Every year some of the year 11 pupils of my school - Cardinal Allen, join the Lancaster diocese in their pilgrimage to Lourdes in the Pyrenees, and this year I decided to join them.
The week began on the 23rd July at 4.00 am when the coach picked me up from Poulton to take me to Manchester airport, where we then flew to Lourdes airport.
When we arrived we helped people into wheelchairs or VIP's off the plane, into coaches and then to our hotel.The VIP's stayed in the Hotel Solitude and we stayed in the Hotel Estival. The hotel was quite basic but comfortable and only a two minute walk to the Hotel Solitude.
We were to work every day of the week either early or late shifts, except for one day which we were allowed free.For the early shift we had to be at the VIP's hotel for 7.00am, the shift finishing at 2.00pm. The late shift ran from 2.00pm until 10.00pm, so we had to take it in turns to go for meals at our hotel.When off duty we could go anywhere we wanted as long as we attended the Masses,meetings and processions and were back for meals and our midnight curfew.We went to the shops and swimming pool and at night to the bars in the town.
Lourdes wasn't as I expected it to be, outside the domain it was very commercialized, contrasting sharply with the peaceful domain.
Often during the day we wheeled people to and from Mass, to the baths and to the grotto. We also took them to the shops or helped them in their hotel. I was fortunate to go to the baths which proved to be a really strange but amazing experience and one I will never forget.
We also went on a day trip to the City of the Poor where we had an outdoor rosary which was lovely, although there were huge steep hills, the three of us struggling together to get the wheelchairs up and down to the altar.
One day we walked around the Stations of the Cross but again, despite it being within the domain the ground was hilly and rough making it difficult to push the wheelchairs
During one evening our Diocese took part in a candlelit procession. It was really funny when the lady I was with set her paper candle guard on fire
Another night at about midnight our group went down to the grotto where we said prayers and lit some candles. It was quite a moving experience. I really enjoyed my time in Lourdes, especially when the people we were helping were so kind and grateful.
Despite being totally shattered for the duration of the holiday I would love to return one day and would recommend anyone to visit.
I would like to thank everyone who made the trip possible by their generous financial support.