Lourdes 2014 Review

Last week, Westminster Youth Ministry made its annual pilgrimage to the south of France, to Lourdes. The whole team was there, supporting the Redcaps and everyone else. Some of the Redcaps spoke about their thoughts on the pilgrimage.

A beautiful day in Lourdes
A beautiful day in Lourdes

So, Lourdes 2014. What can I say about it other than it was an incredible experience! It was my first time to this holy town, but it surely won’t be my last after the memories I collected from this trip.

The Mass at the Grotto, the torchlight procession, the Q&A session with the Cardinal and so much more – all of these were moments that will stay with me for a long time. And to top it all off, we were blessed with radiant weather. Whilst initially greeted by rather English conditions, the rain soon gave way to days of glorious sunshine. The ocean-blue sky and the forest-green hills created the setting for a pilgrimage blessed with smiles, laughter, prayer and joy.

Diocese of Westminster Lourdes 2014 Redcaps
Hard-working Redcaps push a woman in a wheelchair up a steep hill

A key part of our pilgrimage was the Redcaps – young people from schools and parishes around the Diocese of Westminster who were volunteering their time to help look after the older and more frail pilgrims. Their energy, perseverance and strength throughout the week is a testament to the good character of the young people in our schools and parishes.

Before leaving to return home, some of the Redcaps offered their thoughts on Lourdes 2014.

Isabella and Esperança

Isabella and Esperança are two students from the Convent of Jesus and Mary Language College, in Willesden. For both of these Redcaps, this trip was also their first time here. Asked what they thought about Lourdes, they both had positive comments, with Esperança noting that Lourdes is “a place for reflection, where you can find yourself and help others.” Isabella echoed this sentiment, saying “I like it; you’re helping lots of people. It’s hard work, but it’s good.”

Redcap volunteers Isabella and Esperança

As Isabella remarked, the week was hard work for the Redcaps. They had to push their malades up steep hills, take them all over the town and be there for them whenever they needed help. However, despite the challenges, Esperança said “I’ve enjoyed taking care of my malade and making sure he’s able to get to where he needs to be.”

Esperança and the Cardinal taking a selfie

Asked what they enjoyed most from the pilgrimage, Isabella said “The Q&A with the Cardinal. I really enjoyed that because we had the opportunity to talk to the Cardinal. I had a few questions, which I asked him afterwards. It was really cool.” Esperança also got to speak to Cardinal Vincent, asking him when he first knew about selfies. He said he wasn’t quite sure when he first found out about them, but then asked Esperança if she’d like a selfie with him!

“[Taking the selfie] was quite a strange experience at first. I didn’t think the Cardinal would actually ask me to take a selfie with him. It was a good experience and everyone had a good time. People come up to me, calling me the ‘Selfie girl’,” revealed Esperança.

For both Isabella and Esperança, their favourite moment of Lourdes 2014 was the torchlight procession. “It was really beautiful. You could see so many people from around the world and they believe the same things that you do. So you don’t feel alone,” said Isabella. Esperança also thought it was beautiful, adding, “I was standing right at the top of the basilica, so the view was really great.”

Georgina and Hannah

Georgina and Hannah also volunteered at Lourdes, though they had both been last year too.

Asked about their roles, Georgina said, “We’re Community Support Redcaps (CSRs). So, what we basically do is assist the nurses. We look after the malades, we check they’re all right, we check they’re feeling okay. We take them out for coffee, we take them out for shopping, but we don’t normally take them out to Mass.”

Community Support Redcap Georgina

As a non-Catholic, Georgina explains her favourite moments in Lourdes: “I’ve taken part in a lot of processions – nearly all of them, just leading them or holding banners and candles. It’s been good because I’ve been up close with all the priests and seeing everything that goes on. My favourite part is probably going with the priests to communion and seeing everyone come around to receive the Eucharist. It’s a very intense and surreal moment; I didn’t think it would be like that at all. That was definitely the highlight of the week for me.”

For Hannah, the moment that stood out most was the Mass at Cité Saint-Pierre. “The Mass in the trees was amazing; it was beautiful. I don’t think such a setting for Mass has been done anywhere else. I’d never heard of a forest Mass before I came here last year and it was just beautiful.”

Mass in the Trees
Mass in the trees, at Cité Saint-Pierre

Summarising her experience, Hannah said “Lourdes is an amazing place to go, even if you’ve never heard of it. Definitely come, because it’s opened my eyes. When I go back home, I see that people aren’t as helpful. Coming here, people are right there if someone needs something. But back home, people aren’t like that. So my mindset has changed. I feel like I’ve become a better person – a lot more helpful in public anyway. If I see someone struggling on the street, I go over to them now, whereas before I probably would have just ignored them. Lourdes has open my eyes, I definitely recommend it!”

Here at Westminster Youth Ministry, we’d like to thank Isabella, Esperança, Georgina, Hannah and all the other Redcaps for their hard-work, their enthusiasm and their dedication to helping others. Lourdes 2014 was a great experience – and I’m sure it won’t be the last!