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Amazing Grace

This week, we hear from pilgrims of Galloway Diocese who spoke enthusiastically about their trip to Lourdes and were thrilled to be able to visit the shrine in spite of the recent floods

WITH a great sense of relief after the recent flooding, and a huge amount of excitement, 145 pilgrims from Galloway Diocese, led by Bishop Emeritus Maurice Taylor, travelled to Lourdes to take part in the bi-annual diocesan pilgrimage. Some 93 pilgrims flew from Glasgow Prestwick and 52 members of the Galloway Youth for Lourdes, with their leaders, travelled overland by coach, reaching Lourdes in time to meet the pilgrims arriving by plane.

At the opening Mass of the pilgrimage Fr David Borland, pilgrimage director, told the group that, while Bishop John Cunningham was not able to be with them in Lourdes this year, he was very much with them in spirit and asked to be remembered in their prayers. Fr Borland encouraged everyone to use this pilgrimage in the Year of Faith to walk in prayer with Mary, seeking Her assistance to deepen their own personal relationship with Jesus, a message taken to heart by everyone.

Anne Murdy, a nurse from Dumfries, had been to Lourdes a couple of times before but this year was her first as a member of the medical team.

“I hadn’t a clue what I was letting myself in for, but hoped God would guide me and not land any surprises, of the particularly nasty kind, on me,” she said. “I should have had faith, what I experienced was something way beyond anything I had experienced before, either as a nurse, or as a Catholic. It is a bit of a cliché to say I was there as a carer because I received as much care and attention from the other pilgrims as I proffered to them.”

Moira Bingham, a pilgrim from Ardrossan, was struck by the enthusiasm and hard work of the Galloway Youth For Lourdes group.

“The youth of the diocese worked so hard to ensure that the assisted pilgrims were comfortable and that their every need was met,” she said. “They also entertained with songs, music and skits. Well done to the youth of Galloway, you made us very proud.”

This pilgrimage was Suzy Hollywood’s first as president of the Galloway Lourdes Hospitalité and she was touched by the dedication of those who work so tirelessly in Lourdes to make it possible for dioceses to travel there, and never more so than this year.

“My first thought when I heard about the floods in Lourdes were ‘that’s the pilgrimage cancelled,’ but I have been overwhelmed by the spirit of everyone in Lourdes who worked tirelessly to ensure the pilgrimages could go ahead within days of the disaster happening,” she said. “The fact that we almost didn’t make it made it all the more special. I was privileged to work with an experienced team, during the preparations and pilgrimage week, and for their dedication I am truly thankful.”

One of the repercussions of the floods is that the St Pius X Underground Basilica is still unable to be used for the twice weekly International Mass and so those who are due to attend these Masses are rearranged into ‘language group’ Masses. For Galloway this meant that they had the great bonus of a second Mass at the grotto, a Mass made all the more special as we celebrated with our fellow Scots from Glasgow Archdiocese. After this second Mass at the grotto, Margaret Riddell, an assisted pilgrim from Dumfries said: “Oh that was great, God must really love us in Galloway!”

Galloway’s time in Lourdes passed all too quickly, and before anyone realised it was time to come together for the final liturgies and emotional farewells. Many tears of joy were shed at the Les Envois, and tears from laughter at the ‘Reunion,’ and everyone packed up to come home once again. A truly wonderful time was had by everyone this year in Lourdes, it really was a special time of grace in which we walked in prayer with Mary and, please God, deepened our relationship with Jesus, as we are all trying to do in this Year of Faith.

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