can all agree that it is an awe inspiring sight to see so many people laughing and smiling no matter their age, gender or where they were from (even if it was still very early in the morning!). The Mass that morning was held in the St Joseph’s Church in the domain, and what struck us most was the unity and radiance of us all singing as one community. It will be something we will remember for many a year, even if most of the Xaverian gang sang off key! We followed on the day by getting on a coach and getting a cable car to the top of the mountain – Pic du Jer. Nerissa decided it would be the best option to carry a guitar up this mountain – to this day we do not know if it was out of sheer resilience that she got up the mountain carrying this guitar or just luck that she didn’t pass out. The view from the top of the mountain was spectacular. You could see the vast nooks and crannies of God’s intricate design and with eagles swooping and soaring around us it was as if time stood still – a picturesque moment if there ever was one.

Thirty minutes later and we were moving again, sat in the cable car waiting for it to descend we anxiously look out the windows. Talia imagines it to be a rollercoaster, flying down the mountain at incredible speeds whilst someone in our group stares with wide, scared eyes as they have a fear of falling; we reach the bottom and speed away towards the lake, towards plenty of mischief, swimming and sunbathing. 

The most memorable moment for us was when we were in kayaks and Jack fell into the water so I shouted “Don’t let go Jack!” as a reference to the Titanic movie and it was as if karma had struck me as the next thing I knew was I was in the water having capsized myself! Meanwhile, the land dwellers had bought ice cream from the local shop which was more whipped cream than ice cream. The lovely café worker taught us some French and in return we taught him English, we both know how to say ‘raspberry’ in our respective languages now!

We eventually dried off and headed back to the hotel for dinner. That night we had a reflection on the past week and wrote ourselves letters that only we will re-read in the near future. They will be sent to us after we finish college to reflect on. We all had an amazing time with Dunkeld and had a lot to reflect on for the past week. 10 minutes wasn’t nearly enough to write what we needed to write but we held it in our hearts either way. The night ended with the lighting of candles for loved ones and whoever needs it the most. Later on an intense game of Uno unfolded, which could rival the greatest battle between teenagers (Penny always wins!).

We had a great day out, however we all were looking forward to working alongside the lovely people of Dunkeld again, as it was our time spent with them, that truly made us happy during our time in Lourdes.

We want to give a heartfelt thank you to the amazing people of Dunkeld for accommodating us on our journey and being such an amazing group of people. It is really special what you all have together. Thank you for sharing a part of yourselves with us, sharing your warmth and sharing your kindness. We were all overwhelmed with the welcome you gave us and we quickly felt part of the group, rather than ‘outsiders’. You helped make our time here an wonderful and fulfilling experience and I know many in our group are determined to come next year just to see all the lovely faces again (If you’ll have us!) It was an absolute pleasure being here with you all. Enjoy the rest of your time in Lourdes and have a safe journey to Écosse.

God bless you all.

From Tia and all from Xaverian College, Manchester. Xxxx

Monday

Yesterday we had Mass in St Joseph’s chapel and then the official pilgrimage photo. Maria Clarke, a parishioner of St Anne’s, Carnoustie reflects on the pilgrimage so far:

Over the past few days we’ve been getting to know the pilgrims thoroughly by taking them out to the shops and Masses, allowing them to be away from the Accueil during the day and it’s an amazing experience being able to bond with them all and love every single one of their personalities. I was so surprised on how well I get on with them all. 

Last night on the split shift, a few of us sang to the pilgrims and I began to get emotional hearing everyone join in and all coming together as a big family. 

I can’t describe the emotions I have felt with only being here a few days and as the week goes on my experience grows and grows. 

I’ve made friends for life and I know for sure that I will be coming back next year as this experience has changed my life for the better.

Sunday

Our update on Sunday’s activities is slightly later than normal because yesterday was very busy! This reflection is written by Andrea, a sixth year from St John’s on her first trip to Lourdes:

It was one of those days that I wish would have never ended. We were very busy all day with our shifts in the Accueil, having the Grotto Mass followed by the blessed sacrament procession and fireworks to end the night.

