Lourdes has been a place for pilgrimage since 1858. Today, over five million people per year visit the town. HCPT founder, Brother Doctor Michael Strode first visited in 1951 and saw the potential to organise a pilgrimage for disabled children at the school where he was working.
Brother Doctor Michael Strode founded HCPT in 1956. He had experienced several pilgrimages to Lourdes; and had a vision to allow children, who may never have the opportunity otherwise, to go to Lourdes and follow in the footsteps of Saint Bernadette.
He set off to Lourdes with a small group of children and some volunteers to look after their every need. For Brother Michael, the children were the VIPs of Lourdes and he made sure they got the most they could out of the trip.
Since this first HCPT pilgrimage in the 1950s, the trip has grown and grown. Now there are groups all over the United Kingdom, Ireland, United States of America, West Indies, Belgium, Croatia, Poland, Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Switzerland, Bosnia and Herzegovina. HCPT Manchester Region makes up just a small part of the large HCPT family.
Young people who 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. The group leader makes sure that there is the right set of volunteer helpers to look after all of the young people – the group nurse and chaplain help out with this too.
HCPT can only take young people up to the age of 18, so to cater for those who went at Easter and really enjoyed their trip and are too old to go again, HCPT provide summer pilgrimage opportunities to Hosanna House. People of any age can go to Hosanna House and enjoy the same things as an Easter Pilgrimage, but in a more relaxed setting just outside of Lourdes.
In the early days of HCPT, most of the groups were based in the south of England. Some children from the Manchester area went with these groups. In 1967, for example, there were 12 children, split amongst 9 London-based groups. By 1974, the number of Manchester children had grown to 50, but they still travelled with London based groups. These arrangements meant that the few northern based helpers did the initial visiting along with Anne Seaston, who was then a member of Group 7. These helpers took the children southwards to join the Metropolitan Groups and were known as the "Manchester Escort Party".
Meanwhile, Joe Shovelton had been a helper with Group 40, based in Formby, and in 1972, he formed Group 54 - the first group in HCPT Manchester Region. Joe took children from the Wirral, Liverpool and Preston. Group 54, by the way, was not named because it was the fifty fourth group. Group leaders could pick the number of their group, and Group 54 was sponsored by the Knights of St Columba in Leigh, whose Council number was 54.
In 1974, the Manchester Region was officially recognised with four groups:
Group 44, led by Simon Andrews
Group 54, led by Joe Shovelton
Group 81, led by Bill Ganley
Group 82, led by Father Eric Darwell
Over the years, the region has changed, with the formation of groups 5, 157, 216 and 544.
"HCPT is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I think everyone should experience"
Keep in touch with HCPT Manchester Region, via our website and our most popular online platforms