On Monday 26th June, 400 pilgrims set out from the Diocese of Killaloe on the summer pilgrimage to Lourdes. The pilgrimage included Bishop, Fintan Monahan, eight priests, 52 assisted pilgrims, nursing and hospitality staff, 48 youth helpers, ten youth leaders and the choir from the parish of Ogonnelloe.

The theme of this year’s pilgrimage was ‘The Almighty has done great things for me,’ from the Magnificat of Hope.  Opening mass was celebrated by Bishop Fintan Monahan who was delighted to officially welcome all pilgrims on Tuesday morning.  Bishop Fintan spoke about the pilgrim journey to ‘this sacred place’ and defined pilgrimage as making a journey to a sacred place in petition of a special intention.

On Tuesday afternoon the assisted pilgrims journeyed with the youth to the baths and it was a refreshing and emotional experience for all.  Later in the afternoon the Blessed Sacrament Procession was led by Bishop Fintan Monahan in the Underground Basilica.

Clare Rose Aoife Murray lights the pilgrimage candle with Bishop Fintan Monahan at the Grotto in Lourdes.

Clare Rose Aoife Murray lights the pilgrimage candle with Bishop Fintan Monahan at the Grotto in Lourdes.

On Wednesday Fr Donagh O’Meara,  Ogonnelloe, led the pilgrims in the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, a deeply moving and comforting ceremony.  Unfortunately, the Marian Torchlight procession scheduled for the evening had to be cancelled due to heavy rain.

On Thursday morning, pilgrims were led in the celebration of the Eucharist by Bishop Fintan Monahan at the Grotto. It was an uplifting mass celebrated on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Bishop Fintan described Lourdes as a magnetic place that draws people looking for calm, serenity and prayer. He told the congregation that the greatest miracle of all is the love and care shown to the sick by the doctors, nurses, staff and the fantastic youth that give so generously of their time.  On Thursday night, the diocese was led in a reflective, personal and spiritual Holy Hour by Tracy Murray from Kilmurry Ibrickane.

On Friday morning, Fr Michael Geraghty, Nenagh, spoke on the meaning and importance of pilgrimage. He compared pilgrimage to a sat-nav system and reminded us that just as maps and batteries are required to get us to our destination so is setting time aside for yourself important, otherwise we might follow roads that no longer exist.

The afternoon gave pilgrims some free time to take part in various tours or to take some time for themselves. The youth group journeyed to Bartres, a village outside Lourdes, with Bishop Fintan and their leaders.  It was an enjoyable and rewarding experience for all as they got to walk and talk together and visit the place where Bernadette minded sheep as a young girl.

Eoin Riordan from Shannon a pupil of St Patrick’s Comprehensive School reading at the Grotto in Lourdes.

Eoin Riordan from Shannon a pupil of St Patrick’s Comprehensive School reading at the Grotto in Lourdes.

On Friday evening, the pilgrimage concluded with a closing ceremony and the blessing of the pilgrimage candle which was lit by the Rose of Clare, Aoife Murray from Sixmilebridge.  Fr Tom Ryan wished Aoife the best of luck as she travels to Tralee in August.  Pilgrimage director, Fr Tom Ryan, thanked everyone involved in the  61st Diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes.

The Youth Helpers were  highly complemented for their the work over the course of the five day pilgrimage. They did everything that was asked of them with a smile and a gentle hand, under the caring eye of the Youth Director Fr Michael Geraghty and his team of leaders.

The Autumn Pilgrimage from the Diocese will leave Shannon Airport on Sunday 1st October, returning on Friday 6th October. Details are available in all parishes. There is limited availability on this pilgrimage so early booking is advisable.

By Maria Kelly, a primary school teacher in Newmarket–on–Fergus, from Shannon Parish, she has travelled on the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes as a Youth Leader for the past fifteen years.