Early this morning, we had our Mass held in the grotto which was a lovely change to the normal church. It was a nice warm morning and the bishop even came to bless all those who attended. Everyone seemed to have had a good time as after we headed to the St. Margaret’s (Queen of Scotland and English princess) statue who was often called “the pearl of Scotland”

While on shift, we made sure the pilgrims were getting the best out of their free time as we took them out to enjoy a little piece of the summer sun having lovely chats with a cup of tea and ice cream, to keep us cool in the hot weather.

We had the Blessed Sacrament procession shortly after. As the weather was so hot, we were unable to join the procession with the pilgrims, however we did manage to sit in the St Pius X basilica for the bishop to come and bless us all. This was an amazing experience and some of our own Dunkeld volunteers were in the procession holding one of the evangelists on a banner which was an amazing opportunity for the boys who were carrying it (Thomas and Tristan). The whole experience was overwhelming and amazing in general.

Later at night we had the fireworks everyone stood in a huddle at the benches on the roof of the Accueil and we took some lovely photos. The fireworks were extravagant, and very loud. Overall I had such a good time I’m so excited to spend more time with the most amazing people, will definitely be back next year!!

A busy day!

Today’s update is provided by Stuart, who has been helping on Dunkeld pilgrimages to Lourdes for over a decade:

My name is Stuart and I’ve been coming to Lourdes with Dunkeld since 2007.  Even though it’s been 13 years, every time I arrive it is still a magical place for me.

Today, Saturday, I was on morning shift and we went to the Penitential Service in the Chapel St Maximilian Kolbe after our friends in Notre Dame Accueil had breakfast.  Everybody met at the Crown Virgin under the Dunkeld banner.  There were lots of yellow shirts helping. I like this service because it helps me get my head ready to enjoy the pilgrimage, and gives us all the chance of reflecting on what we’ve done and planning how to improve.

Then we went through the Grotto and said a personal prayer to get Our Lady’s help.  Then to the Opening Mass in St Bernadette’s Chapel, where we sang hymns about helping the poor. This year’s theme is “Happy are the poor.”

It has been especially good this year with new Yellow Shirts and new friends from Xaverian College in England to work beside.

Welcome – Accueil

Our update on our first full day in Lourdes is written by Sarah McGeary, a sixth year pupil at St John’s in Dundee:

This morning we came together as a group for the first time. We chatted about keeping safe and what to expect from the coming week before the yellow shirts spent a short period getting to know our partners for the week from the Xaverian college in Manchester. 

Now together as one big group, we visited the “Accueil” for the first time and got to explore our surroundings. 

We made sure everything was set up and awaited the arrival of the pilgrims. The Yellow T-shirts welcomed the Dunkeld assisted pilgrims to the Accueil and helped them settle in by assisting them in unpacking and getting to know them over a cup of tea. 

For many of us personally who are in Lourdes for the first time it was especially touching to be so warmly welcomed in return by all the pilgrims who, after 10 minutes of chatting, made us feel like we had known them forever. 

Our day finished with a small group visiting the Grotto. Before we arrived a large number yellow shirts who had visited many times before had told us they could not describe the feeling that a walk around the grotto provided them with. It was such a lovely way to end an amazing day and to understand the emotions that being here makes you feel.

Travelling

Our first daily update comes from Ciara Barker, a long-serving Yellow T-Shirt who is now on her 5th pilgrimage to Lourdes with Dunkeld:

The journey to Lourdes is always one that people comment on. They say, “3 days on a bus must be long”. In many ways, however, I think it is the opposite. The past three days have been incredible. Between meeting new people and catching up with returning members I don’t think any of us stopped for breath. We shared Lourdes stories and found out about people’s lives back home, while at the same time travelling through 4 countries. We spent the night on the boat eating, dancing and singing. The following day on the bus we watched films and played games to pass the time, with some even managing to sleep.

Tours was a relatively new stopping point for the pilgrimage, so we explored the city in the evening before getting as much rest as we could – we were arriving in Lourdes the following morning.

The final leg of the journey to Lourdes will always be one of my favourite aspects, as it’s an opportunity to meet the people we will be spending the rest of the week with. Without that time, connecting on pilgrimage would not happen as naturally as it does.