All Saints’ students tell us about Lourdes experiences – 27 February 2018

Tonight, three students (two currently in Y13 and one former student) came along with Vicki Mullen, the school’s lay chaplain, to give Circle a talk about their visit to Lourdes with the Nottingham Diocese Lourdes Pilgrimage last summer.

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Max (who has now left school and is one of the Briars’ team members, working through his gap year with young people from across the diocese), Megan and Louisa (both of whom are currently studying for their A-levels in Y13) joined us for our after-Circle meal and kept us amused with stories about themselves and, over supper, gave us a little background to their young lives. For example, Max’s claim to fame was that he had met Dolly Parton and had been given a kiss by her – but it turned out it was Su Pollard (not that there’s any difference in either their appearance or their names, is there?).  Megan has travelled a lot as a result of her father being in the RAF (her claim to fame is that her dad met Prince William during one his morale-boosting visits to Afghanistan and had to organise his flights – evidenced by a photo of her dad and Prince William which she took to a “show and tell” in primary school) and had attended a number of schools during her childhood. Louisa told us about her Greek-Cypriot background and how it wasn’t safe for her dad to go to North Cyprus, following the Turkish invasion of that part of the island – her claim to fame is that he is a wanted man in North Cyprus so they can only visit family during daylight hours and have to be back over the border before dark.

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Clearly, all three have lead interesting lives and we were therefore on tenterhooks waiting for the time when they got up to speak about the pilgrimage and the parts they had played in it.

Vicki introduced the three of them and showed us a short film about the 2016 diocesan pilgrimage, compiled from movie clips and stills. It certainly looked like they had enjoyed a great experience, and so the scene was set for the three to relate their own experiences and say something about what they had got from them.

Max began with a few stories about the lady he had been asked to look after. She was in a wheelchair and needed collecting from her hotel, then taking to the various functions that formed the core of the pilgrimage. His lasting impressions were of an elderly lady whose liveliness and wit kept him entertained for the whole time and whose positive outlook on life enriched his time with her.

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He spoke about the impact of the time in Lourdes – a transformation and a time of growing and maturing, both as a person and as a Catholic, which left him with a very strong sense of wanting to give something back to his community. Consequently he has put his university ambitions on hold and has joined the diocesan Youth team as a young leader at the Briars, something that he would never have thought of doing before going to Lourdes.

Megan related her impressions of the hard work that it took for all of the young people to raise the money to pay for their flights and stay in Lourdes. They had done all kinds of things, including regular car-washing sessions at church. She talked about many adults seeing young teenagers as grumpy and insolent, but then finding that they were the complete opposite when they were washing cars or doing other jobs to raise the cash they needed.

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Her wards for the pilgrimage were an elderly couple; the man whom she looked after had poor sight -in fact he only had one eye – and again needed collecting from his hotel and taking along to the different ceremonies. For her the trip was life changing because she saw others in a different light.

Louisa spoke about her initial fears, since she is not a Catholic. However, these were quickly allayed because everyone made her welcome and there were times when the whole group had “lessons” on the significance of the different ceremonies, as well as the different parts of the Mass, so her understanding of what she had learned about in school was greatly deepened.

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Her lasting memories were of the coldness of the water in the baths – how you felt it was freezing, yet were almost dry by the time you stepped out of the baths. She described her experience there as being filled with the Holy Spirit (it wasn’t just the sensation of the cold water) and finding a sense of belonging. She shared the elderly couple with Megan, focussing more on the old lady who could enjoy the whole pilgrimage, knowing that there was someone to look after both her and her husband and able to explain everything to him as they attended each part of the pilgrimage.

All three of the young people spoke with a great clarity and conviction that belied their years and which demonstrated that their lives had been touched in a special way through this pilgrimage. They ended by summarising their time in one or two words – awesome, life changing and transforming. What more could you want for three fantastic ambassadors for their school and age group? Everyone was really appreciative that they had come along and Brother President John thanked them for giving up their time.

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Vicki concluded the night by thanking the Circle for all the support that is given to the school, both financially and in terms of time spent with the young people. In response to that Brother John gave them the proceeds from a collection that had been taken in lieu of our usual raffle – they went away with just over £138 which will now be added to the coffers for this year’s pilgrimage, when a record 16 volunteers will be taking part.

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