This article appeared on the Independent Catholic News website.
Participants on the HCPT Easter pilgrimage are returning home after an celebratory, emotional, often life-changing week in Lourdes. This year, the charity’s 58th annual pilgrimage welcomed more than 1,000 disabled children to the Shrine in the South of France. The children stay in small family-sized groups and are accompanied by doctors, nurses, clergy and helpers.
The pilgrimage, which is the largest for children from the UK, is renowned for its vibrancy and joy – aided by the fact that the majority of helpers who attend are under the age of 30. The week is centred around the children, with everyone attending focussed on ensuring that they have as much fun and gain as much from their pilgrimage as possible. A typical stay in Lourdes includes trips to the mountains or to the seaside, as well as visits to the Grotto and Baths and daily Masses.
The theme of this year’s pilgrimage was ‘We are God’s House’ which was developed by HCPT groups centred around the Diocese of Portsmouth. The pilgrimage was joined this year, for the first time, by pilgrims from Poland.
The highlight of the week for many was the Trust Mass, celebrated by new HCPT President, Rt Revd Kieran Conry, Bishop of Arundel and Brighton. The Mass was also celebrated by Rt Revd Peter Brignall (Bishop of Wrexham), Rt Revd Richard Moth (Bishop of the Forces), Rt Revd Joseph Toal (Bishop of Argyle and the Islands), Rt Revd William Crean (Bishop of Cloyne) and over 100 priests and deacons. Bishop Conry’s homily challenged those on pilgrimage to continue building God’s house when the return home after their time in Lourdes.
HCPT pilgrimages continue in May at the charity’s Hosanna House. Until November, the house, in the hills above Lourdes, will host over 1,500 pilgrims of all ages, many of them with disabilities or life-limiting conditions.