November 22, 2014


On a cold wet morning, students from Desmond College and Scoil Mhuire agus Íde, accompanied by Fr. Keane & teachers from Desmond College departed from Newcastle West in high spirits, as we began our pilgrimage to Lourdes. In hindsight we were embarking on a spiritual roller-coaster of emotions.

After several hours of travelling we arrived in Lourdes, a little dishevelled but full of excitement. On our first evening we went to the grotto to celebrate mass. Fr. Keane in his homily recounted the story of Saint Bernadette’s early life. This was followed by a walking tour in which we went to The Parish Church of Lourdes, where Bernadette was baptised.

We also visited the picturesque village of Bartrès where Bernadette was fostered and we were given a guided tour of Holy Mill where Bernadette spent her early years before her father became bankrupt, and they had to move into the Cachot, which was an abandoned jail at the time when they moved in.

On our first morning we went to the IHCPT mass. We all agreed that it was the highlight of the trip. It was a colourful joyous occasion and we felt humbled to be part of it. Every day we took a few quite moments of personal time at the grotto to pray for our family, friends and loved ones. We lit candles and were drawn to this special place, both as a group and individually.

Group of Desmond College Students who went to Lourdes France from Newcastle West Limerick

The Baths were one of the most talked about aspects of our pilgrimage. The Baths are operated by a group of local dedicated men and women who ensure a deeply spiritual experience.

We also participated in the Torchlight Procession which takes place each evening at 9.00 pm as it has done since 1872. We all held a lighted candle in our hands, as a symbol of our faith. When viewed from a higher vantage point this procession is a spectacular sight. It was overwhelming and emotional.

On our second last day we were feeling exhilarated, so we embarked on a fun filled afternoon tobogganing 1500m above sea level in the Pyrénées. We screamed with a mixture of fear and delight, and laughed until our throats became sore. Who knew that pilgrims are such dare devils, and thrill seekers at heart?

On our final evening we prayed at the Stations of the Cross. Even though the Stations follow a rough stony track, some of our eager young pilgrims decided to do it barefoot, to emulate Our Lord Jesus Christ. There are 15 large stations all with larger than life bronze statues, depicting the various stages of Jesus’ last journey.

Our final night was fun filled when all the students put on a show. It was amazing to witness their talents – singing, dancing and playing instruments.

On our last day, Fr. Keane summed up Lourdes eloquently:

For those who don’t believe, no explanation is possible.

For those who do believe, no explanation is necessary.

By Ms. K. Liston

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