Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As I write this, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes is approaching – Saturday 11th February – and I would like to invite you to join our diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes this year.
This year’s pilgrimage will be the 40th pilgrimage from our diocese. Over the years, thousands of people from our diocese have experienced the very powerful encounter that takes place in Lourdes, and received many gifts. Gifts of healing in various forms, reconciliation, and renewal of a personal relationship with Jesus. The diocesan pilgrimage is a “gift”, not only to those who travel, but a gift to the diocese as a whole.
We were privileged last October to receive the relics of St Bernadette in our diocese, and a large number of people joined in the liturgies for that 24 hour visit. During that time, BBC Radio Sheffield interviewed one of the young people who had travelled with us to Lourdes last June. In a few words, that young man summed up the pilgrimage, saying “Lourdes was a life changing experience”. Those words are very powerful, but they are very often heard from our young people, and indeed pilgrims of all ages.
One of the joys I found when I came to the diocese was the way in which so many young people from around our diocese travel to Lourdes, and the way that so many Assisted Pilgrims travel and stay in the hotels, sharing the week, and helped by volunteers. Together they accompany one another serving one another.
A diocesan pilgrimage provides a unique opportunity for this, both in terms of making it possible for those who need medical or physical help during the week, and in bringing us together to spend time as the Church of the Diocese of Hallam. The Masses and liturgies, and the time we spend talking to one another, create an environment that, I feel, draws each one of us closer to God.
Taking that “time out” to reflect and to have this experience is nothing new. The tradition of pilgrimage has existed for centuries in the Church, and stepping outside of our routines and reflecting was a fundamental part of the parish missions that I was involved in for many years as a Redemptorist.
So this year, I invite you to take time out and to join me, for our 40th diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes from Friday 30th June to Thursday 6th July.
I know that this is a very challenging time, with the cost of living crisis and the demands that face people. If you are in a position to join us in person, please do consider travelling this year. You will not be disappointed. Whether you travel as an assisted pilgrim, pilgrim, or as a volunteer helper (no experience necessary – just willing to help others and complete the standard safeguarding processes) you will be made very welcome. Booking forms are available online at www.hallam-lourdes.com
I am delighted that students from each of our diocesan High Schools will be taking part and travelling as Hallam Youth. Until now, however, it has been difficult to bring young people in our parishes who do not attend Catholic schools. I am pleased to say that we can now offer the opportunity to those students who do not attend Catholic Schools and they can apply to join Hallam Youth, under the supervision of Sue McDonald, our Director of Youth Ministry. Anyone interested should contact Sue by email on [email protected]
If you’re not in a position to join us in person, I would ask you to note the dates of the pilgrimage and to join us in prayer during the time we are in Lourdes. There will be opportunities to livestream a handful of liturgies from Lourdes and these will be signposted form the website lourdes.com
Through this joining together in prayer during the period 30th June — 6th July, whether that is in person, or from home, I’m sure we will receive many blessings.
Yours sincerely, in Christ the Redeemer,
+ Ralph Heskett CSsR
Bishop of Hallam