Every Easter, 1,000 disabled and disadvantaged children and young people enjoy a life changing pilgrimage holiday in Lourdes in the south of France. They are supported by volunteer helpers.
The children that travel with us come from all walks of life - some have physical, social, or emotional needs and some are just in need of a good holiday. At Easter, everyone travels to Lourdes in small family groups of 15 to 30 children and helpers, and the group leader makes sure that there is the right set of volunteer helps to care for all of the children. The group nurse and chaplain help out with this too.
Before the pilgrimage
Preparation for families before their children travel with us is vitally important. Children will be assigned to one of five Easter groups in the Manchester Region (Group 5, Group 44, Group 81, Group 157 or Group 216). Children and their parents will have lots of opportunities to meet the other group members (helpers and children) before the trip. Regular home visits are also made to ensure that the children get to know and have confidence in their helpers. We also provide opportunities for children and their families to meet all of the other young people and helpers from across the Manchester Region, before going to Lourdes.
Getting ready for a trip away can be very exciting, and if it is a child’s first trip away from home, can be an anxious time for children and parents alike. Stay calm and keep in touch with your Group Leader who will be happy to answer any questions which occur to you as the trip draws near.
During the pilgrimage
From the start of the trip (and that starts before we leave the UK), the emphasis is very much on ensuring that all the children have a wonderful fun-filled week. Each child travels and stays with their family group. The groups will be visiting a number of Lourdes attractions, including the Grotto, the house where Saint Bernadette grew up, the “Cachot” where she and her family were living at the time of the Apparitions, and some of the many museums in the town.
Each group designs its own programme of events and activities, but there are a few things that most groups do:
Easter Sunday Mass: the week in Lourdes kicks off on Easter Sunday for many with a Mass and lots of singing.
Tuesday evening Torchlight Procession: this is a wonderfully visual and emotional event. All the pilgrims in Lourdes are invited to come together for a torchlight procession, singing along, and on Tuesday night HCPT leads the procession. There is a great sing-along at the end.
Thursday Trust Mass: over 5000 members of HCPT, the Irish Pilgrimage Trust, and other international groups come together in the Underground Basilica. For many, this is the highlight of the week.
Most groups have a day out, travelling by coach. A traditional and still popular destination is Gavarnie, high up in the Pyrenees. This is a spectacular venue where some days groups make snowmen and other days it’s shorts and t-shirt weather! Other popular excursions include a day out at the beach (with St Jean de Luz being popular destinations), or going to a local zoo or other tourist attractions.
Meals are at the group’s hotel (or picnics on longer excursions) and there are plenty of stops at cafes for drinks, ice-creams, rest and laughter. Evenings feature a varied mix of fun, games, singing and parties. You can stay in touch with your loved ones in Lourdes, click here to find out more.
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