Lourdes Pilgrimage Helpers
Ard Scoil annually helps raise funds and provides support for students to travel to Lourdes with the annual Diocesan Pilgrimage.
The students are helpers at Lourdes, providing care for pilgrims.
Students tell their own stories below.
Lourdes Pilgrimage 2013
by Amy Ferncombe
My interest in Lourdes started in 5th year, when I heard personal experiences and other stories from family and friends. The stories sounded amazing about the bond you make with the pilgrims, the experience of seeing the grotto, and also how you would feel as a person after achieving such a great accomplishment.
Once I heard that you had to sign up and be chosen I thought to myself “No way will I be going” I will admit, I may not be the greatest student, I am a caring person; helping people is something I love to do. Class names were put in a hat and luckily my name came out. I got picked to go on a wonderful journey. This was a very happy moment for me. I’ll always remember it as I wouldn’t consider myself a holy person going on a pilgrimage.
Other students were travelling to Lourdes through their parish. I was feeling nervous and scared, thinking of ways to raise €735. Shockingly, we did. Our ways of fundraising were Raffles, Coffee mornings, Vintage Rally and also a cake sale. Luckily they were absolutely brilliant, considering how much money had to be raised.
Thursday, June 6th 2013 my journey began. It was an early start and the excitement levels were sky high. We all gathered at the Park Hotel, Dungarvan to get the bus to Cork airport. After a safe flight we touched down in Lourdes, France. I was hungry, but luckily we ordered lunch in the hotel straight away, Watery soup. Just my luck. Watery soup for six days. But after Working all morning lunch didn’t matter because we were all so hungry.
We were separated into two groups, Team A and Team B. I was Team B. On the first day of work Team A had to get up at 4:30 to be in the hospital at 5. It was an early start for Team A but it was only for Day One. Every other day the morning wakeup call would be approximately 7-7:30. I wasn’t used to such a early start but I soon got the hang of it. All the groups were extremely tired and some slept through the mass with sunglasses on. In my room was myself, a friend and two girls from Clonmel. We had the biggest room in the hotel, the famous room 321. Each night everyone would gather in our room, but late nights and early mornings didn’t go down well. Wheeling voctures through the streets was hard, but you had a good laugh with the pilgrims.
I was close to a man from Lismore. He was cheeky, full of jokes, and well, he was just a character. Everyone knew Philip for wearing his famous checked blue hat. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without it on. I particularly got on so well with this man because he really reminded me of my grandfather. I thought it would be nice to give him some daily company. If he had been grandfather, I would like to think someone would be as nice to him as I was to Philip. The friends I made in Lourdes were the friendliest people I’ve ever met; they made the trip so much fun and welcomed everyone. We considered ourselves one big happy family.
My most memorable moments were of the grotto. This is one of the most peaceful places in the whole of Lourdes. The feeling there is indescribable. Peace and quiet surrounds us as the river flows soothingly in the background. The grotto by day is lovely, but at night is really out of this world. Words will never describe my experience there.
I went to Lourdes with high expectations. I came back with a better outlook on life and amazing experiences I will cherish.I hope to return to Lourdes in the near future.
My Pilgrimage Experience to Lourdes
by Jemma Kiely
During fifth year, we had a sixth year student talking to us about her Lourdes pilgrimage. She told us all about her personal experiences there, how it touched her, changed her as a person and the relationships she built with the sick. She really encouraged us to think about going on such an eye-opener journey.
I was sitting in the geography room for religion when Ms. O'Shea passed around a page, for anybody who was interested on going to Lourdes. It didn't take long for the page to fill up with names of people who would like to go and participate in the voluntary work in Lourdes, France.
Months before the departure of the trip, we had religion class with both of our teachers. We came together to talk about the trip. We were informed that there were only three from fifth year eligible to partake in this upcoming journey. I thought, "Well that's me not going”. Only three out of the entire list; I would never get picked. Little did I know!
We all gathered in the school library, with names in a hat. At that moment I literally prayed that I would be one of the chosen ones this time around. We all sat around patiently waiting for the draw. My thoughts filled with anxiety at the thought of my name not coming out. My luck changed! I was picked second out of the three and I was absolutely delighted.
The chosen people got picked to go as helpers to Lourdes, approximately €735 was needed each. We decided to start fundraising straight away. Thinking of affordable and smart ways to raise money was hard. We did lots of different things like Cake Sales, Talent Shows, Raffles, Vintage Rally and also a coffee morning for current and past teachers in the school.
Time was running out and the pressure was on to get our money together. We attended preparation Lourdes meetings to inform us all about the trip, what we would be doing, how to use wheel chairs and other basic information. After weeks of preparation, the day, June 6th 2013,was the day we departed Cork airport in the early hours to go to Lourdes, France to start this wonderful journey. After a safe flight we touched down in Lourdes airport. A bus was waiting for us outside the airport to bring us to where we would be staying for the next few days, Saint Louis De France Hotel. Once we all got to the hotel, we left all our bags in the storage room. We then sat around and we were assigned rooms with the other people on the pilgrimage from different schools.
My friend and I were assigned with two Clonmel girls. To this day, I am still in contact with these girls and have visited them since I’ve come home.
We were assigned into teams for the work we were going to do while in Lourdes. The teams went by colour. There was Yellow, Green, Purple, Blue and Red. I was on the Yellow team. We started work the following morning. Mornings were split into two separate teams. My team was team A, had to get up the earliest on the first morning which was at 04:30 to go down and have breakfast and then onto the hospital where we were assigned to clean. Later on that day both teams met up together and we attended a mass at the Grotto, which was said by five different priests who were all different nationalities. After mass we brought the pilgrims back to the hospital in the “voitures”. A voiture was a pull along seat for the pilgrim to be transported from place to place.
Our daily routine was pretty similar each day apart from getting up early to go and clean the hospital. We would bring our pilgrims to masses and back to the hospital for lunch and then we got some free time to bring them around the town of Lourdes. We attended lots of masses and visited the grotto daily with the pilgrims. The bond that we made with the pilgrims was amazing and still is to this day. The stories they shared with us were incredible, to know what they have been through in their life, you just wouldn't believe the changes in the world. Talking to the parents of sick children is hard, and we realized how lucky we have it.
My conversations with all these wonderful people I met were very moving! To know that one conversation can lighten up someone’s day so much it encouraged me to talk to people more while I was on my time in Lourdes. While in Lourdes, I realized that you are never too far away from home and you will always meet someone who will know you or a relative, which is nice.
The Grotto- WOW! As beautiful as it is in the day, it is spectacular at night. The peace and quiet you have there is bliss. To just reflect on everything there at night and to just be able to hear the motion of the river in the background. I will never be able to explain my time at the Grotto that night but it was nothing other than magical. You don't have to be of any religion to know that there's something going on there, but there is. You can't explain it but you can feel it. I can't explain why I felt emotional that night at the Grotto but there was not a dry eye to be seen, everyone there was emotional. I think it was the fact that we were reflecting on our own lives and our time here. It really touched us all. Unfortunately my time in
Lourdes had to come to an end. As much as I wanted to stay, I had to go home with the rest of our group. My time in Lourdes has changed my outlook on life and me as a person also. I appreciate life so much more now. It's nice to know, people were proud of me for going to work there. It was an experience I will forever cherish in my life. Hopefully I will be able to return to Lourdes in the near future as a helper again and be able to do just as much as I did the first time, if not more.