Raphoe Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes

26th – 31st May 2019

The sun was shining as the Raphoe pilgrims waved goodbye to Lourdes.  The streets were thronged with the pilgrims from other countries as they followed the well worn pilgrim path to the Grotto. The 372 pilgrims were led this year by Fr. Michael Mc Keever VG. The theme for 2019 was ‘ Blessed are the poor in spirit’.  St. Bernadette is remembered for her humility.  She knew first hand what it was to go from riches to rags as the family business ‘ The Boly Mills’ went bankrupt.  The family lived in the one room disused prison cell called ‘Le Cachot’.  It was from this prison cell on the morning of February 11th that Bernadette made her way to Massabiele to gather sticks for the fire.  Bernadette did not enjoy good health as result of the effects of cholera that she had as a child.  As a chronic asthmatic she suffered most of all from the cramped conditions of the one room prison cell.  Her ill health lasted all her short life dying at the age of 35 years in St. Gildard’s Convent in Nevers of tubercolosis.

The 57 Youth from the second level schools in the diocese enjoyed the experience of Lourdes.  Many of them wondered how they would cope with what was referred to as the ‘digital detox’. They discovered that sitting and conversing with a fellow youth was an enjoyable experience that made everyone feel welcomed and respected and part of the group.The elections and the news at home faded into insignificance as people shared and enjoyed their time away in this most spiritual and uplifting Marian Shrine.  The young people looked forward to pushing the wheelchairs and they ran from the hotel to get there first to be assigned a wheelchair.  Many of them were very impressed by their night visits to the Grotto.  The time spent at the Grotto allowed them to reflect, pray and enjoy the silence that is so hard to find in a noise filled world.

It was Fr. Patrick Mc Hugh’s last pilgrimage to Lourdes as the pilgrimage director.  After 23 years as Director Fr. Mc Hugh has been responsible for bringing almost 10,000 pilgrims to Lourdes.  In recognition of his contribution to Lourdes Fr. Mc Hugh was made a Canon of the Sanctuary of Lourdes by the Bishop of Lourdes and Tarbes.  The staff presented Fr. Pat with a photo album recalling some of the highlights of his 23 years spent in the service of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Assisted Pilgrims, the Staff and the Youth. In an emotional farewell to those on the diocesan pilgrimage Fr. Pat said it was always his intention to fulfil Our Lady’s request and to bring the Sick (assisted pilgrims) in procession to Lourdes.