BY Peter Diamond | January 3 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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Tributes paid to ‘inspirational’ HCPT founder who has died

The founder of HCPT, the charity that offers life-changing pilgrimages to Lourdes, has died at the age of 96 last week.

Dr Michael Strode, or Br Michael as he was called after he became a Cistercian monk in later life, passed away on Friday December 27 in a care home in Cardiff as tributes have been paid to him.

Br Michael made his first pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1951, travelling with the Birmingham diocesan pilgrimage. In 1954 he and his friend Peter Keevney took a group of disabled children from Chailey to Lourdes as part of the Birmingham pilgrimage.

This was a great success and two groups visited Lourdes from Chailey in 1955, one with the National Schools’ pilgrimage at Easter and one in July, again with Birmingham. In 1956 HCPT was founded and the first Trust pilgrimage took place in 1957.

Life-changing work

Since then HCPT has offered life-changing week-long pilgrimage holidays to Lourdes, France, for disabled and disadvantaged people. Such holidays are with small groups of prepared volunteer helpers.

HCPT’s Easter pilgrimage holidays are for disabled and disadvantaged children and young people. HCPT groups stay in hotels in Lourdes. Br Michael (above) played a full part in the HCPT as Chief Medical Officer (until 1990) and as a Governor of the Trust.

In 1975 he was awarded the KSG at the opening of Hosanna House, a HCPT owned attractive and tranquil home-from-home in nearby Bartrès – with spectacular views of the Pyrenees.

The last year in which he participated as a doctor with HCPT was in 1990. Three years after he retired as a professional Doctor in England Br Michael entered a Cistercian community as an Oblate in October 1991.

Vows

 

He took simple vows on June 4 1995 and made his final commitment as an Oblate in June 1998.

Until the end of his life Michael played a very active role in the running of HCPT. He last travelled to Lourdes to join the 2013 Easter pilgrimage, during which he was awarded the prestigious Médaille Notre-Dame de Lourdes in recognition of his long dedication to pilgrims and pilgrimages to the Shrine.

A spokesperson for HCPT announced on their website: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Br Michael Strode, the founder of HCPT.

“At this time, we would invite you to pray for Br Michael, for his brother Peter and the entire HCPT family.

“Arrangements for Br Michael’s funeral will be coordinated between the Strode family and the community at Caldey Abbey.

“This will be for family and close friends, but will be followed in due course by an HCPT Memorial Service at which past and present members of HCPT will be able to come together to celebrate Michael’s life.”

Inspiration

 

Laura MacKean, former chair of HCPT Scotland paid tribute to Br Strode. “It is difficult to put into words how I feel at the loss of such a lovely man,” she said. “He was not only an inspiration but a leader with such a gentle way.

He never lost sight of the real meaning of HCPT and the work carried out by so many. May he rest in peace.”

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