Once again the Stonyhurst Pilgrimage joined the Catholic Association Pilgrimage to Lourdes in August. And once again there were over 130 Pilgrims. What is it that attracts people to the Pilgrimage? For the Assisted Pilgrims there is a week of freedom! No need to worry about any aspect of care or mobility – and the opportunity to attend all the events of the week. Assisted Pilgrims in the hotel may not need any help looking after themselves, but there can be a lot of walking while on the Pilgrimage. So trips to the big churches for Mass and the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing, or outings to the shops and tours of the town – not to mention processions in the day and by torchlight in the evening – are all made possible by the willing helpers who can push them in wheelchairs. Assisted Pilgrims in the Acceuil (Hospital) may need any amount of care – from assistance with dressing and going to bed, to needing to be helped with meals. Many are housebound or in 24-hour care at home. A week of activity such as they experience in Lourdes would not be possible anywhere else.
The helpers are of all ages. Many families have three generations on the Pilgrimage – or even four generations! There are young helpers from Poetry and Rhetoric, and recent OS. There are older OS with young children, and parents of current and recent pupils. And some of the parents are of not quite so recent OS. It is not just a “Holy Holiday” for these families – they all do their turn as helpers. The young helpers have fun in Lourdes – but that is not what brings them back time and time again. It is the feeling of being needed and appreciated by those needing assistance. Learning about the ways in which we can be of practical help to other people – and the reward of satisfaction that it brings – can change peoples’ lives. If the seed of learning to serve others has been sown at Stonyhurst, it germinates in Lourdes, and gets the chance to grow into other areas of the young helpers’ lives as they go on to higher education and careers. They join in all the other activities as well.
Never forget the Assisted Pilgrims in all this, though. Some make their first trip to Lour
des in the ninth decade of life and discover they can do things they really would not have thought possible! Young helpers soon find out that even when people are old and needing assistance, they still have fascinating stories to tell about when they were young.
The Stonyhurst Pilgrimage Trust is still making new efforts to raise money to support its work. Funds are needed to subsidise needy Assisted Pilgrims and young helpers alike. This year the Raffle was a great success. Please buy tickets again next year – and if anyone has the means to donate prizes they would be greatly appreciated.